Editorial: A Modern Proposal

Exclusive speed pants! Why would anyone be angry about this?!
Sony’s MAG was online-only and then the servers shutdown. I can’t play it anymore. But maybe I shouldn’t anyway…

It is a new week, a new day and, I think, a time for a change of thought. I have largely found myself on the same side of subjects discussed here at Lcom and quite frankly I have reevaluated by stance on much over the course of the past seven days. Readers, it may be shocking or agitating or downright appalling but I would nevertheless like to share some of my most recent reconsiderations regarding long-standing practices in the games industry. Sit down and buckle up, because it probably will not be pretty.

Right off the bat I want to point out how much the biggest contributors to this industry tend to get the most flack. I suppose it should be considered that they are also the biggest targets, but outlets like Gamestop and publishers like Ubisoft or EA need this industry to survive as much as we want it to be amazing and I do not know why any one in their right minds running those companies would jeopardize their jobs by “running the industry into the ground” or “sucking the life out of a creative medium” or even “causing riots in suburban neighborhoods that resulted in the death of a few passionate protestors.” I mean, that last one sounds absurd and I have yet to find a source for such a claim. The point is that these companies, the ones responsible in some fashion for the lion’s share of content distributed in at least the US market should probably be given more credit for the things they have gotten unequivocally right.

Pre-orders, the bane of the industry if some are to be believed, are indeed one such institution of moral clarity in this industry. If I hear of a game and need to buy it why should I have to wait the months or sometimes even years before the product sold to voice my support for the game? If I know a game will be what I want, and I can trust that it will be thanks to impeachable coverage on the internet, then it should not be the peril of the developer or the publisher to risk my forgetting about their product amidst the veritable sea of other amazing games coming down the pike. If I own a Wii U I would be forgiven for simply losing track of all the titles hitting store shelves on a constant basis, and it cannot be a Herculean effort to assume Nintendo and their retail partners would want to prevent that at all costs.

This snazzy NES faux alligator skin game holder, while still amazing after all these years, is taking up space.
My game collection. I love it, but must I continue to accrue all of these games? Isn’t there a better solution? Downloads!

Speaking of store shelves, I have a problem with those, too. It is not that I regret giving my money to Gamestop, but what I do continually regret is the loss of something special every time I do purchase a game from them: space in my house. I do not consider myself a hoarder but at the same time I loathe getting rid of my games. That makes a problem and the problem is space. My collection of games, as shown, has been building since the NES days and at one point I feared the collection would never stop growing. Thankfully, with the advent of faster internet speed and digital store fronts like PSN, XBLA, and Steam I can stem the growing tide of games crowding out my living space. I have heard contentions that these games cannot be shared between friends or that they are only on offer as long as the distributor has the rights to or the interest in offering them. I think such doubt shows a troubling lack of confidence in the fixtures of this industry that have helped to raise it up to where it is today. If decades of honest work and dedication to perfecting their craft cannot earn some leeway for EA, the folks continually committed to finding the perfect Madden game, then I begin to think some people can never be pleased.

More troubling than the lack of appreciation, however, is the ignorance of amazing new offerings the industry has put forth in the last few years. 2010 saw the rise of Free to Play games on the PC markets with frontrunners like League of Legends and yet few seem to acknowledge that games are now being given away for free. These are not demos or teasers, these are full games and they often integrate some kind of innovative online features. Features like micro-transations, with prices as cheap as a dollar, help to make games more affordable for everyone. But such things get painted as some kind of scam with derogatory terms like Pay to Win or Free to Pay. What baffles me about those criticisms is that, unless I was illegally pirating my games, I would have had to pay to play and win any game! These offerings are not being made as a charity, as I assume is believed by detractors, but as a means to offer right-sized portions of games tailored to the tastes of budgets of individual gamers.

I look at something like this handy DLC chart and I only see more options. What's wrong with more options? Jeez.
EA works hard to make their games great, even on something like a tablet.

It should go without saying, then, that many other great aspects of gaming get jumped on by the negativity crowd. DLC, especially ones that reward costumer loyalty at specific retailers, has been the pariah of this industry for a long time. Thankfully the big industry players have gone on boldly ahead in spite of such grievances and indeed because of the successes of DLC. Add ons for games, a simple concept that seems almost like an absolute good, offer the developer the chance to add to the game various things that could not be produced during the original development time. Day-one DLC, some might point out, seems suspicious in that regard but I for one have no reason to question the indomitable work ethic of the men and women of this industry. As well, DLC has proven a desired commodity in the past, often taking in loads of extra cash for the developer from the same game months or years after release. So if this industry is guilty of one thing, then it is only of giving the people what they want.

So, my proposal: Learn that with modernity comes inherent improvement, and that you can always get what you want if you change what you want.

Let me know what you think of my change of heart in the comments below, readers. I know it all seems rather sudden and I have wondered myself about the cause of such a turnaround, but as part of my new thought process I try not to worry about it. So if I have convinced you of anything do let me know, and if you still do not see that this industry has the consumer’s best interests at heart then I suppose let me know why. I promise to try and read every comment, but no promises.

6 comments

  1. you can always get what you want if you change what you want.
    Oooooookay!

    derogatory terms like Pay to Win or Free to Pay. What baffles me about those criticisms is that, unless I was illegally pirating my games, I would have had to pay to play and win any game!
    I think you are being deliberately obtuse here (and elsewhere in this article), for satirical effect (the title is a clue). Nevertheless, let’s go ahead and clarify for the sake of establishing the argument positively rather than by satirical implication:

    The complaints levelled are not about the desire of a company for reasonable profit, but that these creations are designed for much larger profits than simply selling the game, and that they destabilise the game environment for the players.

    In a ‘Pay to Win’ game, one ends up with a playing environment where the achievements of the players are not based upon skill, but rather upon how much money they have put into the game. In the worst-case-scenario, totally unskilled players can routinely defeat well-skilled players, provided they simply pay the money so to do. It is an affront to a basic meritocratic principle of games: that it is skill at the game itself, and not external, personal wealth, which should determine victors.

    In another ‘Pay to Win’ scenario, the game is marketted as being completable using the tools the game provides for free, but in actuality victory is made either impossible or incredibly onerous without the expenditure of money. Here, the problem is the dishonesty of the dev, who ‘hooks’ a player under a false pretense, where money actually is required later, when the player was under the impression that it would not be necessary.

    As for ‘Free to Pay’ games, the issue here is that these games are set up not as engines to provide an authentic game experience, but as a means to milk people bit-by-bit for far, far more money than they would normally spend on the game outright (i.e. usually many times in excess of its actual value); often, such games simply do not have an ability to ‘purchase’ the game for precisely this reason. These are actually cynical psychological manipulations of the users, not games at a all, and should be condemned as such. A key feature of such games is that they are based upon feeding compulsions, rather than enjoyment, with the intended result that the user ends up believing that satisfying a compulsion is the same thing as having fun–a cruel perversion of the human experience, with serious ramifications for both the person and for society, made solely to satisfy a developer’s short-term greed.

  2. When’s the One Day DLC on this post, Modern Mel?

  3. I for one welcome our new EA overlords!

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