OPINION: 20 Years of PlayStation – Did we really grow up?

This week we’ve been celebrating the 20th birthday of PlayStation (well, the Japanese birthday anyway).

Sony threw a party, put together a lovely grey PS4 model, sold it for 19.94 and then gamers immediately put it on eBay.

The media ran nostalgia-tinged articles on the birth of a new gaming super-brand. ‘The moment the games industry grew up’ read the headlines.

Of course, the first PlayStation was the moment the games industry emerged from the basement. It was the first mass-market machine. It was when Sonic and Mario were replaced by Lara Croft and Solid Snake.

But I do not see that moment as the one where the games industry ‘grew up’. It was more the moment this business entered its teenage years, and quite frankly – 20 years on – it’s about time it grew out of that, too.

2014 has been a tough year and a reminder that games have not quite come along as far as we’d like.

GamerGate embodied that as we saw a side to the video games community that we wish was not there. And the world saw it, too. It was embarrassing. But did we create this nasty underbelly to video game society? Is it our competitive games and our console wars and our male-orientated action games that has brought up a generation of haters?

It wasn’t just GamerGate, though. Games publishers felt it was ok to release software that didn’t work properly. Then certain gamers reacted with the sort of bile that has unfortunately become customary.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised. It’s not as if we as an industry have been working together as well as we should. We’re not even sharing our data. Our cultural and gender diversity is off-kilter. And the mainstream media continue to treat games like naughty children.

Of course, a lot of that appears to be changing. GamerGate was our wake-up call when it comes to gender representation in games and the industry. Tax breaks will help establish games as a powerful UK export, and hopefully that’s something the national media will start to appreciate. And publishers are starting to realise that they can’t just build games that are a bit broken and patch them later. If they’re not right, then delay them.

It’s been a tough year. But hopefully it was one we can look back in 20 years time and say this was the moment the games industry really did grow up.

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