Delighting in the misery of others is a bit sad…
It’s been hard to escape the misery of the X-Box One reveal.
Now, no, it wasn’t a good reveal. The sickening simpering of the self-important entity that is EA made me want to vomit profusely from every available orifice on my body (including current wounds), the utter nonsense of interactive TV as though somehow it’s a revolutionary concept (which it isn’t), requiring the Kinect 2.0 to be always on, to monitor your every movement and “see” who you really are in the most creepy way imaginable, which is terrible if you’re a 6’5″ 18-stone disabled guy who wheels himself around the flat but perhaps worse still for those who suffer from scopophobia (the fear of being seen by other people. I’m just paranoid because my medication makes me that way!). And don’t get me started on the utter madness of the used games issue, an issue that we’ve been waiting to confront them with for MONTHS seeing as rumours were rife as early as February. This was not a surprise question, and their utter inability to answer the question with a straight-forward, semi-intelligent explanation was frankly taking a shotgun, pointing it at their feet and squeezing the trigger. It was utter PR suicide. The whole event was sickeningly corporate, but then, it was planned and orchestrated very carefully. It was the moment the press and the Internet started asking questions that it all fell apart.
Anyway, the thing is, I’ve sat around the last couple of days and watched as Sony and Nintendo-themed websites took much glory in the disaster that was the X-Box One reveal. Many even said thank you for sending sales to their favourite consoles, predicting that the X-Box One is doomed to obscurity because it is out of touch with the consumer, because they did not show games. No, they didn’t show many games. But with E3 just over two weeks away, where most companies traditionally show their games, showing everything at this point would have left them nothing to show at E3 that is new, or exciting, or different. It’s the same reason why Nintendo have yet to show many of their games due by the end of the year, their pre-E3 Nintendo Direct – replacing their usual conference – would have nothing to show people. And the same goes for Sony. We saw plenty of conceptual videos and technical demos, but not much that was quantifiable as a video game in its most traditional format. Again, because not far off is E3, where people will expect those games to be shown. All three companies are sitting tight, poker faces on, cards face down. E3 is the River Card, and only then will we see them all turn over their cards and their true hands revealed.
Thing is, what disturbed me more was the gloating. “Haha, Microsoft just handed the indie market to Sony and Nintendo!”, or “X-Box, Done.” or “PS4, X-Box One”. And this worries me. This isn’t a war, ladies and gentlemen. You don’t need to take sides here. This isn’t a sensible place to be confrontational. If anything, it’s the worst time and place for this kind of thing.
Microsoft ballsed up, but – here’s the thing – the machine isn’t out yet. And much of it’s issues are down to its firmware and server-side checks. With enough constructive feedback as to why such ideas are stupid and will do more harm than good, we might – MIGHT – be able to persuade Microsoft that their inclusion is a mistake. We might be able to converse with the company as consumers and stand up for our rights as consumers, not to be treated as scumbags at every turn, or be considered pirates, or dishonestly telling people we’re something we’re not so an invasion of privacy is necessitated. We MIGHT be able to do that, but we won’t. Because all that happened with this is that those defending the X-Box One, those who are fans of Microsoft and are patiently waiting for more information, were ganged up on by Sony fans and, bizarrely, Nintendo fans. Who should know better considering the last five weeks has been pretty much open-season on Nintendo, and for whom have been touting the exact same bloody line that Microsoft and X-Box fans are employing right now. Sony fans should also know better, considering the troubles the PS3 had on launch and through most of its existence in terms of ports, hacking and content, and the PS4 is by no means home and dry just yet; the social network is fraught with problems and issues that aren’t going to be shifted until people see them working and in action.
We should all know better. And yet, given the opportunity, we descend upon things rabidly and with extreme prejudice. Even when the whole story isn’t exactly clear right now.
And what does this do? Actually, nothing. We’re fighting each other, fighting gratefully for whatever scraps we are thrown, and it’s depressing. Is it any wonder that Day-One DLC continues, why companies employ such stringent DRM measures and why companies treat us with such disrespect? We don’t answer them back, not in unison, because we’re too busy making others feel bad about their console choices. And it is THEIR CHOICE. That’s important to know. I don’t hate people for being fanboys, or being loyal to a company that they find more in tune with their daily lives. That’s awesome. More power to you, and I hope it all works out for you in the end. But I hate that we’re supposed to be divided. That each camp – even those of us in the “All Consoles Please!” bracket – is supposed to hate all the others. All we do is end up with subjects on forums and discussion panels 500-posts long that are inevitably doomed to being censored, closed down and people banned for their overtly-confrontational attitude.
The hilarious thing to my mind is that passion, that gutsy resolve that the gaming community displays every day on the Internet and beyond, could be used for far more constructive and meaningful purposes if they channelled it in the correct manner. We could employ them to passionately represent us at a conference, stand up for everyone and ask awkward questions since they are the type who will bullishly not rest until they have an answer. We could get them to build communities, to lead them and give them responsibilities beyond their current means. Or we could simply ask them to make a lot of noise every single time a publisher, developer or manufacturer makes a decision so monumentally stupid that we all facepalm in unison, unable to believe the utter lunacy and/or hypocrisy behind it. If we could just get these people to see beyond their childish ‘With Us Or Against Us’ attitude. These are people who could be moulded into an incredible force, one the likes of the industry would fear. Consumers, passionate about their machines and their games, fighting for the rights of their fellow consumers.
Perhaps that’s an overly idealistic dream, but there’s no question in my mind that the current way of doing things doesn’t focus nearly enough on the shitty, appalling things the industry has subjected us to over the last eight years. A quick list of the things that have bugged me include;
- Always-Online DRM.
- Day-One DLC (especially if it feels like it was cut from the main game).
- Game of the Year Editions having more value than those buying the game on release.
- Collector’s Editions with enough tat in them to frustrate even Kim Woodburn.
- The closing of online servers rendering games unplayable (GameSpy, here’s my arse. Kiss it, you greedy sunsabetches!)
- Piracy numbers. We know they’re dropping industry, stop pretending otherwise to justify your expenditure.
- Overly high sales expectations. 3.5 million copies of a game in four weeks is freaking amazing! Or it should be, anyway…
- Kickstarter. Or rather, not asking why successful devs are using it as opposed to traditional funding. Or their own money.
- Peter Molyneux and Denis Dyack. But that’s just a personal thing. I may be alone in thinking they’re a right pair of… uhh… cars.
- Free-to-Play meaning “We’re going to exploit as much money from you as is humanly possible by making this impossible to enjoy without paying lots of money hahaha!”.
The industry has become both dependent and at the same time, abusive of consumers. It’s no good lapping the milk up when it’s truly curdled, you knew it was sour last week and you did nothing. Every day I wander around websites and someone is trolling someone over their choice of console, or for owning a console, or for asking if a console is worth buying or not. And it’s truly a depressing sight, because these are not nice people. They are crass, vulgar, childish and rude and they are simply given the title of “Fanboy”. Which is a shame as there are perfectly nice fanboys – and fangirls! – out there. People create fights, people are cruising around like gangs in the wide city that is the Internet, looking for a rival gang to piss off for a bit of a shoot-out. All the while, the people in power – the politicians, or in this case publishers and manufacturers – are getting away with some at times pretty corrupt shit. When everyone’s focus is no longer on holding the people in power to account, then they will truly do what they sodding well please. They need our votes and will look sympathetic when they need us to support them, but once they get a whiff of power – “Oh, we promised to do that? Umm… let me get back to you on that…”
I know asking for a unified front is like asking for Jennifer Aniston to turn up at my door, at night, in the middle of the pouring rain, stark-naked after a freak swarm of bats totalled her car and stole all her clothes. But it doesn’t make the point any less valid. Microsoft is about to be subjected to two weeks of what Nintendo has been subjected to, scorn and ridicule, where anyone who even whiffs that they might be interested in an X-Box One will be brutally flamed and trolled until they spontaneously combust. Or delete their forum account. Whichever comes first. Nintendo fans more than anyone should know how awful this is, to be a fan of their consumer goods and to feel like the industry is against you, that no-one wants anything to do with you and the moment you pipe up with a, “Wait for E3!”, to be subjected to complete ridicule by a bunch of semi-literate thugs who are more than happy to question your sexuality, your self-worth and your value as a human being.
This isn’t a street war. This isn’t helping anyone. If anything, all we’re doing is missing the point; companies are getting away with a lot of unspeakably awful things. They are releasing at times unspeakably awful games. This is not a time to defend them. This is a time to come together, as a unit, and force it back to the Hellspawn underpants-drawer from whence it came. There are things we need to cry out about, and we can’t do it if we’re all fighting each other. Whilst we’re distracted, they’ll just slip another one past us and hope we weren’t paying attention.
“Together we stand, Divided we fall.” We have the power, as consumers, to actually do something about what we’re subjected to. It’s clear we’re not lacking in passions or the ability to communicate. And yet we just shoot the first guy that comes along who isn’t ‘one of us’. We sit in entrenched camps, segregated from each other, laughing from across the boundary lines at each others misfortunes.
Imagine if we came together, as one, to decry some of the worst excesses and ideas being pushed both this gen and next gen. We’d be unstoppable. Instead, we’re just content to fight in the streets.
It’s kind of depressing. But I won’t give up hope. Someday. Someday we will unite.