The State Of The (Gaming) Union

Video games sure have come a long way in the course of their history. We went from playing games that were almost sub-8-bit to playing games in full 1080p. Games that were nothing but flat boxes within boxes to playing games in true 3D. Playing a game of Pong in black and white to playing games like Uncharted 2 with more colors than you can imagine. It’s really a great time to be a gamer. However, it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. Take the rose colored glasses off and expose the disgusting under belly of gaming and it’s a completely different picture.

First let’s address the biggest issue with gaming; the user base. Back when Pac-Man reigned supreme, the biggest argument you got into was if you didn’t “put your quarter up” to play next in an arcade and butted in line. That was just something you had to learn right off or you could be run right out of an arcade. Nowadays though, players fight over the most inane things imaginable. Sexuality is constantly called into question, mothers are lambasted, and quite frankly feelings are most likely hurt. Why so much hostility? For the most part it’s not even adults that are doing the bashing, it’s kids not even old enough to purchase the games they are playing. Here’s a fun experiment; The next time a racial slur is used, ask the person to define the word or give you the origin of it. See what is given as a response. I am willing to bet it won’t be the definition but just more trash talk.

While on the subject of foul language, there is not an achievement/trophy for swearing. Each time I put on a head set to play COD I feel like I need to wash my ears out with industrial strength soap afterwards. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good swear word here and there (ask my wife) but everything has it’s place and time. Simply because you CAN say every obscenity known in the English language doesn’t mean you HAVE to, especially when it’s only because you had to shoot a dude twice instead of once to kill them.

How about the health care system? Let’s look at the state of the industry itself. Ok sure, when games started out, there really wasn’t an “industry” to speak of. It was mostly the folks at Atari making games, strung out on coke. The “games” they sometimes handed out were utter crap, but it was a burgeoning new world and they were kings. Actually in this respect, not much has changed, really. Industry giants like EA and Activision throw their weight around so much it’s hard for smaller companies to keep up. Activision just recently killed off two of their franchises (Guitar Hero & DJ Hero). The odd thing is that DJ Hero was actually a decent IP that had potential and did quite well in just two games. The difference being that Guitar Hero had been clinging on to life long after it should have been taken out behind the shed. There are small independent companies that strike out, buck the trend, and end up making quite a name for themselves. Case in point, Team Meat with Super Meat Boy. Whether you’re a fan or not, there is no denying that game is a hit.

Now lets talk economy. Gamers have been pretty much forced to accept the $60 price range on standard issue this-gen console games. I guess there isn’t much really to argue with considering that games made for the 360 and PS3 cost millions of dollars to develop and produce. Publishers have to at least attempt to make back as much of that cash as they can, and this is really the only way they can do it. Personally my issue is with the new crop of downloadable games. I’m not even talking about games that are download ONLY for PSN and XBLA. I am talking about games that go to the digital store day and date of their hard copy brothers. Example, most recently Mass Effect 2 was sold on PSN as well as at your local brick and mortar for the same price $59.99. Again, I understand that games cost money to make, and employees need to be paid, no question. The problem is that they are really selling you nothing. You get no hard copy, no box, not even an instruction manual. They are charging you to use your own bandwidth to download a file, that’s it. Now I’m not saying that they should just give these types of games away, but they should at the very least be cheaper.

There needs to be more competition between big business and independent developers. Competition breeds invention and innovation. For every Indy Dev that pops up and sells a million copies the big companies take a step back and think what they need to do to make games sell like that again. When one company shuts down, generally speaking more open with different ideas and fresh starts.

Gaming may be fun and exciting but it is still a business. As such it will be constantly changing, shrinking and growing. It’s a fun time we as gamers live in, and I couldn’t be more happy to see every month on the calendar have at least one really good looking game on it. Just remember that if you want things to change, look no further than the mirror for the catalyst. If you think there are too many music games on the market, don’t buy them. If a game has a huge bug in it, voice your concerns (to the right people) and try to get things changed. We are the people that supply the money for publishers and developers to make games, don’t forget that.

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  • “Hard” things aren’t the only things that cost money, you know. To download a game using your bandwidth, a server somewhere had to use electricity, a satellite had to beam signals halfway across the world, and a router somewhere had to forward said signals to your computer. Those cost money too, you know.

    I’m not dissing though, I’m just saying that I think “soft” purchasing of games more or less costs just as much as “hard” purchasing. Also, don’t services like Steam give you unlimited redownloads of any game you’ve already purchased absolutely free? If you bought a DVD/BD from a brick-and-mortar store, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t replace it, its box and the instruction manual it came with for free if you lost them.