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Why Press Start? – The Peculiarities Of A Videogame Convention

Why Press Start? – The Peculiarities Of A Videogame Convention


The things that occupy my mind at times are a mystery even to myself, but this weekend I spent an incomprehensible amount of time thinking about the convention of pressing start at the beginning of a game in order to access its menu goodness. I am at a loss to explain its purpose. It seems to serve no particular function.

I’ve looked around online to see if anyone can offer me a logical explanation for its existence. Some say it’s a way of hiding the quick loading time needed to the first menu screen. Others say it’s there to weed out the truly imbecilic in the gaming community who can’t even work out which is the start button. These certainly seem like “plausible” explanations, but really it seems that tradition is the most likely thinking behind these archaic structures.

What it probably dates back to is arcade gaming where the intro movie and demo would play on an arcade cabinet, tempting passing gamers to ‘Press Start’ to play. It was the doorway you had to pass through to tell the game you wanted to play. Since it started out in this form and many games in the earliest era of home consoles were more or less ports of their older arcade brothers, the Press Start screen must have just been carried over with it.

Even in those early console days it made a degree of sense. Putting the cartridge or disc in the machine was  a fair enough indication of your desire to play, but since there was rarely any other form of front end, some kind of title screen reminding you exactly what game it was you were about to embark upon could have been handy. “Bionic Granny!” a Commadore 64 owner may have screamed, “But I wanted to play Green Beret!”

However, our current age of consoles has surely made the Press Start screen redundent. We have a front end to our consoles. We have a home page of sorts that loads up when we switch on our consoles. It tells us the name of the game we’ve got in the disc drive on screen before we even choose to play it. On PS3 sometimes it even starts playing a trailer when you hover over the disc in question. We live in a remarkable age.

Is the Press Start screen something worth getting worked up about? No. Of course not, but as I began this blog by saying, it has taken up a great deal of my thinking time this weekend. It really serves no purpose to the modern gamer other than being an impediment to our gaming pleasure. Perhaps it is time we finally said goodbye to it.




  • DO’G

    Hahahahahah brilliant you’re so right, there are times when i wish a game would just go to the menu instead of this phraffing about with the press start. It seriously didn’t dawn on me until you wrote the article. nice blog.