Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'


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as art?

A very chipper Kellee Santiago at the University of Spoiled Caucasians says yes. Roger Ebert says no. Santiago replies. I’m inclined to side with Ebert’s logic, thought that puts me at odds with the established computer gaming writers. Fuck them.

Personally, however, I subscribe to Scott McCloud’s rather inclusive definition of art, being any activity not essential to survival or reproduction. Of course, this definition almost completely blows away any attempts at qualifying the term, but quite frankly anybody who attempts to elevate their particular interest with said term is guilty of at least some form of masturbation.

Another point of fact I find myself at odds with the gaming writers is with Ubisoft’s DRM (again), now that a collective called SkidRow have torrented a sort of Crack For Dummies of their latest DRM iteration, for everyone who wasn’t smart enough to figure out how to use the server referral loop the previous cracks depended on. Shamus Young suggests to Ubisoft that they go one further: Don’t put just some content online, make all content online, making each end-user a mere client on a “cloud” gaming platform, each “purchase” a mere fee for entering into a subscription.

The concept is abhorrent to me. I’m sure all companies would love to just have a direct connection to my credit card info, regardless of whether or what they produce and when, how or even if I partake in their product.

Sorry, did I say “product?” I meant “license,” abridged, qualified and revocable at any time.

Somehow the right to free enterprise became a moral obligation for consumerism, lest we be accused of “not supporting” our creative types (when they themselves are just as often thrown out when inconvenient). Somehow copyrights became the new feudalism. However, I’m not in the habit of allowing purveyors with such unvarnished, abject hostility to their patrons to have their cake and eat it too.

Three Things

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1) This shit would not have occurred had Modern Warfare 2 had dedicated servers.

2) Anybody else find it somewhat disturbing that the producers of a game have the power to ban people who have paid for the game from the game, for any reason?

3) Since when was modding verboten in a multiplayer FPS? Oh right, when Infinity Ward wanted to up its profits by selling what modders used to make for free.

And this is why PC gamers look down upon the console crowd. It’s a barefaced marketing tool wherein the product and its distribution is under total control at all times by its purveyors. By buying a console you are locked in as a captive audience to whatever arbitrary rules the company allows, including forcing you to convert your money to Disney Dollars, selling what used to be free, and strictly controlling the environment under which you can play.

Just like what Bank of America does to its debtors, making sure your target market stays in debt to the company store is fantastically profitable, but it’s ultimately a losing proposition.

That Showed ‘Em, Huh?

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Honestly, what with the destruction of the music industry’s distribution platform in its quixotic quest to stick it to pirates, why does the games industry persist?

Ubisoft declared that it would require constant online activation in order to play its games, and with its new line-up of games coming out, PC Gamer has already felt the brunt of what that means to the end-user: Namely, when your internet connection or Ubisoft’s servers go down, so does your game.

While you play it.

I shed no tears for the music industry, because I am not beholden to the music industry. I am not beholden to them for the simple reason that they are music itself. I shed no tears for games companies that shoot themselves in the foot like this, because their DRM is not the only place they have stuck it to their customers.

They like to demonize their audience for making the usual pirate’s claim:

  • No pirating ever happens.
  • If pirating does happen it’s your fault.
  • If you try and stop us we’ll pirate your game on principle.

By claiming its justifications as baseless, as if they are catering to an unpleasable base. But it’s primarily that unpleasable base that gave them all their money in the first place.

People do what works best for them. Pirating is a direct response to high prices coupled with mediocre content. Napster was the logical response to the MTV generation of $18 albums of the Backstreet Boys. Bittorrent is the natural response to $50 Halo and $60 Modern Warfare 2. It’s the mind drawing the logical result from the parameters of “nothing today is worth what they’re charging, but I still want to play games.” The market is still there; it’s just not being addressed properly, and that’s not the fault of the consumer.

I’ve pirated a lot of games, for various reasons:

  • Because they didn’t produce shareware or demos.
  • Because the professional reviewers are all in their pocket.
  • Because I lost my original manual with the serial number.
  • Because the CD got scratched.
  • Because the CD check took a full three minutes.
  • Because the game lost company support and couldn’t find an activation server.
  • Because SecuROM bluescreened my computer after finding CD burning software.
  • Because the average game price went up 50% but my income didn’t.
  • Because game’s IP was held by a company that wasn’t putting it on the market.

I’ve also bought a lot of games, for various reasons:

  • Because it got legitimate acclaim from gamers.
  • Because the price went down. (thanks, Steam!)
  • Because it was easier to buy than pirate. (Steam, GOG, D2D)
  • Because I wanted to see that company succeed for its efforts. (THQ, Valve, Bioware)

Money is not an insurmountable obstacle. People will spend money not to go through flaming hoops. That said, if the flaming hoops are hotter after having spent that money, then any rational person is going to go and say, “Hey, only people who legitimately bought this game have to suffer the nonsense of these activation servers when there’s a Day One hack already out to loop the request back to yourself.” And pirating wins again.

The games companies have also focused on console platforms as their answer to the charge of high prices and mediocrity, and cited PC gaming’s high pirating rates as “pushing them away.” Except the PC is still the largest single market despite such high rates, and the creation of the hardcore console gamer is only going to delay the inevitable: PC gamers know mediocre games. Halo 3 and Modern Warfare 2 rather illustrate how certain game genres are new to console gamers and thus they don’t know what they’re missing.

That will change, and the more console gamers play, the more they, too, will chafe at their lackluster choices. For every game companies choose to promote solely on the console – like Alan Wake or Brutal Legend – for fear of being panned on the PC as weak examples of their genre, the more likely console gamers will learn of these things. The companies merely sow the seeds of their own destruction for want of saving their short-sighted business paradigm.

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  • Published: Jul 6th, 2009
  • Category: Media
  • Comments: 1


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Tim Schafer, whose career was started by making adventure games for the PC, categorically denies the PC as a market for his latest adventure game. To quote why he won’t produce a PC version,

Well it’s really an action game, that when you play it you’ll see that it was meant to be on a console. My question is, ‘Why all the hate for consoles?’ If you hate consoles, that means you hate Katamari Damacy, Okami, ICO, and you are in fact a bad person.

leading a great internet backlash against him and opening yet another wound on the festering corpse of the PC vs Console wars. Thing is, the grand debate of PC vs Console was manufactured to begin with. Case in point,

  1. Consoles are PCs. To be specific, they’re smaller, standardized PCs with specifications to do a very limited set of tasks.
  2. As such, any exclusivity on a console is solely the product of the marketing efforts of that console’s home company. M$ bought and moved Bungie Studios (of Halo fame, but also of the venerable PC games Myth, Marathon and Oni) from the PC market to console market exclusivity for the expressed purpose of selling xboxes. This brings this salient point:
  3. the “division” between consoles and PCs in terms of culture, custom or gaming style are by definition solely the product of the marketing efforts of companies that want to slice off and control their corner of the market. If a company says that Katamari plays better on a console, that company isn’t saying that consoles are better at playing Katamari. That company is saying “we’ve bought the rights to this game in order to sell our consoles.”

Indeed, the very existence of consoles is due to two factors:

  1. The original fear of an nonviable PC market. A Nintendo worked with your TV, needed no extra prepping, and cost less than a car, as compared to, say, an IBM. But that was then, and this is now.
  2. The current fear of a nonviable PC market. Parts are so cheap due to competition that some computer manufacturers have gotten out of the market of making them (Apple stopped making processors, for instance) and others are getting the squeeze on their niches (Intel’s newfound rivalry with nVidia). What we know as computer companies – Dell, Compaq, etc; are mere assemblers of computers and what they sell isn’t the hardware (which you can get cheaper elsewhere) but the technical support. Likewise, what console manufacturers are selling aren’t so much the systems (since you can get better PCs for cost) but exclusive game titles. They’re creating markets out of whole cloth.

In conclusion, I’m not buying a console for the very simple reason that I already own a PC, and I’m not about to buy a smaller, less useful one because of a marketing gimmick.

So long, Tim Schafer. It’s been nice knowing you.

Console Wars

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PC wins, because on Microsoft didn’t add a secret killswitch on my computer.

Never mind that the mere existence of such a self-destruct script gives conspiracy theorists spontaneous orgasms what with their unprecedented confirmation or that it highlights just the very sort of neo-feudalistic contempt large corporations have for the consumer, just think of the consequences!

It’s only a matter of time that someone reverse-engineers a box or makes a hacked box to run said script over the M$ Live network. For the individual, it’s an “everybody gets bricked I win” button. For the Halo server host, it’s a “boot, ban and brick everybody we don’t like” button. Hell, anyone would get an instant hard-on on the mere possibility of bricking the entire Live network at once.

Now that would be the thing to have on a résumé for Sony. Console Wars, indeed.

To go back to the bile this brings in me for consumerism, I’m reminded of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club and the movie adaptation: He didn’t write the ending bit about the credit card companies’ headquarters blowing up, but said that he quite preferred it to his own.

PC Gaming Nerdgasm

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In the inevitable bile-spewing hatefest I get for the PC gaming industry for primarily producing…

  • graphically updated yet oversimplified sequels to cult classics, aka the same game for $50 but worse*
  • licensed crap to fill (aka drown) a niche market into oblivion**
  • FPSs with “innovative” MMO elements that boil down to repetition as an artificial gameplay lengthener***
  • Our Warcraft Is Different+
  • sequelitis in general++
  • console ports++

…I have to give credit where it’s due. Read the rest of this entry »

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