Someone said that to me on Friday night. My extended family came to my house to visit, we were eating dinner. Seven years ago, I have no doubt, we would have finished that dinner, busted out those wired Buzz! controllers and buzzed the night away.
Six years ago it would have been Singstar. Four years ago? I would have set up Rock Band. Definitely. Two years ago? Dance Central I guess. But on on that Friday night we finished dinner and we didn't play video games at all.
I wonder: what could we possibly have played? I can't even think of a game that would have worked on that particular occasion for all those different people.
The humble party game. It's not exactly a lost art, but it's plainly in the process of dying. This week Just Dance 2015 comes out on the Wii and Xbox 360; next week Sony is releasing Singstar: Ultimate Party — but really, is anyone still buying and playing these video games with the same fervour we once did? Is anyone hosting a Rock Band party next weekend? When was the last time you were at a house party and everyone decided to spontaneously play Wii Sports?
Because five or six years ago, that seemed to happen all the good goddamn time.
After the Buzz! comment, everyone at the dinner table wanted to play something. "What can we play? What should we play?" I was seriously struggling. For a number of reasons. Firstly, the lack of games. Sportsfriends? I love it, but it requires — at a very basic level — some form of controller literacy. Rock Band? I don't even know where half the controllers are, and I've disconnected all my last generation consoles. My Buzz! buzzers? Jesus Christ, I wouldn't even know where to start looking. I suspect I threw them out... maybe three years ago? Nintendo Land? It was a possibility I suppose, but once again — the controller literacy thing. Collectively we just sort of gave up.
Secondly, I don't have enough actual controllers. In my cupboard at home, currently gathering dust, is about five PS3 controllers, four Xbox 360 controllers and — for some reason — and seven nunchucks and five Wii Remotes.
At last count I have one DualShock 4 and one Xbox One controller.
Part of me thinks this is a direct consequence of the 'newness' of both consoles. I had the better part of a decade to collect a stupid number of controllers for all three major consoles, 10 months is a small period of time compared to ten years. But another part of me laments the fact that I have yet to find a compelling reason to buy a second controller for either the PS4 or the Xbox One. I should have bought second, third or even fourth controllers by now. Why haven't I? It's the multiplayer games, man. There are none.
Why is that?
Are video games less mainstream now than they were six or so years ago? Have we gone backwards?
I suspect that, on some level, video games are less popular now than they were at the tail end of the PlayStation 2's reign/launch of the Wii. That was a magical time. For a while it felt as though games were on the verge of truly pushing through towards some sort of mainstream audience. My Mum bought a Wii. Your mate who didn't really play video games had a PlayStation 2 because everyone had a PlayStation 2. I suspect that ubiquity had some sort of impact.
And, weirdly, all three current gen consoles have all but ignored that broader audience — that's also had an impact. After the PlayStation 2's success, after the Wii successful targeted non-gamers, it's been surprising to see the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and the Wii U ignoring that broader audience. Once again it seems like we have three platform holders battling it out for the niche. Neither has made a significant play at the mainstream.
I suspect that the rise of mobile gaming has a lot to do with that. Those mainstream expendable dollars are no doubt being sunk into cheaper — often free — games on the App Store. That genie is out of the bottle in a sense. Perhaps publishers will never be able to convince non-gamers to shell out for a console. Perhaps that ship has sailed.
Perhaps all those gamers who once Buzzed, Sang and Sportsed have graduated the way Nintendo predicted they would? Perhaps they're the ones playing Shadow of Mordor, Alien: Isolation, Destiny. Perhaps they're now the ones anticipating Metal Gear Solid 5, Assassin's Creed: Unity and Bloodborne. It's possible I suppose.
Mostly likely it's just a sign of a shifting landscape. A landscape in which a handful of AAA games dominate at retail, indie games work as cheaper, innovative alternative and the rest have migrated to Facebook and mobile games.
Looks like I might be waiting a while for my next-gen Buzz!.