In The Verge’s interview with Phil Spencer by Nilay Patel, Spencer makes two separate but in my viewpoint, interconnected statements: One, he thinks we’re going to see Xbox apps in Smart TVs in the next 12 months. Second, he believes that “console tribalism is the worst thing in the industry”.
I’m reaching here, but by introducing the Xbox App on Smart TVs, he’s suggesting one solution to end console tribalism once and for all. However, didn’t Microsoft also buy Bethesda for $7.5 billion to have “first dibs”? Sounds off? At our current state, all that would do is create another division of opinions on whether to use the new platform, further dividing this already divided passion group. However, points for accessibility!
Tribalism goes beyond the gaming world as every passion group has one. Vinyl collectors shit on CD fans, everyone’s basketball team is the best, and don’t get me started with pineapple. As long as there are opposing views, human nature dictates that there will be conflict.
It’s just part of the human condition we’ve all known and loved since the second human disagreed with the first human’s opinion. However, with it hides some trolls that start a lot of nasty shenanigans, giving birth to some toxic blowback like Gamergate, death threats when the collective feels attacked, and honestly just some bad behavior that stereotypes gamers as “incels” when really it’s a toxic vocal minority who use the Internet as a tool for destruction.
Spencer proposes an option that seriously sounds great on paper, and I’m all for it myself. I believe in the potential of xCloud and pushing it to Smart TVs is a step towards the future. However, I mention it on social media, and I get some joker in the comments section dismissing it like my opinion actually meant something. If we can’t even see the move in a positive light, I doubt it’s a solution to stop a more entrenched cultural practice in place.
A Tribe Called Fetch Quest
I remembered being in countless “Nintendo versus Sega” debates as early as grade school with my classmates flaunting their wealth, announcing that they own a Sega and “I’m done with that Family Computer” nonsense. Piggybacking off my dad’s Family Computer and being ten years old, I jumped into the fray defending Super Mario 3 and Adventure Island with a passion.
The argument continued into high school when I defended SNES and Final Fantasy III from the same Sega Mega Drive fanboys who call upon the powers of Sega CD and their Working Designs counterparts. I honestly loved Lunar Eternal Blue but I defended my one true love Final Fantasy III (Final Fantasy VI really) the way Lebron James fans stand behind their king at the best and worst of times.
With Final Fantasy moving to Sony, I waved the same banner for the Sony platform even if the series continued to lose its luster over time against Sega Saturn and ultimately Xbox for the better part of the 2000s. When Final Fantasy XIII lost exclusivity, my Sony tribalism continued to thrive and I waved my banner for Persona and other Shin Megami Tensei games. Ironically, I later on switched to camp 360 after a YLOD from my PS3. Talk about poetic justice.
By that time, I stopped looking at Sony as the end all be all of things when in fact I only really rallied behind it because of Final Fantasy exclusivity (which it finally got back with Final Fantasy VII Remake and the upcoming Final Fantasy XVI as “first dibs”). I actually loved my Modern Warfare 2 Xbox 360 and not once did it red ring on me. Maybe because I was aware of the defect and I took care to keep it cool and I installed all my games to relieve it of the stress of running from a disc.
If I had the money, I’d buy a Playstation 5, a Xbox Series X, and the upcoming Nintendo Switch Pro even if I don’t like Nintendo all that much. (They never go on sale) I love games. I wish I wasn’t too much of a snob, but that’s pretty much how I socialized with other gamers, it was always a pissing contest. It got so far that my social groups are made of people I played games with either in arcades or my co-workers from Gamestop. If there’s anything good that came out of tribalism, it’s the friends that I made and the people I would stick with through thick and thin.
Can’t We All Just Get Along?
Almost into my forties, I feel that I’ve been born in the best possible time to enjoy every gaming console known in this continuum of the human story. My dad introduced me to 8-bit gaming and bought me a new console every new generation until the Playstation 2. Starting from the PS3, I took a part-time job in Gamestop to be able to afford my games while trying to break into screenwriting. At the dawn of the tenth generation, if we move into game streaming, I would welcome it without a second thought.
Our current internet standards across the world may handle cloud gaming, but we’re talking about chunks of territories and not the entire globe. If we can’t even maintain at least 1 Mbps at the best of times on WiFi, it would take away from the overall gaming experience. I complain about loading times, and my experience with the xCloud as a Beta Tester wasn’t all that peachy. Yet, give it a few more years, hopefully we’ll make a breakthrough. Collectors would probably still have their consoles and physical games, but for players like myself who just want digital content, at least that option is available.
Smart TVs as a platform, however isn’t anything new. We’ve been through this dance back when mobile and “Facebook gaming” was a thing. What this would do is open it up to other apps to take advantage of, and you guessed it: casual free-to-play games will follow suit. I really have no issue with the content, I have an issue with microtransactions. I was into it, spending a good chunk of change on some dubious browser games, even dropping almost $500 into Final Fantasy: Record Keeper and Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius. So when I say “fuck Genshin Impact”, I actually mean, “fuck microtransactions”. In general.
What follows when a new faction gains a steady population? The other tribes form their own opinions about them. The “PC Master Race” and the console tribe “Hardcores” labelled this passion group as “filthy casuals” but there’s nothing casual about them. My parents put in as many hours on Candy Crush and Slot-o-Mania the same way Daigo and Justin Wong prep for EVO. I’ve seen co-workers and colleagues drop $200 a month on Pokemon Go and these Free-to-Play games advertised on Facebook.
They are absolutely passionate about these IPs to spend that chunk of change. We console tribespeople drop that same amount of money into games that go on sale and never play. To call people “filthy casual” just because they don’t partake in the AAA market or the “artful” independent studios in favor of the free-to-play market is an insult to gaming as a concept. They are just as passionate about games like the snobs and the console tribes.
While it’s a cop-out to say that maybe we should all just get along with our shared passion, it’s just we’re human and we all have our dissenting opinion about everything. Hell, look at religion with its million sects and people have died defending canonical details! It’s literally just detail, don’t ruin people’s lives for opposing details. Instead of harassing talent and picking fights on the comments section, how about turning that into a positive and add that on your resume as “pays close attention to detail”, maybe you’ll land that dream job.
Where I draw the line with tribalism is toxic behavior. Don’t harass people for liking something different or trying something different or delaying Cyberpunk 2077 to December 10th. We’re all trying to just trying to escape our troubles through the world of gaming. No need for name calling and harassment if the other guy likes The Last of Us 2 or Clash of Clans.
Snobbery and tribalism will exist, it’s just how we’ve evolved from when previous generations of humanity told stories on cave paintings and hieroglyphics. It’s what we’ll continue to do when we tackle super immersive eighth dimension gaming far into the future with tech we haven’t even dreamed of yet. What’ll also exist is toxic behavior. If we could just try to refrain from that and if we do have our problems, please seek help. There’s nothing wrong with actually talking to your friends or getting professional advice. You owe that to yourself. Simply put, don’t be a dick, and just let the people enjoy what they love to do.
Maybe when the new Xbox app comes into your Smart TV, I’d say go for it if your internet can handle it. It’ll hopefully save you money on a new Series X or S. You’ll probably even get to play the new Elder Scrolls or Starfield at launch. I think that’s a good thing compared to defending your tribe’s honor to the death, I heard that actually has terrible graphics and bad role-playing mechanics.
As my editor likes to say – “I just wanna play some games.” Chris is smart. Be like Chris.