I have a hard time becoming invested in stories. It’s not that they don’t interest me, but rather that they’re quite uniform in their composure these days. I find this problematic because I want to see something I haven’t seen before, something clever and thought-provoking that can provide intellectual stimulation above a simple biological response in the brain to lights on a screen. I guess that I’m a bit of a snob in that regard, as this mindset leads me to reject the vast majority of fictional tales in favor of only the best of the best—anything else will simply not do.
So taking in mind this snobbery of mine, I found last year’s controversy over the decision to nearly rape Lara Croft in the upcoming Tomb Raider game quite humorous. The game’s writer, Rhianna Pratchett, realized that she had a two-fold problem on her hands: She didn’t have a way for players to despise her villains, and she didn’t have a way for players to give a shit about her hero. The compound solution crafted to quell these problems was rape (or near-rape, for lack of a better term). This led to predictable results, with week-long charges of misogyny and internet petitions abound. The gaming community was in a frenzy over the ordeal, but the only thought running through my mind at the time was, “Fuck the misogyny, that’s just lazy!”
Now who am I to criticize another person’s writing? What have I done to earn my say? Where’s my work that qualifies me as an arbiter of laziness? The answers to these questions are “nobody,” “nothing,” and “nowhere.” But by the same token: I’ve never made a pizza in my life, but I know when I’m eating one made out of shit.
The problem with rape in fiction is that it tends to be used as a shortcut for creating clever and interesting characters and/or situations (which is a similar affliction for torture, genocide, and universal destruction). Rather than giving the effects and ramifications of such an occurrence a serious look-over, rape is more often a very easy way to make villains look terrible and to put heroes in a dangerous situation that naturally causes those viewing the event to sympathize with the character. Can it be effective when used in the latter? Yes, which is why it is used frequently. Can it be effective when used in the former? Yes, but that takes a lot of work, so fuck that. Who has the time for making a hero truly interesting and worthy of our admiration and respect when we can just do horrible things to them for the same effect in half the time? Similarly, why make a villain rationally and logically evil when a raving psychopath digging through a toolbox of horror tropes consumes less creative effort?
I imagine that everyone has had that one edgy friend or acquaintance at some point in their life. He’s the one who thinks that he’s the funniest person on the face of the Earth because he managed to tie a couple of racial slurs into a semi-humorous half-baked joke; he’s the one who thinks crass and offensiveness are equal replacements for timing and comedic thought. Can he be funny? It depends on the person since humor is subjective, but I think so. I’ve laughed at plenty of horrible and offensive jokes before, and I’ve been known to make a few of them myself from time to time. But they’re cheap laughs—they’re laughs that were gotten easily with very little thought involved. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to shock people. Similarly, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to create a despicable, hateable villain once you’ve made them try to rape someone.
An inverse to these topics is the ready-made superhero. Need your character to have purpose and importance? How about morals and a value system—actual needs, wants, desires, and beliefs? Well if that shit is too cumbersome, why not have him SAVE THE WORLD™?!
“Saving the world” is a trope so old that it predates the planet. It’s another high-stakes plot mechanism used as a substitute for substance, much like rape and crude humor. Now I can sit here and go through a grand list of games that shamelessly cling to this crutch while they go about their stories, but I’m not going to do that because I know better. This is the internet, and I won’t hear the end of it if I shit on someone’s favorite game.
This rubber-stamped storyline has plagued our industry since its inception, though it wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't often deployed by itself with no other motivation whatsoever. Game developers take it for granted that the premise will be automatically accepted, leaving those of us wanting more to be left out in the cold. “Huh? What do you want? Thoughts? Feelings? Personalities? Points of view? What are you, gay? You’re supposed to save the world! How more interesting can you get?!” It’s gotten to the point where it’s been used so often that I don’t even give a shit about the world anymore—in fact, fuck the world. Have you ever been around it? It’s actually a pretty terrible place, and I’m not quite sure that it was ever worth saving to begin with.
Great conflicts are created through a clash of ideas and worldviews. You take a couple of people with fully thought-out personalities, and you make them collide and oppose each other. It’s very tempting to cut corners in this area by throwing out raping psychopaths to do harm to your established heroine, or to send out your well-known space marine to rescue the universe for another trilogy, but to those not easily distracted by the visual flares of your boom-booms, the intricate details of your pew-pews, or the visceral portrayals of your bang-bangs, your story will be easily forgotten in a sea of your shallow and like-minded contemporaries more often than not.
“Well if we can’t rape anybody and we can’t defend the universe, what are we supposed to do for fun?”
Besides checking into therapy? There are plenty of ways to come up with clever stories that are genuinely intriguing and not so bombastic. The film 12 Angry Men takes place in a single room for 96 minutes and lacks any color or explosions whatsoever. Despite that the movie only comprises of a dozen people arguing the entire time, it remains in the popular culture half a century later as one of the most riveting stories told to date. Because it was made in a time where writers and directors couldn’t depend on extravagant set-pieces and computer animation to take the place of creativity, the story relies on its most fundamental elements to carry the viewer’s attention. Now despite that we are dealing with a medium that is far more technologically advanced than that bygone era, there’s no reason why writers in our industry can’t enforce a little self-discipline and reject the literary shortcuts that have been discussed here. Games like Portal, Grim Fandango, and Red Dead Redemption tell captivating stories without being so grandiose and over-the-top with its story arcs and character motivations. Not only is such restraint possible, but it’s been done before.
Extremity cannot replace nuance to equal effect. Simply ratcheting everyone’s motivations to 11 does not ensure that a story is worth expounding upon. Can well-made stories exist with these devices? Yes, they can. Ultimately, these devices are tools which are not inherently beneficial or detrimental. Our problem though is that we have a lot of people trying to unlock their front doors with a wrench. Is the next Tomb Raider going to be a dull and vapid experience? I can’t say. The game is not out yet, and I can’t give it a fair judgment until I’ve played it. But I do question whether or not the point trying to be made with its purported attempted rape could have been made without said rape. In fact, I’m willing to wager that it could have been done without reaching to the top-shelf for the most shocking or exaggerated element one could find.
Truly gifted comedians don’t need to rely on crude and offensive humor to be profitable in their work, and neither do truly gifted writers need to depend on the most excessive plot devices to make their stories worth telling. Moderation in all things is advice we should live by, and it is only in moderation that we can appreciate the finer notes and details of a thing, otherwise they become cliché. Nothing is off topic when it comes to fiction: if it exists in reality, then it is fair game. But the ends do not justify the means, which are what these tropes are: means. There are smart and clever ways to address these topics, and then there are trite and mundane ways to use them as fillers. Using the latter may lead to short-term success, but it is often to the hindrance of long-term importance. Many opt for the less arduous road in their endeavors out of fear of failure, but that's only a convenient excuse until you’re forgotten with the rest of them.
I’m a pretty big Resident Evil fan, as I’m sure can be seen from previous blogs. What an impression that first game made on me when it came out. I still vividly remember wondering, at the age of eight, as to just what kind of a person would live in such an oddly designed house. What happened if you needed something important in a room, but completely forgot how to solve the ten puzzles to get inside? What if one of the nephews came over one weekend and took with them the blue gem to the tiger statue, forever locking away the medallion behind it and cutting you off from all the ammunition you’d been hoarding in case shit ever got crazy and all the zombies made a jail break? God forbid anybody grabbed the shotgun without thinking twice. “Remember to replace it before you leave: we’re still trying to scrape your Uncle Reggie off the ceiling.” People paid money to live there. It’s absurd.
But I digress.
The series has had its ups and downs over the years (mostly downs these days), but the peak of my own personal dissatisfaction with Capcom’s hit-or-miss wizardry goes all the way back to Resident Evil Outbreak. There seems to be a rather inexplicable cult following with this short-lived franchise, with people even forming petitions demanding HD ports and an outright sequel. My only guess is that none of these people actually played the game online when the servers were still up, because holy shit was it bad. It was horrible. For those who’ve never heard of it, Outbreak was an online co-op Resident Evil game that played very much like the original ones did, except with four people banding together – it was Left 4 Dead before Left 4 Dead was even thought of. They even did the concept one better, and allowed you to become a zombie and turn on your teammates!
They were fabulous ideas with terrible execution. They ought to make laws against making games this bad, or at least draft a formal UN resolution condemning Capcom for the number of incredibly stupid decisions they made in its production.
This game was a double disappointment for me. One of the main features the game touted was that it could be installed on the brand new PlayStation 2 hard drive – it was an extra accessory loaded into the back of the console and attached to the network adapter, providing a whopping forty gigs of memory to basically just store all of your extra save files. They promised updates to your games, content you could download, a chicken in every pot, and a car in every garage – there was none of that. One game used the HDD regularly, and that was the MMO Final Fantasy XI. SOCOM II actually had “DLC” in the form of extra maps you could install to the HDD, but you couldn’t actually download them – you had to chase down copies of the Official PlayStation Magazine for the demo discs inside, which had the map on them.
Map. Singular. As in: one disc had one map, and there were a total of three maps you could collect. Each came on a single disc which had to be purchased and then installed onto the HDD. You’d have to go from store to store each month, hoping that they not only carried the magazine, but were also current with its issues. It was essentially a tedious treasure hunt with treasure you had to pay for.
Overlooking a handful of other minor games which included HDD support (which can be counted on two hands with fingers left to spare), Outbreak was the last rather important game to support the device at all. Hopes were riding high on this game as it looked like my $100 purchase was about to be justified.
Then I started playing it.
First and foremost, the loading times were atrocious. You’d literally spend twenty seconds looking at a door before it opened and allowed you to enter the next room. You’d walk around it for five seconds, realizing you’d already been there about ten times and still didn’t need anything out of it, and would spend another twenty seconds trying to leave. Shooting yourself in the mouth would be a lot more fun than wandering around in this game, and it’d definitely take a lot less time to pull off. If you had the HDD and installed the game onto it, the rooms would take five seconds at most to pass through – quite a considerable drop.
The problem came when trying to play online (which was the only way to play the game, as the single player was a painful, boring, and futile exercise in AI management), as the servers were segregated between the haves and the have-nots – those with the HDD, and those without it. Each lobby would fall under two distinct, marked categories: HDD and DVD-ROM. If you wanted to use your HDD install, you would have to find like-minded fellows who also had an HDD to accompany you in your journey. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough idiots in the world to buy enough of the damn thing, leading to a lot of these lobbies being empty most of the time. This would then force you into the DVD-ROM rooms, which disabled your install by default so you wouldn’t have an unfair advantage against your other teammates. You either played the game from your hard drive with other people doing the same, or you weren’t allowed to use your hard drive at all.
So there went $100 right down the drain.
After being forced into a slower DVD-ROM lobby, you’d finally be able to play an online match. If you could stand the load times, it wasn’t too bad of an experience. Being able to work and communicate with three other people brought a new element of strategy and cooperation that the franchise had never seen before, elevating it to an entirely new level which could be enjoyed by all.
Except you couldn’t communicate with a single fucking person.
Capcom decided to ditch both voice and text chats in order to maintain an atmosphere of tension and anxiety throughout the game’s design. The only tension I found was balled up in my fist, and the only anxiety was that I definitely would not get my money back if I snapped this game in half. The game used the directional pad to make your character shout out vague, general one-liners in the hopes that anyone around you could get the gist of what you were trying to say. Conversations often sounded a lot like this:
It’s not like voice chat would have been a radical idea. The SOCOM games were already wildly popular by that time, and they could all be bought with headsets included. They each had vibrant online communities with plenty of people using their mics, back during the days when you had to go through DNAS checkpoints before hopping online. The technology was there and it was in a lot of hands – more hands than the HDD was in, that’s for sure. This was a deliberate design choice, one which was repeated in the sequel after everyone bitched about it in the first game! It’s one thing to slam your nuts in a car door because you’re curious – it’s quite another to do it again when there’s no more curiosity to be had.
The only hope was in death. After bumbling around in a few rooms and deciding that I really need to think before I buy games, I’d end up throwing myself into the horde and joining the ranks of the undead. Life wasn’t worth all the loading screens. I’d rather die and hunt my friends than spend another second trying to take the game seriously. So I’d sit and wait in the shadows, setting up my ambush for the poor soul who would soon pass through my trap. Granted, I'd be spending a lot of time spinning in a circle before anyone showed up. It’d be worth it though, for as soon I got my chance, I’d drag one of them with me into the fiery, tiresome hell of the afterworld itself. So I sat and waited. Waited, and waited, and waited.
Then somebody would come into the room, run right around me like I was a piece of furniture, and then go about their merry way.
There comes a point in everyone’s life where they’re brutally introduced to the everyday tenants of market economics. They learn that all ideas are great until they’re actually put into practice – from that point on, not all of them are winners. The concepts of bottom lines and profit margins hits them smack in the face as they become collateral damage in shameless cash grabs. People will sell you things using brand name alone, knowing they can stick a good enough name on the worst of all products and still make a buck. The trust and faith people put into a franchise can be worth as much as gold, even if what is being sold is a rock wrapped in yellow foil. There comes a point where that trust and faith is broken, and your world becomes a little more cynical as its nature begins to show. This game was not worthy of the Resident Evil title, no matter which way you slice it.
You also learn that some people are just fucking stupid. They made a sequel to this shit. And it still didn’t have voice chat!
Not only did the Reapers of Mass Effect 3 fool a lot of people into doing their bidding, but they also fooled a lot of them into thinking that its ending was terrible and made absolutely no sense.
First and foremost, it has become very clear that Shepard is being indoctrinated by the Reapers since the beginning of the third game. This image (http://i.imgur.com/DkXPT.jpg) highlights the key symptoms of Reaper indoctrination from the codex itself. This image is crucial to understanding the final moments of the game, as what happens during them fits entirely within those symptoms.
The main thing I took away from that ending is the fact that the so called “Catalyst” during the last thirty minutes of the game is nothing more than a lying Reaper. Everything it says makes no sense whatsoever. What reason is there to believe that Shepard can control the Reapers after you just watched someone try and fail? Why would there be no more war if everyone was merged between synthetic and organic? The Geth were a completely homogeneous society in being and thought, and even they fought amongst themselves. And let’s not forget that this “neutral option, of merging synthetics and organics, is what the Reapers have wanted all along. This has been their “solution” to the “chaos” from the very beginning, despite the fact that you reaching the Catalyst proves his “solution” wrong (as admitted by him when you arrive).
The Catalyst is a Reaper taking the form of the child killed in the beginning of the game in order to co-opt a sense of trust and familiarity with you in a last ditch effort to save itself. It’s why destroying the Reapers is suddenly the Renegade option with Anderson himself being painted as a Renegade as well. The Catalyst is doing everything it can to dissuade you from killing it. Again, the symptoms:
“The Reaper’s resulting control over the limbic system leaves the victim highly susceptible to its suggestions…A Reaper’s ‘suggestions’ can manipulate victims into betraying friends, trusting enemies, or viewing the Reaper itself with superstitious awe.”
That second bit is the ending word for word. Throughout the entire game you are having visions and whispers in the back of your head as you chase after this image that is now used to deceive you, which itself is a symptom of Reaper indoctrination. People around you are becoming paranoid in the Citadel, and even your own crewmates are beginning to follow suit. In addition to all of this, there is simply no reason to believe anything the Catalyst is saying. There will be no peace if the Reapers are destroyed? The entire game is spent uniting the galaxy for the first time in its history. We have Geth living with Quarians and Turians fighting next to Krogan. We have overcome every sour note of our existence to defy the Reapers, yet there will be nothing but war without them? Just like the organics must be saved from the synthetics by killing the organics?
People are taking these proclamations at face value and believing what the Catalyst says without ever pondering the possibility that maybe this thing is lying on purpose – they, going by these symptoms, are as indoctrinated as Shepard is. The endings don’t make sense and there are “plot holes” (if we really want to call them that) strewn about because it is all one big, giant, elaborate lie. Anderson suddenly being a Renegade doesn’t make sense because it is a lie. The ending was a giant “Fuck You” from Bioware to every single person who ever mashed the Paragon or Renegade option without ever taking a second to think about what they were doing at all – simply swap the colors around and suddenly nobody knows what to do. You can even fool them into completely abandoning their mission (which was to destroy the Reapers) and to save the very people they’ve been set against for the entire trilogy.
For the final moments of Mass Effect 3, you are talking to a Reaper. It is literally doing everything it can to fool you into thinking it's your friend, and that by destroying it, you will be destroying yourself. It even warns you that if you decide to kill the Reapers, you will kill all synthetic life including yourself (given that synthetics are the only thing keeping you alive). Yet why is it that if you do choose to destroy them, it is the only ending of which you can be found alive and still breathing? Hell, what even is a catalyst?
It's a harbinger. They're synonyms. A catalyst and a harbinger are the same exact thing. The Catalyst is Harbinger, viewed by Shepard with "superstitious awe." You've been talking to Harbinger this entire time.
Nobody is taking the time to read between the lines. Bioware pulled a fast one knowing that there would be a lot of people willing to listen to a Reaper if they managed to do it just the right way, and everyone is getting too mad to even realize it. The whole ending was a clever ruse that deserves way more praise than it's getting right now.
Let me start by saying that I, as a reader of four years and an active member for half of one, am proud that this website has at least had the integrity to point out the hypocrisy and bullshit of some our industry’s leading organizations with regards to their stances on SOPA. The ESA has had a stranglehold over our industry for the last decade or so – whenever they have something to say on any legal case whatsoever, their rhetoric is simply pasted and regurgitated in every major gaming publication without any sort of challenge whatsoever. So it makes me proud to see the website I hold so dearly bucking that trend.
Now as the days and weeks have gone by, and the stances of these industry leaders have become more well known to the community at large, there has been some genuine and understandable confusion among many:
How could the ESA, which has championed the freedom of expression for video games in various court cases, suddenly come out for such a ruthless bill like SOPA? How could the ESA side with a law strictly written for the interests of certain businesses, written by businesses, which curtails the rights of Americans for the sake of making these businesses money?
The answer is actually fairly simple: the ESA is a business.
The ESA is no different than the NRA: it is a lobbying group, paid and sponsored by EA, Activision, Capcom, and every major video game publisher known to man, to advance their business interests. The ESA represents the people who pay them.
Do you pay them?
The ESA opposes legislation which seeks to restrict the sale of violent video games to eight-year-olds not because they’re freedom fighters guarding the democratic principles of which our country rests on – it’s simply because such a law would mean these companies would make less money. Now what good would the ESA be if they let such a thing happen? They’d be rather shitty lobbyists.
Whether or not these laws are good or bad is a case that can be argued either way, but it is besides the point right now: the ESA never fought for your freedom of anything. The ESA fights for its clients. There is nothing wrong with that, nor does it mean the ESA is evil or always wrong. But we also need to not fool ourselves into thinking they’re looking out for us.
It’s not their job.
So when we take this all into consideration, and take into account what their entire purpose, their entire being, is for – to represent their clients – their support for SOPA of course makes sense. Why wouldn’t they be for companies to have the ability to strike down any website hosting their stolen, pirated content? Why wouldn’t they be for the power to freely take such action, despite the collateral damage? This bill is in the pure interest of every single game publisher in existence. If I was running these companies, you can bet your ass I’d be throwing money to get this law passed!
But at what cost? That is the problem at hand: at what cost is hunting down pirates too much? Should legitimate, harmless websites be crushed for the sake of making money for the ESA and its clients?
Or is there even a price which is too high? Are honest customers and their rights too insignificant when it comes to third quarter profits?
I cannot stress this enough: the ESA are not bad people. We simply need to keep things in perspective here. Our community has a tendency to sometimes sit with its head in the clouds, thinking our industry is the greatest thing since doorknobs and that there's absolutely nothing wrong with it whatsoever. Then, when stuff like this comes up, everybody is so shocked. This industry is a business like any other, whether anybody likes it or not. It plays by the same rules and has the same problems as any other. The ESA is not some shadow lord censoring the internet to protect the identities of the La Li Lu Le Lo. It is not hatching some mysterious scheme shrouded in shadows and ill will. It is not a conspiracy.
It’s just a business. They can and will do as they please, in whatever way that is beneficial to their interests.
Dania, Florida is a small, insignificant speck when one looks at a map of South Beach. One I called home for nearly half my life. It is essentially a pit stop for people landing at Ft. Lauderdale International Airport looking for a quick bite to eat, before they move on to their actual destination.
Right outside Hollywood Beach, it is a rather poor area near the eastern coast, one of disheartening socioeconomic conditions – ghetto doesn’t quite describe it, but it comes close. Despite this, it is actually a rather infamous area: Ziad Jarrah trained at the US 1 Fitness Center down the road from where I lived, where my father actually worked out at regularly, for two months, learning martial arts and close combat techniques before eventually acting as the pilot for the hijacked United Flight 93 on 9/11. The Darul Uloom mosque he purportedly worshiped at (of which José Padilla was also an attendant) is perhaps two blocks away from my grandmother’s house in Pembroke Pines, where I spent every Christmas at growing up. He lived and ate in these parts, training to carry out the most devastating terrorist attack in human history.
Billy Mitchell lives out here as well. Interesting company, to say the least.
It also happened to be the home of the largest arcade in the entire country: Grand Prix Golf-o-Rama (and probably where Mitchell honed his game at). It was a giant complex with mini-golf courses, go-karts, a roller coaster, and over 1,200 different arcade machines of every generation. And it happened to be half a mile away from me growing up. The odds!
I grew up in arcades during the 90s as that kid on the Mortal Kombat machine, jamming and smashing the buttons in a spastic manner until they had to close it down for the rest of the day to fix all the broken plastic. I was the kid everyone wanted to deck because he wouldn’t get off the cabinets until he had made their innards beg for mercy. I was fond of fighting games, but more of light gun games. I played them all, from the laughably bad Area 51 to the exhilarating Lucky & Wild, as well as obvious classics like House of the Dead and Time Crisis.
However, my absolute favorite is Silent Scope. And when Silent Scope Complete came out for the Xbox, with a gigantic light gun sniper rifle, I knew that shit had to be mine.
If you’ve never heard of Silent Scope, or are too young to have ever stepped into an arcade, then a pail full of pity I give unto you. Silent Scope was separated from other light gun games by the fact that it had a giant rifle strapped onto the cabinet with a magnifying scope to let you zoom in on targets. You were thrown into a number of hostage situations that had you searching for terrorists one by one (ironically enough, since you didn't have to look far to find a real one), in order to eliminate them and rescue these civilians. The scenes would range between office buildings, airplanes, casinos, even amusement parks, and usually ended with having to pick off a target holding a victim at gun point, or with some kind of crazy helicopter boss.
Where the game really stood out was if there were two cabinets linked together, allowing people to face off in a few rounds of very elaborate hide-and-seek. The game would place each player on the opposite end of the same map, leaving them to see who could find the other person first and kill them. If they missed, the other person would leave that spot and move to a new one, starting the hunt for them all over. Once someone was killed, both places were swapped out, and a new round started.
You’d spend a good 4 or 5 minutes slowly sifting through the crowd, looking for your brother in a sea of carnival goers with not a single shot being fired the entire time, until stumbling upon a man looking right at you on the Ferris wheel with a rifle pointed the same way. There never was, and never will be, quite another experience like it. People mourn the damage done to fighting games with the fall of the arcade, but its demise has pretty much destroyed the light gun genre irrevocably.
A few years back, when it was pretty clear that the era of token machines and switchblade combs was coming to an end, Konami released Silent Scope Complete on the Xbox, along with an actual replica of its rifle, the Silent Scope Light Rifle. It may be the closest anyone has come to really developing a light gun that replicates the arcade feel of one.
First and foremost, the scope had a sensor allowing it to trigger a zoomed in mode on screen when you looked through it. It had a nice little analog nub at the top of the handle where your thumb went, lending to easy navigation. A massive stock was provided to lend support and stability when you aimed. Lastly, the barrel and scope of the rifle could be taken off, reducing it to a shotgun with actual pump action. The game itself, Silent Scope Complete, was a compilation of Silent Scope 1, 2, and 3 – a beautiful collection for any fan.
The problem with it though was the same problem all of these games have when you try to transition them into a living room: when you condense a piece of hardware that costs thousands of dollars into a cheap plastic version, you’re going to lose some stuff. Note that I mentioned that the scope zoomed in on screen. The scope had no actual lens like on the cabinet, making you feel a little ridiculous aiming through what was essentially a hollow tube. Furthermore, the mechanism that set off this function could be wild, randomly setting itself off at even the slightest thing passing by its sensor. You also had to kick up your television’s brightness so far up in order for it to register that it was more enjoyable to sit outside and aim at the sun for half an hour than to actually play the game.
And It was $50. Just for the gun.
There was no online whatsoever, despite Xbox Live already hosting a number of successful online games. The thrilling versus multiplayer therefore had to be reduced to split screen shenanigans, requiring two of these overpriced pool sticks in order to capture the “true feel” of the game (which was a lost cause before you even opened up the box).
After playing with it for the first few hours, I turned the Xbox off and thought a bit about my purchasing habits. It was a hard lesson. Silent Scope was dead. Light gun games were dead. Arcades were dead. Fighting games would continue on and even experience a resurgence, but this shit was gone. Nothing could emulate anything even remotely resembling the feeling gotten from firing off a pink and blue pistol in each hand while onlookers watched you posture and gesticulate like a douchebag. The nature of the genre itself demanded it. These were horrible games of limited mechanics spanning only a few hours. Their only appeal was of firing off a giant weapon in front of a crowd of people.
Yet there I was, sitting alone in my room with a piece of crap worth all my birthday money.
So that’s why I don’t buy light gun games anymore.
The concept of property rights is one which our entire society and its history is based off of. The Enlightened thinkers of the 17th and 18th century looked to the monarchs of Europe and saw a disproportionate amount of power and property concentrated into the hands of people who, quite frankly, deserved none of it. These men sparked a rebellion in North America in 1775 and ignited continental Europe shortly thereafter, this revolutionary inferno torching the existing order until it was extinguished in 1848.
Obviously we are dealing with matters of less dramatic consequence, but this issue of online passes cannot be solved until we answer a basic question with regards to this very same issue: when we pay $59.99 for a game, do we own it? Or are we just renting it?
If we are merely renting games for such an exorbitant price, then let EA and Sony have at it. However, if this is not the case, and I’m paying that sort of money on anything, I better be getting every single portion of it. And if I so choose to sell my property I have already paid for, EA and Sony can go screw themselves for all I care.
People mainly focus on the buyer-side of the used games market, how they must pay more due to what essentially amounts to a forced $10 surcharge in order to receive the full contents of a game. This is not without merit, but what of the seller? Not of Gamestop, but of the individual, whether he is selling to Gamestop or to a colleague? If I find myself discontent or displeased with a particular piece of my property, and I so wish to sell it, these companies have explicitly gone out of their way to make sure it is devalued below whatever the used market may sell it for on its own.
These companies have made my game less valuable so they can make more money off the property I have already paid for. Talk about sticking it to the consumer.
To these companies, you are renting their games. Under this logic, they can lock whatever content they so wish and charge further premiums on it. The online pass is analogous to the on-disc DLC – it is the progression of this insidious practice due to its complacent support of so many consumers. First they locked outfits and colors, and now they are locking entire sections – a shocking surprise indeed. Yet many see both as such fabulous developments. They defend them so bitterly:
“It is their game, they can do what they want.”
…Is that so? So this receipt was just a complimentary bookmark when I bought it?
It is the right of consumers to buy games below their MSRP, and to not support these companies if they are trying to peddle a game for more than it is worth. This is a basic function of market economies, and it is one of the few says we consumers have in such a highly controlled and monopolized industry such as ours. Duke Nukem Forever is not worth $59.99. It’s not worth $9.99. You could give me $9.99 with the game, and I’d still feel like I didn’t get my money’s worth.
Yet if a consumer has an interest in a game but disagrees with its pricing, in the market we are heading into he would have no recourse of action against the situation. Why do we allow publishers to set the price of their products with such rigidity? Why must we wait for them to allow us to buy things at certain prices? I thought the market was supposed to set prices? It is entirely antithetical to the capitalist ethos and the market economy as a whole.
These companies should get paid for their work. Except they already have, which goes back to the original, central point: do we own our games or not? I already paid for the disc and its contents. After that exchange, it is none of their business what I do with what I own. Publishers want to keep making money off of a product they've already made money off of, demanding a cut each time it is sold without any additional work.
Now sure: I don’t own the servers, which cost these companies money to operate and maintain. They could, theoretically, sell me a game with online multiplayer, without a pass, and simply not provide any servers, leaving me to resort to LAN fixtures or to try to corral their stupid AI offline. That is technically their right as well, since I am not paying for the cost of these servers in my purchase. It is a fair point.
I’d just be interested to see how many copies of Modern Warfare 3 will sell in November if Activision were to come out tomorrow, announcing to the world that they would not be funding its online operations due to the competition of second-hand software sales.
Something tells me it wouldn’t be very many.
We let these companies get away with so much bullshit. Of course, these are very trite and almost laughable complaints and inconveniences when compared to more serious issues – these truly are First World problems, so to speak. But there is plenty of room to discuss multiple grievances in an entire day. The rights of consumers, including their property rights, are not colossal endeavors which consume considerable amounts of time in comparison to, say, human rights.
The online pass is corrosive and denigrating to every ideal we base our economy on. These companies want a market for themselves and something entirely different for you and me. At the end of the day, this practice is simply not in keeping with how we, as a people, do business. Either I own all of a game, or I own none of it. You’d never open a box of Legos only to find a third of the pieces missing, available upon mailing an additional $7.99 to the manufacturer in an effort to combat people buying sets used instead of new.
So why the hell do we think it’s alright when EA and Sony turn around and do the very same thing?