With the launch of the ninth console generation coming in just two more weeks, the excitement that is being felt within gaming circles is palpable. All of the next gen console preorders were sold out within minutes of them going live, and for those lucky few who managed to secure their orders, the week of November 9th will be a busy one. As has been the case for nearly two decades now, the big two competitors will be Sony and Microsoft, pitting their flagship consoles (The Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X respectively) against each other, in a battle for the domination of the holiday market. However, in this generation, Microsoft has introduced a wrinkle into the traditional two console battle; a smaller, less powerful, but more cost efficient console known as the Xbox Series S, which is retailing for $200 less than its aforementioned competitors. 

The backlash to this announcement was sudden and harsh in the gaming community, with many expressing their belief that this console would be holding technological progress back so that Microsoft could enforce parity with the more powerful Series X. Others were confused, wondering why this console, barely an upgrade on current generation hardware, would need to exist at all. Suffice it to say, the general reaction to the announcement of the Series S has ranged from vitriolic to apathetic. However, for my money, this is the console I’m currently most excited about. 

I think that the Series S has the potential to serve a number of underappreciated, niche audiences, but for now I want to focus on a couple of key factors that I think will give the system a place in the new generation. To begin, consider the world that these consoles will be launching in. It’s one in which many people, especially in the West (one of the largest markets in this industry) are facing unemployment, eviction, and a loss of healthcare. While it is much too late to be pushing back the release of these consoles, both companies are being forced to market them as luxury products in a time where many don’t even know where their next paycheck is going to come from. By offering a much lower price point (almost half of the $500 price tag on the Series X and PS5), Microsoft is providing people with a way to enter into the next generation without bankrupting themselves on a flagship console. 

This ties in with a broader approach to the new generation that Microsoft is attempting, which is to get people invested in the Xbox ecosystem at any cost. According to a rumor floating around the internet, the company is taking a big hit on the production costs for these units, especially on the Series S. This indicates that they think the trade off is worth it in order to have an Xbox console be the one that occupies the most homes by Christmas. While there is a conversation to be had about corporate consolidation and the dangers of monopolies in any industry (especially given how large Microsoft has grown over the last two years), this means that there is a huge market that will be invested in the new generation that might otherwise have been ignored for several years. By extension, that means huge growth for an industry that will inevitably be hit hard by current events.

This should be reason enough for the existence of the Series S, but there are other factors that will contribute to its success. The price point at which it is launching is low enough to compete with the current consoles, despite the increase in power. This means that when current hardware inevitably breaks, it will be roughly the same price to upgrade to a newer generation, which will mean new sources of revenue for Microsoft. This, combined with their commitment to backwards compatibility with old tech and games, means that there will be more people than ever invested in the newer generation, and that’s something that anyone with even a passing interest in the industry, or medium, should be excited about. After all, what purpose is there in trying to exclude others from an industry that is making such strides towards inclusivity? There’s room for the Series S in this medium, and there’s room for new competition too.

You’d expect a game based on selfless heroes ridding the world of evil-goers to have somewhat of a reflective community, but that couldn’t be any further from the truth. Overwatch on PS4 remains a toxic environment for gamers and perhaps the worst of all platforms.

The sole purpose of playing video games is to have fun and enjoy yourself. Whether that feeling comes from solving complex puzzles, landing a 32-hit combo, or sniping a head-shot while falling from a ledge. Games should prioritize an experience where everyone involved can be entertained, free of hassle. Competitive games, however, reveal the true nature of some of its players in the worst way possible.

Unlucky Situation

Imagine this, you and your randomly matched team are fighting the good fight in a first-person-shooter when suddenly the course of the battle starts to turn in favor of the enemy squad. Despite your best efforts in digital warfare, your team ultimately loses the game leaving some of them at a loss for words — well, at least polite words. 

These select few individuals are a fascinating bunch. Upon seeing the big red text of ‘DEFEAT’ lit up across the screen, they quickly look for their teammates’ usernames. They do so not because they wish to express their sincere gratitude, but instead to flame, harass and sometimes to pin the loss entirely on one (or more) player.

Something along the lines of “If it wasn’t for so-and-so we would’ve won. So-and-so sucks. I did nothing wrong. I had to carry this garbage team,” is what I imagine goes through these players’ egocentric heads. Regardless of how ‘poor’ a player performs, absolutely no one should be subjected to ridicule and malice.

_______Even the heroes you choose are enough for other players to assume your supposed play style and skill base

What they can’t, or simply refuse to, comprehend are the other variables that factored in the outcome. For instance, communication, movement, strategy, map awareness, adaptability and survivability are all necessary skills to be a well-rounded FPS player. You may excel in pointing-and-clicking, but that won’t be enough to save you from every situation.

This might come as a shocker, but maybe, just maybe, the other team was overall just better. And instead of your teammates underperforming, maybe the other team outplayed yours to the point where individual skill level was trumped by pure team coordination. Like I said before, there are too many variables and exchanges in a course of a match to pinpoint the blame entirely on one person(s) or instance.

The Console Curse

Nevertheless, the PS4 Overwatch community would probably rip my argument to smithereens while declaring me the scrub of all scrubs. If you guys aren’t already familiar with Overwatch, it’s an FPS with some MOBA elements fused together. With its colorful and diverse amount of playable characters, Overwatch is extremely addicting and exciting to play.

It has gained worldwide popularity as a thriving esports title and is currently in the third season of its professional league. Having said that, I wish I could praise the player community in the same manner. After playing the game for nearly 2000 hours, I have received hateful messages for all kinds of reasons.

Mind you, I don’t consider myself a bad player, if anything I would label myself as average to above-average. My highest skill rating achieved in competitive was grandmaster and finished at 4075. Due to Overwatch’s lack of team chat on PS4, players resort to expressing their hate-filled angst directly towards the player via direct messaging. And at that point, the responsibility to take countermeasures shifts onto Playstation customer service, which is usually a hit or miss depending on how severe the message was.  

_______The Overwatch team, a cast of Heroes forced to once again band together to unite against chaos and evil

Humanity’s Last Hope

I enjoy reading fan (hate) mail, so these types of messages usually don’t phase me. The insults are sometimes colourful and creative, but most of time they are cheap shots that contain extremely offensive slurs. I’m a mature gamer who won’t enter a mental breakdown after getting flamed by some random internet low lives, but imagine if the recipients were someone more fragile, like a child.

Given how Overwatch is rated T for Teen, we can assume there is a good portion of players who are 13 or possibly even younger. It’s revolting, irrational and hardly ever comes to a benefitting conclusion. 

At the end, if you’re going to play Overwatch competitively on PS4, I suggest you disable messages from anyone outside of your friend’s list. It’s natural for people to expel their most heinous thoughts when upset or angered, but it appears as though gaming, especially Overwatch, is the easiest outlet for toxicity to manifest.

Always remember, there are somethings you can and can’t control. A loss in a competitive match of Overwatch should be the least of your concern. Just try your best and move onto the next one. Lastly, for those of you daring enough to embrace the fan mail, I commend your thick skin and good luck in your future matches!