Should I buy a PlayStation 3 or an Elite X-Box 360?

Last Christmas, my roommate Claudio's brother gave him an X-Box 360. I subsequently spent most of January and April playing Halo 3 online. (I was away for most of February and March.) While we bought a few other games, they were pretty much shelved permanently, and I never even tried the campaign mode of Halo. Multi-player was our entertainment ticket for those snowy nights. It is also probably the reason why there were so few posts from me on BlogCampaigning then.

Just in time for summer weather, Claudio moved out and took the X-Box with him. I've spent a good few months enjoying the fresh Toronto air.  When I go to sleep these days I dream of soccer, not Master Chief.

But now the combination of a crispness in the air and price drops from both Sony and Microsoft for their respective consoles has me thinking that I should once again work on my gaming skills.

The question: Which system should I buy?

Readers of this blog and friends of mine will know that I am a huge fan of the Metal Gear Solid series of games, and that Jens and I can spend hours talking about the creator of those games, Hideo Kojima. He is to video games and cyberpunk what Hitchcock was to film.

Metal Gear Solid 2 for PlayStation 2 was definitely one of my favorite games of all time. Not only is the gameplay amazing, but the actual story line is worthy of a movie itself.

Metal Gear Solid 4 for PlayStation 3 has received rave reviews. Gamespot gave it 10/10 and described it as "an awe-inspiring synthesis of dramatic story telling and entertaining gameplay."  IGN also gave it a 10/10 with similarly glowing comments.

Unfortunately, it's an exclusive title for PS3.

Similarly, the Halo series are also exclusive for Microsoft's X-Box. As I mentioned above, I love Halo 3—the multi-player mode in that game is almost perfect, and from what I've heard, Microsoft essentially changed the face of game-testing when it was first developed. And Halo ODST also looks amazing.

The Microsoft X-Box Elite Bundle (which includes a copy of Halo 3 and a Gold Membership to Microsoft Live for online playing) is currently selling on BestBuy.ca for $329.

The PlayStation 3 is selling for $299, but doesn't include Metal Gear Solid 4. But that's only another $29.99.

So, dear gamers: Which one should I chose? Is Metal Gear Solid 4 that good? Is the online play good?


The Future of Digital Memories

Now that I moved to Berlin I pretty much come across art at every corner. Although digital art isn't really that publicly present. And it is difficult to sustain this art due to rapidly changing technologies. Of course this is a problem of all digital media. Photos for example, the collective memory of generations, tend to be more and more digitalized with no-one knowing whether the formats will still exist in 100 or even 50 years (on the other hand the redundancy of pictures is also increasing, e.g. whenever I shot photos of a party I send them to my friends or upload them on Facebook). This issue gets even more problematic with digital games. Here the main problem is the ever changing hardware. Since the first games we saw dozens of different platforms games could be played on (and do you know where your first console went?).

But then there are still emulators, programmed by enthusiastic individuals (and not by game libraries), but also here several problems evolve. First of all in most cases it's illegal to play games with the help of these programs (unless you own them of course) and we don't experience these games as we have experienced them in the past since we don‘t play them on the original hardware and without the old input devices.

Since it‘s the destiny of every hardware to cash in the chips one day (no pun intended) and we don‘t have any retro specialists who are able to copy whole chips we are very likely to lose something very interesting. But as problematic as emulators are – at least they keep something of the game alive; artifacts of a culture which carry ideas and world views, which get lost just like old movies. Movies which couldn‘t be archived and will never be seen again.

Which made me wonder: Wouldn't one way to preserve digital art be to allow it to run on console hardware? Maybe the console makers could open up some art corner, a (peerreviewed?) museum in the Playstation "Home", a (peer-reviewed?) arts channel on Xbox Live (maybe XNA offers really interesting opportunities in that it turns out to be a viable toolkit for digital artists). And then in 15 years you not only download Bioshock to play on your Xbox 360 emulator, but also the incomparable weird and thought challenging art of my friend Jason Nelson – at a point when the PC based software of that time is long outdated and nowhere to be found, respectively incapable of working on any modern computer. Not an ideal solution though, considering that digital art often also involves unusual forms of input and that converting a PC based program to a console format is involving (especially without development kits). So the console makers would have to play along, but the question is in how far they want to contribute to future emulation now that the commercial interests for retro software grows strongly.

All in all: A step in the right direction– on a path littered with the stones of commercial imperatives.