There are certain, admittedly mundane moments that just linger. Sure, I can tell you exactly where I was and how I heard about 9/11, so can anyone. But I’m the only one who’ll ever remember my first Playstation 2 experience.
I owned Sony’s first Playstation—I bought one of the consoles that Rogers Video used to rent out and played it nearly to death—but the first time I saw that Playstation 2 boot screen everything that came before was arcane and ancient and obsolete. It felt important. And I’m glad I still remember it, because just last week Sony confirmed they’ve finally stopped manufacturing the PS2 after more than 12 years.
The first game I played was SSX, a snowboarding title available when the console was launched in North America, but that doesn’t really matter. What mattered was that this black box did everything—it played CDs, it played DVDs, and it played the most cutting edge games around. Stores made a killing by forcing customers to buy a handful of games with their system, pushing the price tag to $1,000 or more. It sold out everywhere. People didn’t just want it, they needed it. It did everything!
For a generation, it moved video games consoles out of the basement and into the centre of our homes. There are 150 million of those black boxes floating around, and you can still pick one up for about the cost of a single Playstation 3 or XBox 360 game.
My PS2 was with me when I dropped out of high school. I left it at home when I went away to University, but it came with me for years two through four, when I had a TV to hook it up to. It was the device I used to watch some of my favourite movies for the first time. It made me care about soccer, as my roommates and I played matches of EA Sports’ FIFA World Cup 2006 between real World Cup games. It made me frustrated enough to break more than one controller in a blind rage. More often than not, if I turned a TV on I would turn on the PS2, too. And long after my friends had moved on to the XBox 360 or even PS3, I was still stuffing NHL and Madden discs into my tired Playstation 2.
But, eventually, I too moved onward and upward and now rely almost exclusively on my Playstation 3 (which is turned on and connected to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 at this moment). I was surprised at first to learn that Sony was still building new Playstation 2 consoles until recently, but it makes sense—it still does just about everything. Only now am I realizing that the PS2 was responsible for making that the standard: if you want to sell a video game system now (or even a cellphone, for that matter), it has to connect to the Internet, play high-definition movies, store music and photos, and then some. If it weren’t for Sony’s Playstation 2, there’s a chance we’d all still have separate devices for making phone calls, surfing the Internet, watching videos, listening to music and taking photos.
So if you’ve owned a Playstation 2, and odds are good that you have, take a moment to appreciate how it changed the way we approach technology. And if you have your own PS2 memories, feel free to leave them in the comments.
Rest in peace, old friend.