RANT: What’s with this “Couch Gaming” defense?
So, Alan Wake, developed by long-time PC stalwarts Remedy (Max Payne 1 & 2) and published by Microsoft, has been officially confirmed as not coming to the PC. The real logic behind this decision is just that Microsoft wants more exclusives for their console to sell more Xboxes. As a business decision, there’s not much to be said about it other than exclusives are inherently harmful to gamers (something I go into more detail on in the “one console future” discussion from this week’s podcast). However, what they actually said was not the truth, but rather an excuse that pushes a bizarrely popular lie that has been internalized by far too many gamers: that console “couch gaming” is the correct way to play every game other than a tiny niche of PC-specific games. It all stems from this statement:
Some games are more suited for the intimacy of the PC, and others are best played from the couch in front of a larger TV screen
I hear this argument often in console vs. PC wars and I don’t understand why people don’t push back on it more often. For a good number of people and a good number of games, this is entirely false.
I’m not talking about all those people who hook up their PC to their HDTV. I’m not talking about people who don’t have a gaming PC. And I’m not talking about people who hook their console up to a computer monitor at a desk. I’m talking about the fallacy that “relaxed, on the couch” is somehow better for this kind of game. A statement — “I just prefer relaxing on my couch” — so often, with utterly no one stating an opposite opinion.
I think back to a few years ago when I was living with my parents: my PC was in my room where I could close the door, pull down the shades, and (if need be) put on headphones. The big-screen television was in our well-lit, open to the rest of the house, living room, where family members would frequently pass through to get to the kitchen.
If Microsoft’s statement was about colorful party stuff like New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Rock Band, or even about single-player, cinematic, over-the-shoulder-viewing-friendly fare like Uncharted 2 it would make sense.
But Alan Wake is a resolutely single-player, immersive, psychological thriller/horror game. That sounds exactly like an “intimate” experience. That sounds exactly like something that should be played with the lights out, no distractions, on the edge of your seat, nose pressed up against the screen. The antithesis of a “couch game”.
I’ve seen this argument so many times with similar games — people saying it’s no big deal that Bioshock’s PC implementation is flawed, or that Dead Space 2 is console-exclusive; that people don’t like the “isolated”, “anti-social” nature of PC gaming. But these are games about being alone, cut off from humanity, utterly immersed in a very bad situation: these ARE isolationist, anti-social games!
I’m sure there are gamers who live by themselves, or who have big-screen TV and couch combos in an isolated game room or something. But I’m sure there’s an even larger number of people who have set-ups like the one I described above, where couch gaming implies frequent distractions, a social atmosphere, and a relaxed play-style. Why are such people not arguing with Microsoft that their consoles are in fact the wrong way to play a game like Alan Wake?