(This is another edition of , a weekly opinion piece column on GameFront. Check back every week for more. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not reflect those of GameFront.)
Last night, I quit playing Resistance 3 so I could download a firmware update so I could open the PlayStation Store so I could redeem an online pass so I could play Resistance 3.
As I consider what I did last night, I can’t help but wonder exactly when, where, how and why this became acceptable. I can’t quite work out at what point we, as consumers, decided this was okay. Because we do. We think it’s cool and we let it continue without raising our voices in the slightest. I’m just as bad as everybody else — still buying games for sixty dollars apiece, still putting online codes in like a good little puppet, no matter how damaging to the industry’s long-term success I think they are. I know online passes are bad. I know lengthy firmware updates are annoying. I know mandatory installations that can take over forty-five minutes are utterly inexcusable. Chances are good that you know as well. Yet we’re still swallowing it.
Still — Sony, Microsoft, and the publishers they deal with need to be commended. It is, after all, impressive that we have become so used to having our time wasted that the vast majority of us are starting to accept mandatory installs, online passes, and day-one patches as normal, acceptable, even banal concepts that simply come with the territory of being a gamer. That publishers have hoodwinked us into believing that took some damn talent. Some of us, in a phenomenon that resembles Stockholm Syndrome in a few alarming ways, have even begun to sympathize with the aggressors in this relationship — feeling sorry for companies when they spin a tale of woe concerning GameStop’s maliciously victimizing focus on secondhand sales. There are gamers who are thrilled that companies are “trying to make their games better” when an unfinished game is patched after launch to fix a litany of inexcusable bugs. We’ve become three types of gamers, now — the ones who complain but do nothing, the ones who actively embrace the problems as positives, and the greater number who just don’t give a shit anymore.
At least … that’s what we’re like on consoles.
It’s funny, but I used to think PC gamers had all the problems. What with games becoming obsolete upon the release of a new OS, the lack of extra support and new content that studios lavish on console games, and the ever-present problems with excessive digital rights management, I was once glad that I stuck to consoles. After all, with an Xbox 360 or PS3, you just pop in a disc and the game works, right? Sure, the graphics might not be on par and the deep customization options don’t exist, but at least we get right into a game — no fuss, no muss.
Thinking of that attitude as I come fresh off a forty-five minute Resistance 3 patch, I can’t help feeling like a little bit of a tool.
Hilariously, the gap between consoles and PCs has finally been bridged, but in totally the wrong way. Rather than catch up to the positive aspects of PC gaming, console developers/publishers have started competing for the negatives. From where I’m standing, the consoles are winning that miserable war, too. In the fight over who can have the most egregious updates, the shoddiest business practices, and the biggest “f**k yous” communicated to paying customers, it seems consoles may end this generation as the winners by a mile. Because, while DRM can be annoying and while lacking DLC isn’t cool, at least once I’ve downloaded a PC game, I can boot it up without trouble and patch it in seconds — often using patches that other gamers have made and shared to improve a game beyond even the original studio’s scope.
PC gaming has gotten more convenient. With a number of digital distributors, we can get games delivered to our machines at a cheaper cost, and with a number of tantalizingly, ridiculously cheap discounts that pop up with astounding regularity. Yes, there are problems with games that require permanent online connections, and there’s always the thorny issue of digital games taking our property away from us, but I can’t help feeling a lot more convenienced and f**king respected when I use something like Steam or Good Old Games. I don’t feel that same level of convenience when I try to play Xbox 360 and PS3 games anymore, and I certainly don’t feel like a valued customer.
So, I ask myself, what exactly is the benefit of console gaming anymore?
Well, I like using controllers for third-person games … except most PC games have controller options.
I like sitting back on a couch with my consoles hooked up to my big HDTV … except I can always hook a gaming rig into my HDTV and play it like a console.
I like online gaming … except PC games go online for free, and nearly every game has a burgeoning community unlike console games that usually get abandoned once the new Killzone/Gears of War is out.
I like … hmmm … well, I’m not sure anymore. I really don’t know why I persist, outside of some frail sense of tradition.
At the end of the day, as consoles become less about convenience and more about publishers protecting their profit from ghosts and boogeymen (for that is as much as I respect the “threat” of used sales), I cannot help but start to see the Xbox 360 and PS3 as less powerful, less flexible, increasingly less reliable computers. You have all the hassle of PC gaming, without the superior graphics, efficient digital distribution, cheaper prices and extended modification options.
I don’t have a solution for this, either. Like I said at the beginning, we’re all idiots for finding this bullshit acceptable. All I can do is point out the ludicrousness of the situation, to maybe encourage us to ask Sony, Microsoft, THQ, EA and all the others why we’re treated like cattle and why we should support them when they’ve made console gaming so unnecessarily aggravating. If nothing else, perhaps if enough of us start to realize that consoles are no better than computers, we might start supporting PC gaming more and sending the clear message that all the associated shit with the Xbox 360 and PS3 just isn’t good enough.
Because at the end of the day, if I’m going to have to suffer through patches and greedy publishers treating me like crap, I might as well get better graphics out of the deal.