My stepson calls it "The World Console War." It's Wii U versus PS4 versus Xbox One on a global scale. Each console sold is a battle won, and whoever sells the most by the end of the console cycle, wins. Guess whose side my stepson is on?
At that time we didn't own a PS4, and my stepson's contribution to the war effort involved convincing people to side with PlayStation. When his mother said she preferred the Xbox One, he tried to persuade her otherwise. He explained that the PS4 had better the graphics, a better controller, and clever PS Vita integration.
I'm not surprised. He and his father play PS3 together online nearly every Sunday. They play games including Portal 2, Modnation Racers, and Batman: Arkham Origins. It's their primary way to keep in touch when they live about 2,000 miles apart. According to my stepson, their shared love of PlayStation is the biggest thing they have in common.
So, how would he handle being confronted with the enemy, an Xbox One? On Black Friday, I got to find out.
While his mother went shopping, my stepson and I browsed a game store in the mall. He cataloged the PS Vita games they had in stock and chatted with the store clerk about his console allegiance while I browsed the Wii games. I noticed this game store did not have a demo station for the new consoles. I asked a clerk if any shops in the mall did. He said there were, for the Xbox One.
After we picked up his mom, we navigated the crowded walkways in search of the demo station. We got lost very briefly but arrived after some help from a very bored looking clerk selling remote control cars at a kiosk. The demoed game was Forza 5 - a racing game - a franchise and genre our family is totally unfamiliar with.
On this turn with the Xbox One, I expected him to immediately start playing the game, but he didn't. He was too busy judging the controller.
"So, this is the Xbox One controller, eh? It's smaller. Feels lighter. And the directional pad... not bad, Microsoft. Not bad."
He went on and on like this. During his analysis, a line of kids formed behind him, presumably to actually play the game.
He did not like playing Forza 5 at all. His car kept spinning out and crashing into walls. He couldn't stop driving backwards on the track. Every time he rewound the race to correct a mistake, he made the same mistake two, three, four times over. He didn't even finish the race.
Like I said, the racing genre is overlooked in our family. His inexperience with racing games truly accounted for his poor performance. But, to him it was Xbox One's fault. What a terrible controller.
We mulled around a bit more and watched another kid - who was obviously familiar with the game - win first place in his race. My stepson complimented the boy, and they started talking. That snowballed into a very detailed discussion about the Xbox One, its functionalities, the Kinect, and Xbox Live subscriptions. When my stepson asked which console that boy supported, he said both. He handed the controller to my stepson and let him take the next turn on Forza 5. This time, my stepson took 1st place.
Feeling good about his second attempt, he announced: "The Xbox One is better than the PS4."
After singing PS4 endless praise, and constantly talking about how devoted he was, he played Xbox One twice, and he defected. This wasn't good.
Like families that root for the same football team, he and his father are PlayStation fans. It's their thing. Now he was rooting for the opposing team.
The following Sunday, he settled on the couch to play games with his father. While they waited for a Batman: Arkham Origins' multiplayer to start, they talked about the holidays, about family, and food. I wondered if he was going to tell his Dad about his defection. It wasn't long until my stepson mentioned his Black Friday experience:
"We went to the mall and I got to try out the Xbox One. Yeah, and it's better than the PS4… I mean, it's pretty good... I'm still on your side, Dad."
I'm sure, one day, my stepson will discover that a completely imaginary World Console War cannot threaten a very real father-son bond. For now, he's a "PlayStation fanboy," doing his best to feel close to his dad when there's so much distance between them.
You can reach the author of this post on Twitter, kinda: @marshnaylor