The PlayStation 4 was released in 2013. I attended an event for critics and writers where I was given one, I was taught how to use most of the system's features and I spent the rest of the evening in a hotel room playing games and exploring the new system. The PlayStation 4 is, by far, the system on which I spend the majority of my non-PC gaming time. I've been there since before the first day of its release, in other words.
I still don't know what the front buttons do.
Stop laughing, I'm not alone
I'll admit that this is kind of a shameful secret, and everyone is welcome to make fun of me. I'll just kind of touch the front of the system over and over until it either turns on or the disc is ejected. I purchase most of my games digitally, or I'm provided download codes from a publisher if I'm covering their game, so the eject button can often be safely ignored.
You can also just turn on the system using the PlayStation jewel on the controller, so I've never really needed to learn which console button is which. So I guess, every time, and keep jabbing at them until whatever I want to happen, happens.
I thought I was alone, until this tweet from coworker Nick Robinson blew up.
RT if three years later you still don't know which of these is the 'power' button and which is the 'eject' button pic.twitter.com/ll7eSyeMbq— Nick Robinson (@Babylonian) May 15, 2016
That tweet has more than 1,700 retweets at the time this story was published. Around 1,500 people have liked it. So it clearly touched a nerve.
People have begun to share their own frustrations with the buttons. A Polygon editor thanked me for writing this and said, and I'll quote directly, "Fuck those buttons."
Others are sharing their surprise that those were buttons at all. Yes, really. I learned that you can actually go into an options menu in software and eject a disc that way. We all learned a lot about gaming and a little bit about ourselves.
And it's not like this is something I just noticed, it's an issue that pops up in my life often enough that I've remarked on it via Twitter many times. Here's a tweet from 2015:
@Souriant_Nymh I feel happier not knowing, even thought it's easy to check. Like how I still don't know which one is the eject button PS4— Ben Kuchera (@BenKuchera) July 27, 2015
Here's another from 2014:
Sony should flip the "power" and "eject" buttons on the anniversary PS4 just to drive everyone completely nutty.— Ben Kuchera (@BenKuchera) December 5, 2014
This is a joke about trying to eject a disc, also from 2014. The .gif included is still being passed around as a joke about trying to figure out the PlayStation 4 buttons. As the tweet states, I didn't come up with this particular use of the .gif, and people are still using it in this context today.
The buttons even have icons on them that say what each one does, they're just way too small to be useful.
Some people take matters into their own hands:
Is this a joke?
It is, partially. People clearly like to poke fun at this issue and their own ongoing confusion, while others think the idea anyone would be confused by the choice of two buttons is a bit ... hard to believe.
But what's clear is that the humor persists because the front of the PlayStation 4 is horribly designed. It's not easy to find the buttons by touch. Looking for the visual indication of what each button does is way more challenging than it should be due to their tiny size. Many folks, to this day, may still not know there is a menu option in software that ejects discs.
We also can't ignore the fact that most people buying a console haven't used it before, whether at a friend's house or somewhere else. They may not be great with electronics in general. It's easy for us to say this is something you should have figured out in the past few years, but the fact that players of many different ages, who came to the system at launch and today still struggle with it means that this is a problem.
So this may be an easy target for humor, and lord knows it sounds funny at first, but there's enough smoke here to convince us there's a pretty major UI fire. Let's hope Sony is ready to put it out with the next version of the hardware.
Until then? Just remember the following mnemonic device that I also found via Twitter: Power, UP.