I'm almost ashamed to admit that there is a PlayStation 3 on the desk in front of me. You know, the piece of hardware that lost the official support to run Linux last year and whose manufacturer's master signing keys were revealed earlier this year.
For the moment I won't go into how it's 7-core Cell microprocessor can be used for all sorts of useful number crunching. Instead I want to give my first experience of the system from the standpoint of someone whose last encounter with a game console was probably a friends NES countless years ago.
If you've seen a modern game up close I guess you already know where this is heading. From the first boot on things did not go as expected. Somehow I still thought of these things as simple devices where you plug in a ROM module (OK, it's a disc now) and you can enjoy a few minutes of playing, without bothering to find proper settings or worrying whether your system is powerful enough to run the latest game.
The 10-something settings sub-menus and the list of system requirements on the bundled game quickly disposed of those ideas.
Seriously, I don't get it. This thing is connected with a digital connection (HDMI cable I had to buy separately by the way) to a digital display (an LCD TV also made by Sony). It has all the capabilities to figure out everything it needs to display a picture on the screen. And the first thing it does is to ask me to manually set up the visible area of the screen!? Just to check that this isn't something left over from the analogue days I connected it to another Sony-made HDMI enabled TV and the visible area was indeed a few percent different. With both TVs claiming to support the same 1080p HDTV resolution! Mind boggles. I won't even go into the details of getting the sound working on one of these TVs that involved 30 minutes of digging through those damned settings menus.
Also, the bundled game (a well-known racing simulation I'm told) is far from a thing you might pick up in a few spare minutes. First of all, it requires installation and setup of its own. After that you have to earn "money", buy "things", gather "experience", setup a "profile", keep up a "reputation", live a "life". I thought people play games to get away from all those things for a while.
Actually, everything is surprisingly set up in a way to keep people from enjoying a game in company. You get only one controller in the box. You have to create a user account for each person. The fact that the game keeps up your statistics, virtual bank balance and what not probably means that you can't even give someone a try without worrying that he will mess up this or that part of your account.
I really did not see that coming.