Friday, June 28, 2013

The State of Gaming

I guess I should start by saying, I love video games, I've been playing them since I was 3 and I grew up with them as the main staple of my entertainment.  I gained my appreciation for music from them, pursued art as a profession because of them, started scripting and learning programing when I was 12 by messing around with them, and ultimately learned to type and structure sentences in a coherent manner because of them.  For me, it's more then just a passed time or hobby, it's my inspiration, it's what taught me, and it's part of my culture.  It's who I am, kind of like the kids who grew up watching movies in the theaters back in the 30's only to move on to become actors, directors, writers, and producers.

With all of that said, many people have the horrible misconception that follows a dumb stereotype from the 90's that gamers are lazy people who's brains are turning to mush and eyes are frying from playing games.  Of course, this is all bollox and couldn't be further from the truth but this blog entry isn't about arguing the merits and legitimacy of such claims, rather I'm going to take such a claim and run with it as I move into the point of this blog.

The thing is, I'm a gamer, I enjoy gaming, but I'm tired... and feel drained.  Gaming in general has become increasingly political to the point where as a gamer, I've spent more time in the past few years involving myself in the politics of gaming then I have been actually playing games.  I'm not talking about this console company vs this console company type of stuff that we've had since there was more then 1 system on the market (Genesis vs Super Nintendo anybody?), heck I'm not even referring to the constant political groups targeting gaming referring to games as the ultimate evil and the reason the (insert evil thing) exists....  No, I'm talking about the constant struggles we have from the game companies themselves, the constant dumb decisions that are made by the companies that are extremely anti consumer and the campaigns the gamers and fans have to do to not get screwed over.

Operation Rainfall anybody?

It seems like every month there's something new.  Like the above video is a reminder of, not too long ago we had the whole Operation Rainfall campaign because Nintendo of America refused to localize major Japanese games that Nintendo of Europe already did the translation and legwork for.  This of course happened during a huge drought of quality games for Wii and DS, a drought of JRPG's in general on all systems, the 3DS stumbling after launch with not everything ready for launch and much of the quality games a ways off, and Nintendo's business in general reporting their first losses in decades.  Of course Nintendo IS NOT the only culprits here and this is only 1 of the major events in recent times.  Earlier that year you had the whole Playstation Network Outage mess that was caused by a downwards spiral of drama from hackers upset by Sony taking away features from the PS3.  In the process of the outage, a "rumor" with an extreme amount of evidence and truth behind it from many sources came out saying Sony's security wasn't up to snuff and that Sony even knew about it.

Of course both of these scenarios were "amended" by the companies giving away free games and getting their business models back on track but in reality, they shouldn't of happened in the first place and as gamers we shouldn't have to constantly tell the companies to get their acts together.  Why is it though, we're still having to face similar problems and stupidity?  The whole No DRM Campaign that was being aimed at both Microsoft and Sony after Sony's rumored bought DRM rights and lack of straight forward confirmation about the subject when pressed saying it will be up to publishers and Microsoft's rumored DRM/always online which was later confirmed in the form of requiring once a day connections and DRM that binds physical games to an account basically cutting out used games.  In my personal and honest opinion as well as in the opinion of many people in the industry, DRM isn't entirely a bad idea, as companies, such as gamestop, have been leeching off of the success of the industry and exploiting loopholes that were there to give convenience to gamers through their used games strategy.  In example, its rare to find used DS games that have cases and booklets even at places other then gamestop because Gamestop gets rid of the cases and booklets for DS games which is evidence to the monopoly they have on used games.  With all of that said, the way the Microsoft and Sony went about this though and the apathetic, nonchalant, and sometimes even cocky attitudes they had on this situation and even the lack of backwards compatibility rubbed me and other like minded gamers the wrong way.  Messaging couldn't be any worse.... the whole issue shouldn't be happening in the first place and shows just how far greed will take companies, even at the risk of destroying their own image, destroying their industry, and alienating consumers in the process.

The gamer point of view about DRM.

Again, these are just a few of the problems and issues.  Currently there's a campaign going on by gamers and Nintendo fans to End Region Locking that not only has been taken up on social networking but also on Nintendo's own social network aka Miiverse.  For reasons shown above, this is also a huge issue because region locking is effectively segregating gamers who are more then willing to buy games if given the chance.  In the case of Operation Rainfall, it made the success of the games it was gunning to get localized go up by knowledge and word of mouth but a huge majority of the people who would of potentially bought the NA versions of the games modded their systems to import the European versions of the games or even worse, were one of the nearly 1 million people to download the game illegally in 2011 alone.

As a gamer all of this frustrates me greatly and at times it feels like only Valve understands how to do proper business with gamers.  Of course this isn't true but it does get old always having to deal with all of these problems.  The lack of backwards compatibility, the region locking problem, localization issues (Monster Hunter Frontier and Monster Hunter Portable 3rd HD anybody?), stupid hardware designs (lack of a second slider pad built in on 3DS, proprietary memory memory on Vita, low internal storage on Wii U, 360's crappy d-pad, PS3's wrong turned triggers, Wii plug in attachments on the Wiimotes, crappy battery life on the Wii U pad 3DS AND Vita), faulty hardware problems (PS3 and 360's failure rates were unbelievably high), wondering why publishers won't bring their older games out (lets talk Capcom - Breath of Fire 2 is on the Wii VC and Breath of Fire 4 is on PSN but BoF 1 and BoF 3 are nowhere to be seen, no Rival Schools or RS Project Justice to be seen, still waiting on Powerstone and Onimusha on PSN and XBLA), the segregation of hardware in order to undercut others, lack of care for making new entries in older IP from 3rd party publishers and the spam of dark mature gritty violent games that turn women into objects rather then attempting to create unique experiences at the retail level that stand out as original ideas.

Thing is, I'm getting fed up with all of this and I'm pretty sure other gamers are as well.  This could be one of the major reasons why the Ouya kickstarter was so successful as the Ouya is offering methods that are going against what the industry is trying to do.  The platform is completely open, it allows anybody to make games on it, because it's games are completely digital it won't have to worry about the used game market, it's open ended nature will kill any region locking through user mods, it will offer the same upgrading and user mod experience that you get out of PC gaming and Valve, and because it allows anybody to make games on it, companies can easily support the system with software if they so choose.  While there are some aspects of its open nature I'm not the biggest fan of, such as the emulation, the PC already offers this, anybody who mods a system can already do this, and quite frankly, like Valve said about piracy, the biggest factor and reason for people to get games illegally is because of a lack of availability which again goes back to failures on the 3 major console companies parts.  I don't support emulation or piracy, but I'm definitely ready for change at a console level and hope that the success of the Ouya and other like platforms as well as the entry of Google and Steam in the console race could help move a young and somewhat hurting industry forward.

Either way, I'll still be gaming, hopefully I'll be doing more gaming and less campaigning, and I'll continue to support the developers that make the games that I want.  In the meantime, my Ouya just came in, time to go unpack it.

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