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Defining a Generation: What It Truly Means to be "Next-Gen"

Next-Gen Consoles Console Wars Nintendo Wii U Sony PS4 Microsoft Xbox 720 NextBox

I have heard the same tired arguments far too often over the years when it comes to console generations. People seem to think there are specific qualifications for a console to truly be considered “next-gen”; that if other consoles outmatch another in horsepower, the less powerful one belongs in the last generation. And according to these people, with some disregard for the word’s literal definition, “generation” means something else entirely.

Look, I respect everyone's opinions and all, but they won’t change facts. Many gamers' definition of “generation” isn’t correct; the less-powerful consoles do not belong in previous generations, and above all else, we shouldn’t even be fighting over something so pointless when we can just enjoy the most important part of this medium: the video games themselves. All this Console Wars nonsense is making gamers forget what gaming is all about. It's making gamers forget what generations are all about. So perhaps it's about time for a little refresher on what it truly means to be "next-gen," and most importantly, what it truly means to be a gamer.

 

The Definition of “Generation”


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When a new generation comes along, what does that mean? Does it mean what a lot of gamers seem to think it means; that you can only be in the next generation if your power far exceeds that of the previous generation? No, it doesn’t. What it does mean is that the previous generation has another generation to succeed it, and that’s it. But what exactly IS a “generation”? Well, let’s see what Dictionary.com has to say:

gen·er·a·tion [jen-uh-rey-shuh n]
noun

  • the entire body of individuals born and living at about the same time: the postwar generation.
  • the term of years, roughly 30 among human beings, accepted as the average period between the birth of parents and the birth of their offspring.
  • a group of individuals, most of whom are the same approximate age, having similar ideas, problems, attitudes, etc. Compare Beat Generation, Lost Generation.
  • a group of individuals belonging to a specific category at the same time: Chaplin belonged to the generation of silent-screen stars.
  • a single step in natural descent, as of human beings, animals, or plants.
  • a form, type, class, etc., of objects existing at the same time and having many similarities or developed from a common model or ancestor (often used in combination): a new generation of anticancer drugs; a third-generation phone.
  • the offspring of a certain parent or couple, considered as a step in natural descent.
  • the act or process of generating; procreation.
  • the state of being generated.
  • production by natural or artificial processes; evolution, as of heat or sound.
  • Biology.
    a. one complete life cycle.
    b. one of the alternate phases that complete a life cycle having more than one phase: the gametophyte generation.
  • Mathematics. the production of a geometrical figure by the motion of another figure.
  • Physics. one of the successive sets of nuclei produced in a chain reaction.
  • (in duplicating processes, as photocopying, film, etc.) the distance in duplicating steps that a copy is from the original work.
The most basic definition you can get from the 14 definitions above is that a generation is what comes after another generation. Simple enough, right? In other words, my generation came after my dad’s generation, his generation came after his dad’s, and so on. Therefore, that made-up definition a lot of gamers have given to console generations earlier isn’t at all correct. Honestly, I don’t even know how that particular definition came about in the first place. People have gotten so caught up in console wars and power battles that they have forgotten the meaning of the term “next-gen.”

 

What It Means to Be Next-Gen


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I hear this far too often: “The Wii U isn’t next-gen!” I’m sorry, what? And what makes YOU the expert on generations? You say the Wii U isn’t next-gen, but why? Because the graphics don’t look leaps and bounds more realistic than on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 from the last generation? Because it doesn’t use the most powerful pieces of hardware money can buy? First of all, the Wii U graphics looking like they do in the console’s infancy is pretty damn impressive. It’s like a 3-year-old lifting as much as its uncles, if not more. So giving it time will only show more impressive results later in its lifetime, as has been the case with every console in every generation.

Secondly, a console being considered “next-gen” isn’t determined by power and expensive hardware. As I’ve laid out for you above, one generation is what follows another generation. Power and expenses have nothing to do with it. I mean, if I’m not as powerful as other people my age, and if I wear clothes from Goodwill and drive a cheap car from 30 years ago (I’m depressing myself…), does that mean I should be placed in the same generation as my dad? Hell no!

Hypothetically speaking, even if one of the big three companies suddenly decided to release an 8-bit console when generation 9 comes around, it would still be considered next-gen, because what it truly means to be next-gen is simple: you have to be in the generation following your predecessor. In which case, the Wii U following the Wii makes it next-gen, just like the PlayStation 4 is a generation following the PlayStation 3 and the next Xbox will be a generation following the Xbox 360. These are all next-gen consoles. Period.

 

Play Games, Not Consoles


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Remember when gaming was all about playing video games? Those were the days… Now you can’t get into a conversation about the medium without someone bashing a certain console. Whether they consider Nintendo consoles as being for kids, Sony consoles as being for graphic-obsessed meat-heads, or Microsoft consoles as being for kids who like to scream profanity, “fanboys” will pull arguments out of their butts and hope people agree with them. None of these arguments ever hold merit, of course, but there are countless biased soldiers in the eternal conflict we call the Console Wars, and they all feel like the only option is to pick a side and fight. But why do we have to pick sides? Can’t we all just get along? Apparently not, because the Console Wars have never been won, and they’ve been waging on for decades…

There was a time when Sega was known as Nintendo’s rival, with Sonic the Hedgehog being the “more mature” alternative to Mario. There were even those famous commercials from back in the day – one with the slogan “Sega does what Nintendon’t” and another with the slogan “Nintendo is what Genesisn’t.” Needless to say, this was the generation that first saw the Console Wars. And you know what I did in that generation? I owned both the SNES and the Genesis and played some pretty amazing games both consoles had to offer.

Fast-forward to today and things haven’t changed all that much. Well, Sega may have been thrown out of the console market since then, but I still prefer owning all consoles and playing whatever the hell I feel like playing. So why can’t we all just do that? Why must gamers feel the need to pick sides and bash whoever isn’t their favorite brand? People might say that the Wii U isn’t next-gen, but more than likely that argument has something to do with the arguer attempting to find ways to put the console down, especially since they usually follow up or lead in with something about how the PS4 and next Xbox will be “true next-gen consoles.” Yeah, you can go play your Console Wars if you want, but I’d rather just play my games instead.

Posted ImageSo now that you know every definition of the word “generation,” can we stop all this next-gen bickering? There always seems to be a fight among gamers, and many of them think that to be considered “next-gen” you have to be über powerful compared to the last generation. People like to say that the Wii U isn’t next-gen, and yet it clearly is when taking the literal definition into account. But when you get rid of biased brand loyalty altogether, does any of this really even matter?

Games are games, and they are meant to be enjoyed. So why don’t we all just enjoy the Wii U, PS4, and Xbox 360's successor and whatever games they provide for our gaming pleasure, regardless of what generation we think they’re in? In fact, I think I’ll go play an old SNES game now…


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