Shared experiences validate us, we want to share our accomplishments in life, and this is also true of videogames. There was a time when in order to share our experiences in a videogame we needed a photograph of a screen as proof, or to invite friends into our homes to witness our triumphs, or help fool an age gate check.
With the advent of new technologies, sharing our stories while playing videogames has become more accessible, made possible by advanced and accessible tools. With the arrival of improved Internet connections worldwide, last console generation we welcomed online consoles into our homes. Boasting the ability to connect us to other likeminded communities through social media, the PlayStation 3 stumbled and fell awkwardly into misunderstanding the value of connectedness. It felt like watching a desperate friend commit social hara-kiri on a public stage, before being silently and mercifully euthanized.
Instead of providing the tools to communicate our experiences, our consoles were broadcasting meaningless achievements to our social media platforms, more often than not, without our knowledge. The experience left a bad taste in our collective mouths. What should have been an opportunity to share experiences had been reduced to spam, and many users opted out of social media integration within games.
The DualShock4’s SHARE functionality demonstrates a deeper understanding of how consumers want to share experiences in a videogame. The rise of the generation demonstrates an insatiable hunger to create and consume long form video content featuring the games we play. Sometime about games. Sometimes about boobs. Sometimes about games and boobs. The inbuilt toolset of the PlayStation 4 means we are now all content creators, for better or worse. In order to succeed, Live From PlayStation requires a healthy blend of curated content and community engagement. Through this, we can hope users will self-moderate to produce content worthy of the tools and platform. The immediacy of live interaction and feedback from other users means Live from PlayStation offers a richer social sharing experience than the PlayStation 3, with the potential to reach a wider audience of likeminded people. After all, the purpose of SHARE is building virtual communities.
The PlayStation 4 equips users with the tools to broadcast content, but it is important we are mindful of what we stream. Live from PlayStation content is at best raw, and at worst, a hot mess. It ranges between low-fi video of a topless man necking chocolate milk in a room filled with cats, to the juvenile ramblings of tweens playing Call of Duty.
User generated content available on Live From PlayStation shouldn’t be defined as shared experiences, but as one-way communication with minor user interaction. Its users broadcast content to a relatively small install base of console owners. This isn’t story telling, it’s shouting information out an open widow. Hopefully as streaming content from consoles matures with its audience, the experience will become more collaborative and less painful to watch.
Part of the reason we love our new consoles and games is because of their potential. We buy into manipulated in-game screenshots, touched up pre-release trailers and concept art. We are complicit in the hype process and want to believe the potential will be reality. While we were duped into chain-letter-like social media sharing by our PlayStation 3, The PlayStation 4 has the tools to deliver on its promise and connect communities.
The only way streamed content will improve is through trial, error and engagement from the community. The PlayStation 4’s focus on SHARE is a brave step for consoles, and has the potential to redefine how we share experiences while playing videogames.
– Paul Houlihan @paulyhouly
This article was originally published in Official PlayStation Magazine Australia