Today, a handful of my colleagues have published PlayStation 5 impressions, detailing where the power button is, how it fits in various spaces, and how those slick-ass Dual Sense controllers feel. But did you also know that this week marks the 20th anniversary of the PlayStation 2? How can we appreciate where the next-gen consoles are going if we don’t appreciate where they’ve been?
Eighteen years ago I begged my father for a PS2 because Hikaru Utada’s “Simple & Clean” commercial for Kingdom Hearts grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and made my Final Fantasy and Disney loving ass believe that I could not live without playing that game. I don’t remember seeing any other PS2 commercials. My mother never allowed me to have a Game Informer subscription so I never saw any in-print advertisements. Most of my friends did not play video games, and by that time, I had long outgrown salivating over the glossy and colorful Toys-R-Us ads that got stuffed into every Sunday newspaper. For two years after its release I remained blissfully ignorant that there even was such a thing as a PS2. That Kingdom Hearts commercial is the only reason I have one now. And she’s still here, alive and kicking 18 years later.
My PS2 occupies a place of honor on my entertainment console, open and free and permanently hooked to my TV in defiance of having spent most of her life—even the time when she saw regular use—crammed into her original box. Yes, I said “she.” All of my consoles are women—my PS2 even has a name, Lucy, a naming convention I adopted from my mother who bestows it on all old, venerated family objects (like her 20-year-old Toyota Corolla and her very large plant child). Since my PS2 is my own old, venerated family object, she gets the honor of having that name.
Lucy is covered in dust, and her video output cable dislodges from the back of the console at the gentlest touch. Only one of the two controllers I still have works, but the left thumbstick is missing its rubber cover and some of the plastic shell around its cord has rubbed away, exposing the wires underneath. But despite her dusty exterior, Lucy still works and still sees occasional use.
Three years ago, before I owned a Nintendo Switch that would make travelling with a console easier, I went to my ancestral home for Christmas. While I love my family dearly, sometimes I don’t wanna be bothered, so I had to bring something with me to occupy my downtime. My mom, bless her heart, isn’t the most prolific of TV watchers. Though my sister and I have since ushered her into the world of streaming TV, in 2017 she had the same TV she had when I left for college some 10 years previous—a 32’’ Sony Trinitron. That relic wasn’t compatible with an Xbox or a PS4 but I knew it would fit my PS2...because it was the same TV I played on back when I was 16 years old. That Christmas, I gave to myself the gift of nostalgia, playing my favorite PS2 games on the same PS2 console and the same television as I did when I was a child.
My library of PS2 games is small, because I didn’t have the kind of disposable income needed to buy a new game every couple of months back when Sony was still making them. I had to be very selective in my purchases: anything Final Fantasy, anything Kingdom Hearts, anything Tomb Raider, the only Yu Yu Hakusho PS2 game released in America, and Dragon Ball Z: Budokai for my DBZ loving cousin who is no longer around. The other games pictured above belonged to my ex and somehow got tangled up in my possessions when we disentangled ourselves (I’ve never played that copy of Shadow of the Colossus, and that breakup is also why I have duplicate copies of Final Fantasy XII.).
My greatest video game memory is tied to the PS2. When Kingdom Hearts 2 came out (another game that sold me on the power of Hikaru Utada’s singing alone), I constructed a plan designed to maximize my day one experience. I distinctly and fondly remember skipping class—I was in college by that point, so no worries of my overprotective mother finding out and literally killing me—and walking miles to the GameStop near campus. There, I purchased not only the game but the $40 Prima Games guide and the $2 disc warranty, just for that extra bit of peace of mind (and to flex on my friends for saving up $100+ dollars to blow on a single video game purchase). I took my prize back to my dorm, where I had reserved, weeks in advance, the big screen TV room for an entire afternoon of uninterrupted play time with Sora, Donald, and Goofy. My friends came by, we ordered pizza, and played far beyond my reserved time slot. If Heaven is where you exist forever suspended in your happiest memory, Kingdom Hearts 2 release day will be mine.
It’s hard to believe the PlayStation 2 is 20 years old. To me, 20 years ago is the era of Sega Genesis and 16-bit Final Fantasies, but as this tweet so rudely reminds me, 20 years ago was the age of native 480i output and the DualShock 2. Twenty years from now, as we look upon the PS5 fondly on the eve of the shiny and new PS7 (provided climate change or political unrest hasn’t killed us all or reverted the Earth back to ancient times), hopefully my dear Lucy will still be around to remind me of all the good times we shared.