I would be thankful
For a couple of years, I had a regular column that inevitably ran on Thanksgiving. Never one to pass up an opportunity for an easy gag that tickled my fancy, the joke was that every single year saw me wishing readers a happy every-holiday-other-than-this-one. I didn’t have enough time to eventually move into St. Swithin’s Day, but given enough time I am certain that would have happened. I can, in fact, be dreadfully predictable every so often.
This year, I do not have that duty. Instead, I’m sitting here and thinking of the many things I do have to be thankful for this year – a successful first year of marriage, the excellent reception I’ve gotten for this project thus far, Final Fantasy XIV, Defender’s Quest, BoJack Horseman – along with the many things that I can’t be thankful for because they aren’t, strictly speaking, real. They should be real. I think all of them are pretty self-evident, inevitable, and we’ll be happy when they come around. But the sooner these things pass into the desert of the real, well, the more thankful I’ll be.
Letting me play on multiple platforms
Nintendo doesn’t really make consoles any more, it makes tech platforms wholly devoted to whatever set of games they already have planned out to glacially release over the next couple of years. This is both the publisher’s strength and its weakness. The company has tons of great first-party games, but if the console is awkward – which is the case with the Wii U – third-party publishers move away pretty quickly. Increasingly, it seems like the company might be better served by getting out of the console business and into the pure publishing business, considering that they make great games (if a bit staid in places).
But then, that’s kind of the nature of games, isn’t it? For some reason we have accepted a world wherein you have to buy four editions of the game for four different platforms, something that neither publishers nor console producers are quick to move away from for obvious reasons. Sony wants people to buy a Sony console, after all, and I am sure that someone in a dark chamber at Ubisoft is working on a plan for important cross-connectivity features between the console and PC versions of Assassin’s Creed games that require you to purchase both games separately.
Yet we don’t put up with that anywhere else. Hell, increasingly the Blu-ray movies I buy come with digital copies and DVD copies, because the mere idea that your film will only work on a Panasonic DVD player is a good way to get people rioting outside of your corporate headquarters.
I firmly believe that as consoles veer more and more into the territory of home computers and phones become more and more universal, this will continue eroding. People want to buy something and own it, period, and the ubiquity of digital storage makes it seem more and more likely that we’re reaching a point when games will be expected to be playable everywhere at all times. It’s not going to happen soon, but I’d be surprised if that sort of general platform unshackling didn’t become a thing by the time I hit 40.
The final collapse of gamer culture
Gamers are dead, but they’re still holding on for the time being, unwilling to admit that they are no longer relevant. They are not a necessary demographic any longer. You do not have to market to a bunch of 20something dudes in order for your game to be successful, and yet there are many voices within the 20something dude group screaming that they’re still important.
I’m more than a little annoyed that so much time this year has been taken up by discussing a bunch of snotbags who claim to be concerned about ethics in game journalism and really just want excuses to harass women into silence all day every day. It’s depressing and unpleasant. At the same time, the sheer underlying desperation of it makes it clear that we’re looking at a last gasp rather than a force firmly in control of the market. Inclusion matters, and games cannot continue to ignore it. Messages matter. There is a lot of important stuff to talk about when it comes to games, and you can’t keep pulling Ubisoft’s “unfortunate reality of development” crap as an excuse any longer.
The exclusionary side of this culture literally cannot continue to exist. And it won’t. Liking video games cannot be tied to a particular culture any more, it’s just something that people do, like liking superheroes or science fiction or the like. From where I’m sitting, as someone who’s loved these things for years, we’ve won. Complaining about it won’t turn back the tide, nor will it prevent the obsolete nature of gatekeepers.
At one point, this was a marginal thing, but now it’s just accepted and part of life. The demise of the idea that we’re all one big happy unit is not going to be an event worth mourning over.
If you want to watch Doctor Who from the beginning, first of all, you are insane. Second of all, you fucking can’t, because a lot of the older episodes are gone. The video game industry is currently like that, except instead of parts of a few series, it’s basically the entire history of games that just don’t exist any longer, leading to things like Square having to more or less remake some of their re-released games because they don’t have the original code any longer. Except the re-released versions aren’t supposed to be straight remakes, so the whole thing just becomes a huge clustered mess.
You can sort of see why it happened. If you figured you were making one last game for the hell of it before gaming in general went down the toilet, you wouldn’t bother holding on to the source code. And there was no way of expecting that in two decades people were going to care at all about the games being made in the late 80s and early 90s, when the very idea that games needed to have archived versions around seemed almost silly. We lose works from human history all the time. The only real difference here is that we’re dealing with an occupation that can and does know better.
I mean, let’s get real, if you work with computers you know the importance of keeping backups, copies, and redundant files. It gets drilled into you on day one. We can’t correct stupid mistakes already made, but companies can start looking to the future and preventing this stuff from happening again in the future.
Part of this ties into letting me play on multiple platforms, but it also has a lot to do with just making the effort to keep games available and open as long as possible. We’re already seeing some of this take place; you can still buy both Kingdoms of Amalur and its DLC on Steam despite 38 Studios going tits-up. But we need to start making the same amount of effort to protect these films that we make to protect films, shows, books, and the like. This is not an industry that’s going to fade away in the next five years. Time to start planning ahead.