With this weeks “The Question” (which is nothing like The Cheat, sadly), many people voiced their thoughts on the XB1, yet again. And reading through the comments made me angry. This is a recurring theme, and I often find very small things make me angrier than they should, especially on the internet. What was it in particular that made me want to write this blog?
Comparing Microsofts reversal on the DRM issue as them spitting in your face, then wiping it off.
Y’all need some education here. I figured I would tackle multiple things on my mind with this blog, but I wanted to use this as a starting point.
What Does it Mean to Be A Consumer?
Do you have money? If you are in America, and you answered no, do you have credit? Cool! You are officially a consumer. That means that you get to go to the store and buy things. Hooray things! Now, I recently became a bona fide adult, going grocery shopping for myself, and it was absolutely amazing. I can buy anything! I can take my entire paycheck and buy nothing but Pringles and Cookie Dough, flipping off kids in the checkout lane while screaming “I AM AN ADULT, I CAN DO THIS”. I haven’t (yet). But I can! Know what else I got to do for the first time? Evaluate every purchase decision my parents ever made. Since March, I have tried four different brands of peanut butter, three brands of paper towel, five types of apples, and probably a dozen different lunch meats and cheeses. Because growing up, we always got Skippy because dad liked Skippy, and we always got Campbell's because mom liked Campbells. Simple, yeah? Well now, for the first time, I have choice.
Choice to buy whatever I want.
And, as David Carradine said in Kill Bill “the point...emerges”. When you are a consumer, you are free to buy whatever the motherloving christ you want (ignoring a few exceptions, like a monopoly). So what determines your choice? First, assume you have all of the money: You buy based on personal preference. You should buy based on whatever appeals to you. Next, assume you have finite funds - Now, you have to buy according to a budget, thus balancing the appeal of a product against the cost of it. In my case, I learned that quality counts for toilet paper. Don’t skimp on cost. But do you see a single place where the consumer is forced to use a product? Shut up, the answer is no. 100% of the power is in the consumer’s hands. Especially, especially with luxury goods like, oh I don’t know, a video game console. For example. Let’s say.
When was the last time that you heard someone say that the Toyota dealer was trying to sodomize them? When was the last time that Nabisco spat in your face? Did you say “never”. Correct! Because if you don’t like it...don’t buy it. WHOA. HOLY CHRIST. We can do that?!? The point here is, as a consumer, it is our responsibility to buy products that we see value in. Microsoft, by including DRM in their console, wasn’t abusing their vice like grip on our testicles to make us pay up or else. They need us as customers. It is their job to supply us with something to consume. So please don’t act like like they are forcing you to buy something if you don’t like it. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. And shut up about it will you? If I wanted to see a circle jerk, I have “contacts” on Linkedin. I don’t need to see that crap up in my comments.
As a follow up...
What does it mean to be anti consumer?
Look up consumerism. Look up anti consumerism. You will find two things: a social and economic movement, and news on Microsoft. Yay, we have another buzzword for people to throw out all willy nilly without understanding it. Concordantly. Ergo. Vis a Vis. So what actually is consumerism? It is (in this context): “ The movement seeking to protect and inform consumers by requiring such practices as honest packaging and advertising, product guarantees, and improved safety standards.” So what did Microsoft do that was Anti Consumer?
Pictured - Anti Consumerism
Honest packaging/advertising- yo, we got mad internet DRM all up in hurr, k? Wasn’t that.
Product guarantees - Remember the RRoD? If your Xbox broke, they did replace it. Yes, it was a pain, but they did guarantee that if you bought it, they would get you a working one. It is yet to be seen what the failure rate is, but really, they are likely going to fix it where they can.
Safety - it isn’t coal powered, so I think this is alright.
So basically, being consumerist (is that even a conjugation? Whatever) means that you aren’t a lying asshole, selling snake oil as a cure for cancer. You aren’t funneling kickstarter money to your own personal gains, you aren’t selling a box as a console on eBay. You are selling the product you say you are selling, and leaving it to the almighty, handsome, and smart consumers to buy your product or not.
Now, I know what you are saying. Yes, that is the dictionary definition, but it goes beyond that. It is about taking away our rights to sell back games, trade games with friends, etc. They are removing our rights as consumers! Yeah! Totally! You are talking about them taking away consumer rights! Except...no. Not at all. The rights you have as a consumer are: safety, information, choice, voice, basic needs, redress, education, and a healthy environment. And, of course, the right to paraphrase our rights. Look, just google it. Or even better, just go here. Nowhere on there is ‘the right to sell a used game’. That is something the current system lets you do, but they are being rather upfront on what the changes would be. No surprises.
Basically, what all this boils down to, is that consumers should be able to buy what they want to buy, and they should know what they are going into. We also should be able to survive in a healthy, normal way. So basically, see the above points. They aren’t trying to deceive you, they don’t want to sleep with you, they just want your money. And only you can give it to them. It would be anti consumer if they hid the online checks, if they promised free Live then charged for it, or if they said that it was five times as powerful as as PS4, or if the XB1 could burn down your home. But they didn’t. They advertised what it can do. What you can and cannot do with the product. So if you do not agree with it, you do not have to buy it. They are changing the way that it works, in a way that is potentially more costly to the consumer, but at the end of the day, the choice is on you to buy it.
Company X is Evil
A rare shot of EA's new CEO
Sorry, I left it like that for a day, then decided it would be mean of me to insult the intelligence of someone who groups “I don’t like this” as “this company eats babies”. Up until recently, if you said that EA/Activision/Microsoft/Sony, had ever done anything evil, I would have categorized you as either too young to not see in absolutes or too immature to not believe in anarchism. But now? I’m actually really rather cross. If you say that those companies are evil, then I encourage you, read this article.
You want to know what an ‘evil’ company looks like? You want to know what it is to violate consumer rights? You want to know what it is to be a money hungrey, greedy, cocksucking asshole scum of the earth? Read that list. Many of these controversies are or were publicized, but reading them back to back, knowing that people are willing to do some of those things is enough to make you sick of the average human being. Too lazy to click, but still reading my blog? Let me summarize: Chemical pollution, distributing a product that would knowingly make the user vomit blood to people through legal loopholes, knowingly infecting people with HIV because it makes your product cheaper, slavery, and being partially responsible for a civil war. Those are evil companies.
Now do you want to come and tell me that the big bad wolf is charging you an extra 100 dollars for your new entertainment system? Those. Fucking. Pricks. Get outta here. And it comes with a camera that you don’t want attached to it? Jesus Christ, cancel everything.
The companies who regularly donate to charity? The ones who support veterans? Who sponsor heart walks? Do you really want to go and call the company that gives Bill Gates his money to run around and be the closest thing this earth will see to Superman ‘evil’ for putting DRM on your videogame console? No you do not.
So, yet again, we are looking at companies who sell a luxury good in videogames. They are selling a product that (fully informed) consumers are purchasing. And making donations to charity. I’m not saying charity is the end all be all of goodwill, but these companies are not out for global domination, they are not forcing their employees to work to the point of suicide, they are not attempting to create a monopoly to force consumers into buying their products.
They provide a good that we can (say it with me now) choose to buy.
So why do we complain so much?
This is where things get interesting, because the rhetoric is clearly that these giants in the gaming industry are withholding from us, and they are trying to take our money. Not that they are trying to make us give them money. They are trying to take it. The only thing I can come up with for it is that they have manufactured a demand that is perceived as a necessity.
We need to play games.
I totally feel that way myself. If I couldn’t play videogames, I don’t know how I would pass most of the time. Since I was born, they have been a part of my life - my brother’s first words were on a screen from Bubble Bobble, which I beat with my mom (and 15 years later, my girlfriend with my mom giving advice). My dad was the first to beat Super Mario Bros, my mom the first to beat Zelda in the family. For all my life I have been playing games, in game culture, surrounding myself with other gamers, and trying to get people to play along with me. So yeah, to an extent, it is a rather defining hobby. If the price of games tripled overnight, that would be a huge deal to me. But someone trying to sell me something that I don’t want to buy? Not so much.
So, to go back to the start of the blog, did Microsoft spit in your face, then wipe it away saying it was better? They revealed a product, then we spat in their face. Repeatedly. With great vengeance. As we are allowed to do. And they went back, and asked themselves how they could be spit on less.
Now, I feel bad basically giving a 1st world problem speech, because I do understand the frustrations with business decisions, and people complaining on the internet clearly made me flustered, so who am I to complain? There was a while ago where I went to see a counselor because my life wasn’t where I wanted it to be. Every time I saw him I would tell him about what was wrong in my life, things that were making me upset. Things that had bothered me my entire life, or just what made me uncomfortable that week. And the second to last time I saw him, he told me about some of his other clients (in broad terms). People who had been abused by a spouse. People who were working themselves beyond the brink of madness on minimum wage jobs to make ends meet. Basically, he told me that my life was pretty good. In his eyes, I had no reason to complain. That day, I made a decision: there are starving kids in the world, and there are Paris Hiltons of the world. I can’t get over my problems, even with the knowledge that there are wars, death, poverty, and starvation to people who don’t deserve it. So I decided that Paris can have problems with her dog. And we can complain about videogames. Because they are something that is important to us, and we should be giving feedback to the companies. It was one of the consumer rights is the right to have a voice! We should be able to say we don’t appreciate certain practices, and that we won’t buy it if they don’t provide it. We can be impassioned about our hobby, and we can strive to make the market better for the consumer with better, cheaper products.
But can just drop the rhetoric of the evil, greedy, corporations? Can we stop pretending like they are withholding from us, and realize that we can just as easily withhold from them? Or would that make you uneasy? To look at the past generation of consoles and realize that the victories have been infrequent? That there are crowds of gamers willing to put up with DRM, DLC, and microtransactions? People who don’t care about the gossip of the industry, and just like to play games.