Deep in the most terrible recesses of the PlayStation Network store, beyond the games, movies, and other things one might reasonably desire to buy, there exists a neglected wing of the digital marketplace where you can purchase cosmetic upgrades for your console. This sad little corner of the otherwise slick corporate storefront, with its shamefully low-quality wares and extortionate prices, has the air of an alleyway organ trader operating in the middle of a department store. This is where a hypothetical Sony customer, bored into terminal economic irresponsibility by the violently pleasant default sights and sounds of the PlayStation 4, would travel to purchase a dynamic theme—a combination of animated wallpaper, custom icons, music, and sound effects for their system’s rarely-seen-anyway desktop.
There are over 1,000 dynamic themes available for the PlayStation 4, and over 1,000 of them are terrible. Venture into that dark corner of the PSN Store, and you may get lost among the cruddy illustrations, garish corporate logos, and cheesecake shots, never to return. To gaze directly into the selection is to go mad—there is nothing rational here for the human brain to latch on to, just illegible, Lovecraftian gibberish. But worry not, because Gameological is here to tame the savage frontier and instill order where there was once chaos. After extensive research, we can confirm that even the most alien of dynamic themes can be sorted into one of these seven categories. Armed with this knowledge, you should be safe to venture into the themes section of the PSN Store without going mad, like we did.
The last several years have brought some progress for the cause of diversity and representation in games, but that wave of enlightenment has failed to reach the PS4 Theme library. This wouldn’t be so heinous if not for the fact that there isn’t a hunk in sight—if you were hoping to convert your PS4 into a dual-purpose gaming console and arousal machine, you’re out of luck if you’re into boys. Surely, this is a market that is crying out to be tapped. Players who want to ogle a fictional pair of breasts before firing up a game, though, are spoiled for choice. Of the 1,167 themes in the store at the time of writing, we estimate that 1,164 of them involve boobs in some capacity.
Sub-categories: Anime boobs, non-anime boobs
Reminders of the outdoors
If you spend so much time on your PS4 that you’d consider spending legal tender on a picture to look at during the fractions of a second between turning on the machine and starting a game, you probably aren’t getting out much. But don’t worry, our vampiric friend, the PSN Store has you covered. With its vast selection of landscape and nature photography themes, you’ll never play games for so long that you forget what a tree looks like again. Many of these even have audio effects to enhance your immersion. The theme pictured above features the sound of rushing water, and many of the outer space themes feature no sound at all to better capture the oppressive, soundless terror of the void.
Sub-categories: Landscapes, cityscapes, space, animals
Skeletons and skulls
If General George S. Patton is to be believed, when the Roman emperors would return to their city after campaigns of conquest, a member of their procession would whisper in their ear that “all glory is fleeting” to remind them of their mortality. Now you, too, can have an eternal reminder of life’s impermanence right on your PS4 dashboard, without the need for a parade. Every time you power up your machine, you can gaze lovingly into the very eyes of Death himself and reflect on the folly of vanity, before popping in that Blu-ray of I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry or whatever it is you were doing. Memento mori, PSN Store patron—remember that you will die.
Sub-categories: Patriotic skulls, grim reapers
These days corporations get laughed out of the room if they haven’t got at least a half dozen social media accounts to their name. A Twitter account makes sense from a customer service point of view, but does fluorescent-cheese manufacturer Kraft really need its own Tumblr? Some companies are even reaching out to customers with PS4 themes. Many of these are just advertisements for upcoming films and games, but an incredible number also allow people to show support for professional sports teams. We suppose that if you were so massive a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs that you were willing to dedicate your PS4’s desktop in tribute to them, you would probably also appreciate having the team’s name appear there no fewer than 17 times. Would it really be worth the money if it were only there once?
Sub-categories: Movie advertisements, game advertisements, sports teams, Attack On Titan
Random shapes and colors
Abstract painting removes art from the context of the real world, forcing viewers to engage with it on its own terms. Devoid of attempts to reference reality, an abstract work’s line, shape, color, and composition can thrive without being dragged down by the mundanities of the everyday world. That purity of expression and form is nowhere to be found in the PSN Store—this really is just a bunch of squares. Sony itself offers several minimalist designs of their own making for free in the shop, but most of the entries in this category are of the shoddy quality seen above. In motion, it’s even sadder: jittery, blurry, and soundless, like a Windows 3.1 screensaver.
Sub-categories: Decent looking Sony-produced themes, crappy themes by anyone else
Undergraduate college students are not known for their refined taste or discerning eyes, but they are known for living in undecorated hovels. Seizing on the opportunity this presents, shady poster manufacturers began making cheap, tacky adornments for the dorm rooms, squats, and drug hives where this milkable demographic tends to make its home. These themes, like their corporeal counterparts, deal in imagery familiar to the world’s burnout youth: drugs, cars, guns, video games. The quality of PS4 themes is quite low across the board, but these are far and away the most poorly made. The theme above doesn’t have any movement or music associated with it; it’s just an unimpressive picture of a dog (at least, that’s what the title claims) with a dislocated jaw and sloped brow. Without the distractions of motion and sound you really find yourself asking questions about it, like “Is that a knee-high fence or a bear-sized dog?” and “Why am I doing this to myself at 3:13 a.m.?”
Sub-categories: “Gamer pride,” delusions of gangsterdom, margin doodles, stoner bait
All of the PS4 dynamic themes are frightening in their own ways, but it’s the familiar, earthly fear of confronting ugliness in an unfamiliar environment—it’s the fear that something bad will happen to you. Stumbling upon one of the store’s weird cats, though, provokes the sort of cosmic fear the mortal mind simply cannot withstand, the fear that the world is so vast, and you are so insignificant a part of it, that nothing will happen to you, not ever. If the entire internet had two eyes and you could stare into them, this is what you would see. And when it looked at you, it would see nothing. That said, if you, like us, want to feel like a flea on the back of the monster that is the universe every time you turn on your console, and you like cats, you can’t go wrong with one of these. Frankly, if all the PlayStation 4 could do was display this theme, it would still be worth $400.