The to and fro of technology often happens without us parents really noticing, but the long-term impact on daily family life can be quite telling. Gadgets and games can offer all sorts of opportunities to enhance family life and create new ways for us to engage with our offspring. But of course, it can work the other way around as well.
When I was growing up, I’m not sure it was the best thing for me to get a computer in my bedroom. At the time I really enjoyed my Amiga 500 setup, but looking back it meant I spent less time with the rest of the family.
Portable gaming makes this whole issue something of a moot point. Games are no longer tethered to a big screen. In this light I was interested in the response to my 3DS review, and in particular comments about the hardcore gaming features that mean kids don’t need to be downstairs at the TV to play a high end videogame.
This was ringing in my ears as I watched the PSP2 – codename Next Generation Portable (NGP) – presentation. The announcement seems to come in response to Nintendo’s imminent 3DS release, but mapped out a very different vision of handheld gaming. Here’s the rub of my initial PSP2-NGP review:
Many of the PSP2/NGP details could have been foreseen. But beyond the hardcore habit of second guessing platform holders, the actuality of an announcement makes the system suddenly more tangible and exciting. The sense of continuity with what has gone before coupled with a genuine step into a new generation of gaming that blurs the handheld-console divide is mind bending.
This is of course what Sony does best: stretch the imagination with devices that deliver the cutting edge of technology. This much was a given, but what is more critical to the PSP2/NGP’s success is how well Sony can support it with games that put flesh on their “console gaming on the go” message.
The device feels like a watershed. Unlike the 3DS which extends portable gaming as something separate to home consoles, the PSP2/NGP looks to reunite handheld and console experiences. The irony here is that if Sony is successful, they may be sowing the seeds that sound the end of the home console.
Like the decline of arcade machines when home consoles started matching their horsepower, could we see a similar decline in TV-centric experiences in favor of on-the-go play in coming years?
It made me realize how much I valued the recent move of gaming back into the lounge with Move, Kinect and MotionPlus. Offering a hardcore console experience on a portable will fill my kids with glee, but will also be something I want to keep an eye on.
Perhaps the biggest issue for families comes from the PSP2/NGP’s ability to liberate gaming from big static screens. The recent traffic of gamers moving from the bedroom to family rooms with systems like the Wii could well be reversed with a console experience you can play anywhere.
In this light, the external output the PSP2/NGP offers is of more interest to me. If it provides a standard HDMI out (like the recent Nokia N8) this would enable families to plug the experience back into their TV and share these otherwise solitary experiences. The best moments and replays, if not entire games, could be easily shared with the rest of the family.
Add to this the possibility of using a PS3 Dualshock controller with it (like you can with the latest PSP firmware) and you could almost replace your home console entirely. This would have the side benefit of justifying the cost of the device too. Not only would it function as a handheld and console, but could also leverage the PSP2/NGP’s multimedia features.
I’m still getting my head round how well the PSP2/NGP fits for my family. Once we have a firm figure on the price and battery life I’ll be ready to make my decision. Hopefully this will be forthcoming before the 3DS arrives; otherwise it will be near impossible to keep the kids at bay.