Up until college, I was a very specialized kind of gamer. I was a JRPG nut. I had a few games from other genres. Occasionally a platformer, puzzle or horror game, but the bulk of my library had practically been sponsored by Atlus. I tolerated, and sometimes even enjoyed, campy voice acting. Level grinding was routine. I was naming tropes before TV Tropes even existed. It was a good time, and I was happy. Sony was my company of choice, despite my deep abiding love for Nintendo, because the PlayStation, PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable had the best RPG libraries.
Still, time passed as it tends to do and suddenly, the PS2 wasn’t getting games anymore. My PSP, which had always been a red-headed stepchild of sorts, life was flickering. It was time to move on, and so I went and invested in a backwards compatible PlayStation 3. By 2010, I figured it was time for a new console. While I couldn’t really think of any PS3 games I was excited about aside from Disgaea 3, I figured it would be a safe bet given that the previous two Sony consoles had fed my RPG addiction well. Besides, I already had a Wii, which was gathering dust, and the fact that three of my friends had gone through 8 Xbox 360s was quite discouraging. I didn’t realize then what an influence the PS3 would have on my gaming life.
It started, surprisingly enough, by getting me into RPGs made outside of Japan. Immediately after picking up my PS3, I realized I had no games. I had gotten Disgaea 3, Folklore and Valkyria Chronicles, but I was hoping for a more traditional RPG. I stopped by my local Disc Replay, a Midwest game/video/music resale chain, and saw Dragon Age: Origins on the shelf for about $19. The price seemed fair, so I got it. And then I promptly got hooked. I played that game through twice, then immediately went out and bought the Awakenings expansion pack because I needed more. It was just fantastic. It even inspired me to pre-order Dragon Age 2.
Say what you will about Dragon Age 2. It’s obviously flawed. I still love it though, and it made another major impact. It introduced me to Mass Effect. I’ve never been big on shooters, but Dragon Age had made me trust BioWare and the free PC copy of Mass Effect 2 from pre-ordering Dragon Age 2 was the push I needed to give them a chance. I tried it first on my PC, but my laptop’s specs are far from ideal. I decided I needed to play this game with a controller, so I bought it for my PS3 as well. Once again, it was love at first playthrough.
More importantly, Mass Effect 2 and my PS3 showed me something else. I not only enjoyed third person shooters, I was actually pretty good at them. I moved on to Quantum Theory and had fun with it. I experienced Dead Space. I even went through Red Dead Redemption and Vanquish with friends. Going for the PS3 resulted in me taking more chances and being more open minded with games.
Owning a PS3 eventually lead me even further outside of my comfort zone. It made me get back into adventure gaming, with titles like Heavy Rain and most recently The Walking Dead. Heavy Rain I grabbed because of hype, and The Walking Dead because the first few episodes were free for a time for PlayStation Plus members. In both cases, I’m glad that I went through the adventures. They were more dramatic and emotional experiences than usual and were the kind of things that made me think.
The PS3 also made me realize that games are art. Though I owned a PS2, I had never played the Team Ico games. The Ico and Shadow of the Colossus Collection is surely a thing of beauty and a modern masterpiece. Its execution is perfect and is an exceptional example of minimalistic storytelling. I feel like a better person for having played them. The same can be said for thatgamecompany’s games. I picked up the Journey Collector’s Edition because the game looked interesting and a had a gift card. I didn’t expect Journey to be so moving, Flower so gorgeous and flOw so fun.
Most importantly, my PS3 is gradually teaching me that PlayStation Store exclusives aren’t the end of the world. As a collector, I always prioritize physical releases. I want the discs, the boxes, the memoribilia. The move towards downloads and the Cloud feels wrong to me. However, the wealth of download exclusives on the PlayStation Store is making me feel like it isn’t all bad. As long as I have a hard drive large enough to hold them, I own those games and have them accessible at a moment’s notice, without having to worry about fumbling for discs, scratches or lost save data. I’ll still always prefer the physical, but these PlayStation Store exclusives mean I get access to games that may never have been released otherwise.
My PS3 has made me a better gamer. I’m more accepting of different genres and willing to give games I never would have played before due to genre or distribution method. I’m being exposed to more wonderful games, which means more stories to experience and adventures to be had. It’s a fantastic system and I can’t wait to see what happens next with the PS4.