It sits there, on the floor of the game room, its one red eye glowing accusingly at me as I reach to unplug it from the wall. I find myself hesitating a second, feeling somehow, well, weird. And then it hits me.
I'm not ready to say goodbye to my PlayStation 2.
It's not like there aren't good reasons to bid a fond adieu to the machine that's been my four-lane highway to gaming goodness for the last five years, beginning with the blacker, sleeker PlayStation 3 that's waiting impatiently on the coffee table for me to unpack it. Hesitating now ought to feel like extending a conversation with Drew Bledsoe when Tony Romo just strolled into the room. I find myself wondering how many of the other 100 million other people who own one of these things feel the same way. (Given the current scarcity of the PS3, I'm guessing maybe 15. Thirty, tops.)
There were no feelings of remorse when my old television set gave way to an HDTV, or my portable CD player to an iPod — it was simply a matter of a superior technology conquering an outdated one — game, set, and match. Nor is this quite the same vibe that hit when the crisp and slim Xbox 360 arrived last year to oust its chunky black forebear. That felt as though Microsoft had put a bullet into a horse that still had a couple good years left in it, all for the sake of being the first out of the gate in the next-gen dash. One year later, I'm struggling to remember the last time I booted it up. Such is the cycle of gaming technology.
But this feels different somehow. It's not a fear of backwards compatibility — aside from a middling-sized list of foreign-developed RPGs that experience slowdowns in their FMV sequences, most of the PS2's lineup is now perfectly playable on the PS3. The stragglers are certainly nothing that Sony can't fix in the coming months. (Unlike Microsoft, which is beginning to look like it may never deliver on the promise of complete backwards compatibility for the 360.) Heck, just last week, EA announced that the next edition of the Burnout series is going to be exclusive ... to the PS2.
Still, there are the things that I'll lose when I switch, like the rumble-shock feature, a casualty of the lawsuit between Sony and Immersion (the company that created the Dualshock controller). Now, when my offense steps to the line in Madden '07 or a pack of minotaurs knocks me on my ass in God of War, my hands will feel nothing more than a ghostly echo of gameplay past.
It's that echo that has my hand paused near the wall outlet. Nostalgia. Slow-motion flashbacks set to "The Way We Were." It's the reason that gamers are microtransacting old-school classics like Defender and the original Doom on Xbox Live in numbers usually reserved for the Halo 3 trailers. We'll always open our wallets for 1080p quality graphics, sure, but we've got a soft spot for the old stuff — even when "old stuff" means 2005. Like the guy in that Ben Folds tune "The Last Polka," we like to remember when.
The feeling of loss won't last forever. Before long, I'll view my PS2 the same way I do my original PlayStation when I encounter it during my annual closet cleaning, sitting forlornly in its box, looking puny and outdated, like it'd rather be sipping a Sno-Cone with the square-wheeled choo-choo train on Rudolph's Island of Forgotten Toys. I'll feel a minor twinge of nostalgia, I'm sure, some kind of minor psychic flesh wound, perhaps.
Just don't think, not even for a second, that I'm ever getting rid of it.