Tournament without sportsmanship

While coughing blood and phlegm, I missed EVO completely. Nothing unusual about that, the EVO tournament doesn’t interest yours truly. However, EVO is of interest in regards of this blog and how its seen, and this year had a peculiar event with Super Smash Bros. tournament that as a case study shows two things; video games are not a sport, and not even the participants truly see it as a sport.

The event of course is the already infamous grand finals for Super Smash Bros for Console X. At 15:00 minute mark, both players simply stop playing the game for nearly two minutes. Thus far you can argue that there was competitive play for the top spot, but at that point everything becomes a joke.

This is not sportsmanship behaviour, this is what you’d see in show wrestling. That’s what eSports is, and thus it is far from being worth entering to Olympics in any fashion.

Some have argued that the two players can dictate whatever method of playing they wish, that is their choice as top finalist. This is not true, as every sports has to have strict rules the participants have to adhere to and will be promptly punished if these rules are broken; the finalist do not get to choose who they play. No other seriously competitive field, from pool to golf, from karate to card games, from F-1 to Nascar, everyone participating are required to make their best effort to win according to laid rules and there is no room to wiggle about.

Despite the two players here were warned of stalling, they did not gain any sort of penalty outside booing. Instead, both of them should have been disqualified not just on base of stalling, but also for interrupting a match for an interview, breaking sportsmanship and unfair competition.

Why unfair competition? Many athletes are friends, but yet they don’t go easy on each other out of respect towards each other and towards the sport. These two yahoos are friends who didn’t go their extra mile for maximum effort in competition and instead chose for showmanship. Whether or not you want to call this collusion is up to you.

Of course, we also have take notice that making the competitors sit next to each other rather than apart allows this sort of interactions between the competitors. EVO should have embraced the arcade approach years back and have the players fight opposing each other, or at least with good few meters apart. Does this remove a psych element from the game? Yes, and it should, as then the players’ actual skill in the game can be concentrated more than on any theatrics. Having these two jokers separated from each other would’ve alleviated some of their antics, but somehow the two buffoons would’ve made a joke out of it anyway.

The competitors’ age does not matter, be it teenagers like with these two Smash Bros. players or forty something who has played Street Fighter their whole life. People of their age can and are competing in real sports with the right mindset and compete with others like them for the top spot.

This isn’t the first time EVO has seen these “moments” where players show off some reason. Some years back, two E. Honda players in Street Fighter IV allowed the first round of their match to time out in order to have a one-round match in order to see which one of them was better. The same should have applied in this case as with this year’s Smash Bros.; no competition means getting the boot. You can argue stalling or running away is a legit tactic that can be applied, but that has to be in proper context. Just standing and waiting for whatever reason in a battling competition should get you the boot. After all, fighting game tournaments mirror the real world martial arts competitions in spirit, and simply fucking around goes directly against that spirit.

Then again, as a profession (used here extremely loosely) being a top Street Fighter player or whatnot doesn’t bring in much in terms of finances. It’s not secret that the tournament winners often share their price money with other top players in order to keep them from living on the streets. It is an extremely stressful field and losing sponsorship is extremely easy.

Does this encompass all players and games played competitively? Of course not, yet EVO as a whole is a great example of how competitive video gaming is just a play akin to show wrestling, as mentioned. EVO needs to get back to its Battle by the Bay roots and have one rule above all; find out who is the best in a given game. This alone sets certain principle rules and required mindset. We can make jokes about Smash Bros. and their rule sets all day long, but this is universal; a fighting game tournament only exists to find out who is the best. Any actions to detriment this should be treated with extreme prejudice and cut down like a tumor.

Video games are not sports. They’re anything but sports. They certainly require large amount of skill and dedication to get good at, yet there are constantly examples how juvenile the medium is across the board. Video and computer games are a young industry, and this shows itself hard with competitive situations like EVO. There is an extreme lack maturity and class. Unlike Olympics and other real sports events, EVO has quite honestly zero respect outside its own bubble. Furthermore, this year the TV licenses were far less important and we saw no outfit censorship, because last year’s viewership was less than expected.

Video games might be the most popular form of entertainment, but sure hell ain’t the most respected. The only way you can get respect for you wannabe sports and hobby is to act like your age, stop screaming bloody hell every time you see boobies and take competitive shit seriously, no matter what sort of party game gets mixed with serious fighting titles.

Consumer control over titles coming to Steam?

In hindsight, this was to come. Developer named Love in Space has stated that Valve has halted their title’s submission in order to overhaul Steam to give more control to the consumer on what they see. This isn’t the standard Family friendly control centre Steam currently has, but something more robust.

This seems to indicate two things. First, Valve is taking their hands off as they’ve mentioned previously and accept pretty much anything legal on Steam. This would mean the end developers have to indicate elements in their software whilst submitting to Valve. This would tie directly into the second element, which is the user driven control.

How do you implement it? is the  question.The best, quickest way would probably be to use the pre-existing tags Steam already uses for its titles, but whether or not these would be fitting is an open question. Sometimes, how a tag works for a title is rather obscure, referring to some element that’s not a major part in the title. Then you have the occasional tag that has nothing to do with the title. There would be a need for a far more stricter set of rules in order have a properly functioning control device. While possible that they’ll just use these tags, it’s also probable that something completely new will be used, as the aforementioned developer mentions that there is going to be completely new features that their title requires before Valve accepts it for Steam.

Was there a reason for a system like this? As Steam functions as a sales platform as much as it is a digital console, there is a need to split adult-only material from the more kid-friendly content. The split is similar how kids’ magazines are in one section in store, while all the rest are moved on the side or above the their stand. Another example would be how family movies and adult movies had different sections on a VHS rental store. Wasn’t the Family View already like this? Apparently not, as it seems to only limit what games are shown in the Library section rather in Store.

Seeing how the Internet really likes to rile people up and enjoy the outrage culture for better or worse, these last few years (or rather, last decade or so) has seen movements to accuse games, game developers and consumers for pretty much anything from sexism and racism to political agendas and lack of them. Valve has seen a lot of shit flung at them concerning their new policy, to the point of Kotaku labeling Valve irresponsible for allowing free market to decide on products.

This new feature that is being worked on is a solution that allows the user to censor their own Store page. This all fine and dandy, as this means people should be able to see what they want, ignoring the rest of the marketplace they might deem less of worth or somehow damaging for them or their family. As long as system does not force limitation to anyone else, or even suggest that certain content might be considered inappropriate, it should be passable.

However, it would seem this is a solution coming along way down, as Sekai Project mentioned some of their titles need to be re-submitted, and that they need to fill-in additional information for already passed software once the system has been implemented. Considering Valve has stopped accepting some titles like this for the time being, I’d guess they’re in a bit of a hurry with the system before publishers like Sekai find new avenues to move into. Valve wanting to put accepting software on hold for the time being until they’ve finished the system may be understandable, but it’s not the best approach concerning the publishers and developers who have their titles in this limbo state.

You will hear that this won’t solve any problems. Games that sites like Kotaku considers problematic won’t go away and will be developed and published. However, this is as good as any mediating solution, as the upcoming feature should allow these people can ignore their hated titles as much as they wish.

Open the Valves, full Steam ahead

Sometimes, Valve manages to surprise the cynic in me. Just as I mentioned that they should open the doors for free market, it seems that’s exactly what Valve did. Of course, it was received with both positive and negative press, with negative pretty much calling out Valve for allowing games that could have offensive content. Kotaku, for example, takes their usual stance all about wanting to keep games with gross content, as they put it, out of Steam. Furthermore, Kotaku’s beef with Valve being a reactionary corporation when it comes to controversies is old song by this point. Most corporations may go their way to appease sections of the consumers, but in this day and age where practically everything can cause an uproar and everything is offensive to someone in some myriad way, corporations can’t exactly be but reactionary.

This whole deal is interesting and dumbfounding, to say the least. For number of years, gaming snobs have wanted the electronic games industry to grow and mature. No medium is free of the growing pains of vast, endless multiple points of views and political leanings. For a rough comparison, banned games equate to banned books. This is especially important if we are to take games as an art, as simply banning or removing art because the subject is something you dislike or disagree with infringes the free expression of the artist.

Of course, the opposition of Valve’s new policies take the business view on things whenever it pleases them. Steam having games with content other developers don’t like shouldn’t matter to them. If their product is superior, they should be at ease of mind. The free market will tell what’s more demanded. Of course, it could always turn out that doing politically or otherwise controversial topically charged games might not sell well in overall terms. If the developer and/or publisher wishes to move their games off the platform because Valve has allowed games with offensive content in their mind, they can always move away to GOG.

After all, censorship and limited freedom of speech is something that can be easily expanded to serve only one master.

This is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Brands, such as Steam, should not partake in politics of any sorts. Valve’s stance of keeping trolling titles (how in the fuck would you even define that properly in hard-down legal form) and illegal content off their service is enough. The market will handle the rest. Simply because content exist for consumption does not mean one has to go their way and consume it.

Is it immoral to allow content that might be considered offensive on Steam, politically or otherwise? The question is No, considering Steam already has games with content that does offense someone. Valve’s Weik Johnson has the right stance; they’re not the one to decide what developers make. If we are to promote equal treatment of all, it is required to mean equal treatment in all terms, including games that have offensive content of any kind. It is up to you as the consumer to decide whether or not it is consumed, not by a committee, a busybody soccer mom or another developer.

Another criticism Valve has got is that this means they do not stand up to values, or more accurately, the values of the critics have set up. Just as morals, values are up to each person. Cultural values and morals set up by the society are ultimately what matter the most, not the ones sections of the Internet want to be upheld. In effect, it is equally morally reprehensible to allow one offensive content but not the other. Valve’s ultimate morals lay in what makes the most profit, and free market is the best way to make a buck.

Whether or not Valve is finished with underestimating their consumers with this is an open question. It can be expected them to flip flop on the matter in the future, especially when take into notion how vague their new stance is. What is illegal changes country by country, and there is always the remote possibility they’ll simplify things and use all of them. Somewhat unlikely, seeing Valve has always tried to stick with the US legislation and have a history of arguing against foreign laws to an extent. What is acceptable varies wildly, especially in places like China.

Secondly, trolling, as mentioned above, doesn’t exactly hold water. It is extremely subjective and sounds like a scapegoat wording that they can enact on a title whenever they find it applicable. Titles like Hatred may get hated out of the platform due to its content, as it was removed from Steam Greenlight. It took Gabe to get it back. The title’s developer certainly did use trolling as part of the marketing campaign, yet the title is nothing short of fully fledged isometric shooter.

For better or worse, Valve’s announcement on the subject does touch upon this. To quote the post; we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling. While this could be viewed as slightly concerning, this sort of extension of corporation’s own decision making is expected. This allows Valve to cover their asses whenever its applicable while supporting the freedom of game development and publishing, as weird as it sounds, considering anyone could do that outside Steam on PC already.

In the end, all of Valve’s announcement ends up being PR speech. It’s not exactly virtue signaling either as much as itch.io’s Leaf’s tweet on the matter. How things will go down in practice will probably be a very different story, though only time will tell. Claiming that Valve has dropped any responsibility or the like is childish bitching, as the responsibility has always been with the developers and publishers, and even then to the extent of the law.

The consumers within the market will make their voice heard on the matter, and that is ultimately what matters, despite what different sociopolitical factions like to think. Let capitalism function as intended.

Then there’s the point that none of that matter jack shit if the gameplay is not up to the level. That is what matters the most after all.

Banning Adult Oriented material, again

Lewgamer has a nice article with sources and citations on Valve threading to take down on adult games on Steam, give it a look before we go further.

The whole issue really is all about having erotica CG within the titles. Doesn’t matter if its just left in the code, if its junk data somehow and completely inaccessible by normal means. If it is there, it counts. Sounds extremely pathetic and funny, but that is the reality. The case this is most compared to, going as far Steam’s own representative doing it as well, is the Hot Coffee case. In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas exists a disabled minigame where the player character can bang their chosen girlfriend character. The reason why it was left in the game’s code is because the assets were used elsewhere as well.

This basically set the tone that if a software has any sort of pornographic content inside the code or assets, it’s automatically Adult Only, which further means certain shops will not carry it and places like Australia most likely will instantly ban it.

I also recall something about Valve considering on banning titles that have censorship removing patches from other sites, be it via addition of the content or unlocking. However, I found no solid sources on this, so take this as a rumour at best.

With most visual novels having some level of erotica in them at least, Valve’s probably going to gun them down if this keeps going. This also means that even Muv-Luv‘s Steam releases are under threat in the worst case scenario. Considering Manga-Gamer had their title with “earnest and tasteful exploration of sexuality” is about to get the boot, pretty much anything goes.

This is one man’s crusade, though what Valve is doing here is covering their own asses for the worst case scenario for them. They don’t give a damn about the consumer or developer end due to their monopoly. Games with pornographic content is mere blip on the radar for them, the revenue Valve gains from them is microscopic for them. Worse, they’re a public corporation, and having erotica or pornography on their service in any form is often seen as a sort of stain. This probably also leads to some problems, just like how Steam’s terms of service had to be revised from “purchasing games” to “subscriptions” circa 2012, when Court of Justice of European Union decreed that it publishers can’t oppose of resale of used licenses. EULA ties you to nothing. However, publisher have more leverage if you don’t purchase anything from them, just subscribe to their product.

Valve, of course, never had clear rulings on the issue. They’ve been jumping back and forth regarding adult oriented material on their service in order not to even recognize the topic properly due to the stigma pornographic content still carries with it despite the fact that it’s all virtual.

The discussion about what constitutes as porn and what doesn’t should be made, but it doesn’t matter to Valve. Their view is pretty clear on the issue, even if they aren’t. If it has any kind of sexually explicit content under any kind of depiction, it is counted as porn. There is no room for nuances on the topic, which only tells how puritanical this issue is.

It is unfortunate that things have done this way, as this will probably cause further issues down the line for anyone willing to entertain the idea of having a more sexual title on Steam. It’s a slippery slope we’re in for here. There are numerous solutions, like moving these titles to Nutaku, but that also means raving Steam fans wouldn’t follow in suit.

Mature sexual content, be it pornography, erotica or whatever else similar will always limit your audience to adults and people who aren’t living in a medieval level culture. The approach of simply trying to clean it away is not the right step by any means and it will be met with opposition. However, what Valve could do here is to open a specific section for Adult Only audience, both expanding their market and guaranteeing that places competitors like GOG wouldn’t be tempted to open this sort of targeted service. Then again, this would encourage further competition, so perhaps it would be a chance for them. Muv-Luv on GOG would remove any of my reasons to use Steam.

What is the consumer to do here, if they oppose booting titles off Steam if they contain adult material? Wallet voting by purchasing these products, making your voice hard on social media and elsewhere at their representatives and showcasing support to devs who are inclining towards censoring their products.

I guess this is as good time as any to remind my readers that corporations are there to make money and keep their investors happy. That’s their main goal, and sometimes it is more favourable to enforce certain image and lack of products that could be harmful somehow to the younger audiences.

Funny that, this is pretty in-line with how the US is seen by most Europeans; a place where over-the-top and accurate depictions of hyper violence is awright, but a bare breast will make everyone flip their shit.

Escalation of moral maturity from game to game

One aspect that’s been part of boys’ play culture for as long as we can go back in written history with records of children’s play is the moral play between good and evil. One of the modern classics that display an everyday battle between these two extremes would be Cops versus Robbers. As we grow up, the stark contrast between good and evil usually begins to dim to the point where we can accept that good and evil are subjective, at least on philosophical level. The contest between the perceived sides still persist into our adulthood, more often than not shaded to the point of the perceived evil being more justified than the opposing side.

The traditional pen and paper role playing games stem from the myths of antique and the knight plays. I don’t think there’s one child in the world who has no played a role of a knight in some play. The knight I’m referring here is more akin the idea of local protector, hence why black knights are the opposing, equal power. Perhaps an allegory for the fallen angel of sorts on some level. Nevertheless, the early computer RPGs were largely digitised forms of Dungeons & Dragons games these people used to have, with Ultima being an example of such. If you look in late 80’s and 1990’s Japanese fantasy light novels and series branched from them, like Slayers, they’re largely based on the author’s own D&D games. With the D&D crowd, at some point they stopped playing knights outside in the nature, and moved indoors. Of course, Live action role playing, or LARPing has become somewhat popular, and is effectively just people playing like kids with far more serious intent and costlier props.

The aforementioned paragraph may sound rather negative, though it’s more an argument of natural change. Whether or not theatrical plays predated children play acting is unknown, but the two have a linear connection between maturity and playing. Play acting became a profession, something done so good that it could be made money with. The adult life is strongly reflected in children’s plays, as playing is often the best form of education and learning for the future. Kids trading stones and sticks on the playfield essentially prepares for commerce. Pokémon TCG was largely panned by parents in its initial release years, but one thing they learned about it was how it taught children the value of goods and trading. Modern world simply allows certain aspects of immature play to be present more than with previous generations. The concept of something being childish and for children only has seen a silent paradigm shift.

Perhaps the example of this is electronic games. While computer games were seen somewhat more mature compared to console and arcade games in the 1970’s and 80’s, they’ve been accepted as a media for all ages since the late 1990’s, with some grudges here and there. It’s still not all that uncommon to see some parents from previous generations to describe game consoles and computers as toys, which often yields a rather negative response due to associated immature mental image it carries with it. While understandable, toys are means to play. Describing a game machine a toy in this sense isn’t wholly inaccurate, as all it exists for is to play.

However, electronic games and machines they run on prevent any creative forms of plays. They offer a statistic, controlled and extremely limited form of play, which is more akin to adult overseeing a children’s play. This is currently a technological issue, as we’ve yet to see completely dynamic world that allows the player to enact whatever possible they want. One can’t build a hut and live in there for the rest of the character’s natural life in a Final Fantasy game, because the game is not prepared for that. It’s limited to the story the game wants to tell. Playing often requires the player to follow the rules, after all. Not all toys allow all forms of play either, after all. While calling video and computer games as toys might sting your ear, the association with play is completely natural and such naming shouldn’t be deflected from the get go. After all, we have adult’s toys as well, which children shouldn’t have access to before they are mentally and physically mature enough.

The same applies to video games. Grand Theft Auto and Skyrim are both games we constantly see people of all ages playing, despite the age recommendations being there. Being a direct descendant of Cops VS Robbers and knight plays, both game simply take the basic core and expand on it. GTA may have you play as the Robber, but the moral hues you’re given are numerous. The same applies to Skyrim, where the player character is a figurative knight on his route to slay a dragon. The means and toys have just changed from a stick representing the baton or sword to a plastic controller and readily set digital world.

The question how much industrially prepared playing via toys has affected modern world’s play culture as a whole is a topic I’m not ready to touch on. However, some examples how things simply change drastically with a toy would be Barbie. The toy is not a doll for girls who play with it, it’s a Barbie. Singling out a toy like this outside all others has grown to the point of almost all toys have been made their own rather than for overall playing in general. Perhaps the largest reason for this change is the successful franchising, where the association with a toy and a character is made so much stronger. A child is not just buying a transforming robot toy, he’s buying Optimus Prime and all the mental images associated with the character.

While the contest between moral sides in boys’ games has escalated since the 1950’s, similar escalation has been lacing in electronic games. This is due to all the aforementioned; electronic games are just part of it. The age-old discussion about boys’ and girls’ games is valid, and while I’d argue that a well made game does cater to both sexes, the truth is that one has more interest towards certain kinds of games over the other. That is the nature of things. However, nothing exists in a vacuum, and games experience as much mixing of these two play cultures as real life does. The Sims is still the best example of girls’ play culture being completely accepted by both sexes (the game’s essentially playing Home), as is Super Mario. Super Mario just happens to be perceived more immature due to the design choices and lack moral greys over something like Halo, which is perceived a a “big boys game.”

This is a point, as not all games, electronic or not, are for all ages. It is up to the parents to decide whether or not Little Jimmy is ready to handle mature concepts like interrupted penetration, self-mutilation in the name of love, the absurdity of how pointless life is or the sheer sexual tension between a man and a machine. Something truly is for “big boys.” The core play doesn’t change with maturity, but the concepts and themes that frame the act do.

Changing winds

While this blog has concentrated mostly on the earlier decades of video games and pre-Pong game culture now and then, I’ve intentionally neglected more recent electronic game culture. This hasn’t been by design, but more because there has been a need to showcase that video games overall have always been part of mainstream entertainment in a way or another. The world has changed significantly during the last forty years since games became a cultural phenomena, and like everything else, as you grow older the new stuff seems worse than it used to be.

The main demographic of electronic games we’re talking about follows the same lead the one’s pinball and penny arcades attracted the most; teens and college students. Before the advent and birth of mainstream video games, the 50’s and 60’s rough teenager culture flourished within these arcades, making their games more a showcase of rebellious attitudes. This market wasn’t just the only target group, as these arcades were enjoyed by everyone, it just depended on the arcade what sort of patrons it had. The first step towards the modern gamer and the computer game nerd happened with Pong and when home computers became a thing. The combination of people who played Dungeons & Dragons, science fiction fans like Trekkies and radio hobbyists sort of pack into video and computer games because the medium allows imagination to flourish, both as a developer and as a consumer. The problem largely was that it required mathematics and electronic knowhow, and thus the design and input devices were more or less completely bound to a one-button controller, a very specific controller, or a keyboard. While Pong and other consoles had intuitive controllers, a keyboard used to be rather scary device. To some, it still is.

This meant that people who put their time to either develop or play these games didn’t exactly fit the social norms of the time. Bullying people who play games at home, rather than on the field, in the arcades or in a dank gambling saloon was rather everyday event. However, if an industry doesn’t expand its market and renews itself, it has high chances of dying down. With Atari and arcades becoming an incredible force to be reckoned with, penetrating American culture like no other, driven by Japanese arcade games no less, followed by European micro-computers’ boom in the Old World. Despite the Video game crash of 1983, gaming had made its mark on the mainstream audience and culture, and when the NES hit around, video games became more mainstream than ever. At this time, computer games still managed to roll onward, and while their success is nothing to scoff at (just look at Ultima series!), computer games were for a more limited audience due to the price of the machines themselves and understanding of the technology itself. As said, European markets were rather different, with NES essentially screwed over due to mishandling, Sega Master System offering more and cheaper games, and micro-computers being the thing to have.

A third wave of market expansion (or fourth wave, depending how you’d like to count it) happened in segments during the 1990’s. While the SNES didn’t perhaps have the market expansion as Nintendo would’ve hoped, it did manage continue in the steps of its predecessors. While arcades saw their second golden age with Street Fighter II, PlayStation without a doubt had a significant market penetration and expansion, only comparative to Pong, arcades, Atari and the NES. While Super Mario had cereals and cartoons for younger audience to consumer, the PlayStation struck chord with the older audience, much like how the Mega Drive had previously. Wipeout is a prime example of this, as it became synonymous with the trance and dance club culture.


Have a few quick ones in the club, and then few lines at home while enjoying the the game and its music

Nothing else shows how much penetration PlayStation had as its successor being the most sold home console. However, after this point there games had less penetration with the overall culture. Video and computer games, despite being popular and selling massive amounts to the point of eclipsing Hollywood’s sales, had became mundane. An industry like video and computer games doesn’t change by itself forcefully, but has to grow according to consumer wants and needs. If it turns to be selfish and producing more trophy games, sales will lessen. However, most of these games throughout the ages have been deemed terrible and have seen low sales, despite the gaming media praising them at times.

To a person who grew up with video games in the 1980’s or 1990’s, the changes that took place in the 00’s and 10’s , may seem rather disappointing. For those who have read this blog for a long time already should know what this refers to. Games are not only story driven, but at times completely dependent on them. The cross-pollution of between consoles and computer games markets to the point of PC gaming being dead and replaced with a digital game console Steam. Games had become mainstream to the point of everyone being able to access them pretty much everywhere, and the previously set boundaries to develop or play them had been long since been taken down.

The Financial crisis of 2008 made a mark on the game industry. Both the Xbox 360 and PS3 were rather expensive consoles to own, but the Wii had a balance of being cheaper and more arcade like games. Despite the market expanding and new people being introduced to games, certain style of games still were the most successful. Wii Sports is an example of this sort of game, which of we never really saw any other like on the Wii. Wii also became a Virtual Console machine for those who remembered NES from their childhood, and now had access to more games than ever on systems available on the VC. Much all other industries at the time, making your consumers spend money on products that they didn’t need was a challenge the least. It was at least at this point when the industry overall didn’t aim to expand and further concentrated on the core consumer group that had been there for a long time, with few exceptions about.

While the financial crisis still having slight effect a decade later, the monetary situation with many is very much different. Companies have introduced microtransactions as an industry standard to the point of multiple companies practicing predatory behaviour for higher profits. However, this would not be possible if the market’s actions would not allow that. While the game industry and market itself has been consumerist, it could be argued that microtransactions and lootboxes have taken things to an overdrive. Corporation’s are very effective on capitalising consumer weaknesses, especially now that almost everyone has access to these games. All this, combined how the video gaming media is essentially just a huge engine for hype and advertisement, further solidifies how much the game industry has become an equally massive machine as its market is. With expansion and new generations entering the hobby, and overall tastes changing globally, some older consumers feel a distaste for what modern games are.

Political climate affects games as any, and games have become increasingly agenda driven at places, especially within certain indie scenes. I won’t go any deeper into this here, as I’ve discussed games as form of escapism first and foremost many times previously. However, ultimately it is the sales numbers that decide how the industry will act, as game industry has become completely reactionary just like Hollywood, and on the long term games that de-emphasize gaming will ultimately see less sales. Much like Hollwyood is all about the big cinematic universes and each movie has to be a billion dollar event, so has the game industry moved towards building massive spectacles in eSport (with Street Fighter V suffering this the most) with both having equally bankrupt creativity. Hell, the current state of both industries is the best argument why neither should be considered as art, but entertainment to the masses. That’s not a slight against either industry in a negative way, much like how visual novels aren’t games. A thing being its proper self is nothing to be worried about-

Games haven’t exactly changed in terms of quality of the titles. There has always been a large number lesser games on the market compared to the gems, that hasn’t changed. However, the sheer number of games has changed to the point of keeping up on all released games across all platforms is almost an impossible task without external help. Information technology, technology overall, ease of development and change in developer/publisher scene have changed the industry and the market. Whatever era of gaming you prefer the best, we’ll never be able to return to that form.  The only way to steer the game industry to a desired direction is doing two things I’ve talked often; wallet voting, and being an informed consumer.

The state of gaming as it is now will be a passing trend. In five years down the line, we’ll be able to look at the 10’s and hopefully laugh at all the things we consider important now.

Industrial bloat

EA is the thing everybody likes to kick whenever its relevant. EA deserves it too, as the company has a long history of taking franchises and developer studios and running them to the ground. Very few have any love toward them, except sports gamers who buy the latest NHL and FIFA release each year. We can understand the mindset. They’re a corporation just like any other, and aim to do everything for profit. The methods just don’t seem to sit with some consumers, while others just don’t care.

That said, microtransactions and loot boxes have been talked to death a lot as of late, thanks to them taking more presence in the mainline games. The model can be said to come from mobile games, where it has essentially become the lifeline of many games, where games are offered free, but their larger content has to be paid for, or at least to succeed further requires putting some money in.

From psychological point, microtransaction is a well selling term. It give an idea of a transaction of miniscule size, almost something that doesn’t matter. The effect on the consumer is interesting, and these small transactions often can pile up when you can’t keep track on physical money. It is far easier to spend what you don’t see, and then suffer the consequences later on.

Loot boxes are another can-o-worms, especially when they’re the kind that are tied to promotional events or otherwise to something that forces the consumer to consume their time with the game’s event or related. Considering many games offer loot boxes to be bought with real money, or in-game money you can buy with real money, it is gambling. It is very much comparable to a lottery ticket where each ticket has some sort of win. While some make an arbitrary difference between loot boxes and gachas, the concept is largely the same. Here we could argue that loot boxes are similar to vending machine toys, and these are not counted as a form of gambling. However, the difference is of course that a vending machine does not insist you on a purchase, unlike the constant reinforcement video and mobile games tend to do with seasons, events and the like. The concept of gambling and video games is something I’ve touched before, with the argument that video and computer games themselves are not gambling, but can contain simulation of gambling, but loot boxes and gachas touch upon real world and games are designed to work with them as a core element, then we’re talking about a form of digital gambling.

However, the whole debacle of Star Wars: Battlefront II (2017) is a whole another thing. While it has seemed to be a PR nightmare to EA due to all the negativity its microtransactions and  how long it’ll take to open up new characters within the game, EA has managed to make use all of this and seem like a company that listens to their consumers. Buying whatever in-game money it is they use to unlock characters will be enabled at a later date.

There’s the rub though; Battlefront II (2017) and other games like it that offer purchased random goods already cost money. Essentially, the game companies have become bloated to each direction in how much higher ups get salary to production values and development time that they need to find new ways to make more revenues. In order to make the revenues go up, EA has opted to concentrate all their efforts on a whale of a game that should snag the most players. All this after you’ve payed the full price for the game, of course, and you can’t open things up through sheer effort and skill. The game has cool down periods, where you can’t acquire in-game money. Hell, you can expect only 1-3% of the game’s players to carry these microtransactions. These are the trouble consumers that may need serious help. Gamers, while saying one thing, often seem to do the exact opposite.

This isn’t exactly putting all your eggs into one basket. This is more like putting trying to sap out everything from the consumer through one product. What I mean by this is that EA has opted to get as much revenue out of the game as possible outside the sales of the game. There is no equivalent in other entertainment media due to the nature of games. This isn’t a subscription to digital service or the like.

All this is a symptom. The cause, if we’re to believe companies, is the rising development costs. Unlike what these corporations want to tell the consumer via their PR, consumers at large don’t expect cutting edge graphics or the like. The game design has always been the number one factor. The only game culture that has concerned themselves with highest possible graphical fidelity is the computer game culture. However, with the cross pollination and consoles becoming dumbed down PCs, with Steam serving as a digital game console platform, it’s no wonder this skewed sense has crept into game development. Much like how Hollywood execs are becoming further moved away from the common consumer, the same is happening in game industry. There are too many large houses doing far too large projects, there is only three consoles on the market, with Steam effectively being a fourth addition that play the bit part of everything. Uniqueness has been replaced with ports everywhere, and now that ports seemingly not making enough money, the consumer is expected to dosh out more for the product they purchased.

EA and other developers need to look inside of their own house and cut down on the overtly expensive development cycles.

The argument that games can’t cost over 60€ is also bullshit. Currently, the medium price for a game is lower than what it has been at their highest. Ultima games cost around 120 dollars, with some N64 games costing locally around 120€ when transferred to current currency. If there is a need to raise games’ prices to meet the production costs, so be it. The market will decide if that was the right call. That, or drop the development costs outside salaries. It’s not the consumer’s fault if the products are not meeting with expectations and incredibly over-estimated sales figures.

Tapping people who may have gambling tendencies though is not the way to go.

An untouched library

There is an excess of video and computer games nowadays. Games are a luxury items from the get go and have always cost a high sum, especially computer and NES games in Europe. The amount of games released per system seems to to grow with each generation with the ease of digital publishing. However, there are fewer games that carry impact on the industry or the consumer crowd, partially due to how large the marketing push for Tripple A titles are getting and partially due to sheer amount of them. Despite the overwhelming amount of games released, some with extremely questionable quality, there won’t be next Video Game Crash. The core gamers will see to it.

A classic gamer seeks to build a library. Not just digital titles in your Steam subscription. That’s what mostly separates a modern gamer from an old-school one. The use of money also applies here. A Steam user builds a backlog so much faster and easier than an old-school gamer who picks what games he purchases and why. Valuing a single game in its entirety, if you will. There is a significant difference between purchasing a game from a store and… whatever the correct term is for getting a license to use game software in Valve’s digital console. The same really applies to GOG to lesser extent. The simple physicality of it all is a significant separation enough, though there is more to it, like owning a copy of a game rather than just having a right to use it.

It is harder and more expensive to collect a proper library than one in digital form. It’s not uncommon to see Steam users that have thousands of games in their Steam library, most of which are barely ever launched. Most of these games come from sales and bundles. It is a common practice to sit idly and wait for games to drop in price, and Steam’s sales have become rather expected even within the user community. These games that just sit in the library really have no value to the player, thus the overall perceived value is low and fetches low amounts of money. This sort of attitude really seeps into other titles easily, where the expectations of low prices has become a standard across the board.

This is a problem of sorts. It twists the market results quite a bit, and when everything is eventually available at a bargain price. The Tripple A titles saw a decline in sales from 2015 to 2016, and the trend seems to be continuing. This directly reflects to the fact that these high budget, highly hyped titles simply do not meet with the consumer demands. This really should tell something to the developers and publishers about their products and about their approach for them.

For these reasons, about 38% of game consumers have stated intending to purchase fewer games than previous year. With an increasingly number of titles in one’s software availability, putting more resources into something you won’t be able to consume and enjoy really seems stupid as hell. We’re getting to a point where people have more games than they can play in their lifetime, even if they were to become full-time gamers.

It doesn’t help that with emulators and such we have the access for most of the games produced. There is an excess of games, but that’s market for you.

Perhaps because of the excess itself one should practice a more moderate approach in their purchasing habits. Considering digital games are pretty much always online, unless if it’s a licensed game, there really is no reason to purchase a game at launch or at sale. While library collecting is a part of the whole high-end game consumer culture, this should not displace the act of playing these games. With digital games it can’t be argued that someone is buying them for value either, as digital games can’t be sold onwards as such, especially not on Steam (which is why Valve had to change the description of their service.)

The fact is, the fewer games you have, the more you’ll be ending up playing those individual games, and thus your library will be end up being far better curated. Switch’s current library isn’t anything to call home about, especially so if we’re only counting the physical titles, but the more reason to practice this self-limiting, selective purchasing. All this really maximises the amount of time a consumer should be spending with an individual game. There is something in common with the idea of practising one motion a thousand times rather than practising a thousand motions once.

It is also easier to appreciate a game when you’ve spent enough time with it. If you’ve ever experienced lower-income households where money is tight, each luxury item is valued. This applies to each and every game purchased, despite their quality. Thank God rental videos and games was a thing, so people could test games before committing to a purchase before widespread use of the World Wide Web.

Collecting a library of games does not necessarily mean the consumer doesn’t have appreciation for the games he has, though without a doubt less than a person who has gone through nook and crannies of his own library.

This excess and the possibility to even collect a large library of games is taken as self-evident. While I did mention that another video game market crash is not likely to take place, an implosion is not. Steam’s Greenlight and Kickstarter have been full of titles that never went anywhere or have questionable quality at best. Anyone can become a game developer if they so choose to, but very few indeed can become good game developers or even successful ones.

I’ve said this before, but this is the first time in gaming short history where we live in an era where you can purchase most major titles from past consoles on your modern one. Not only a new game is competing with its contemporaries, it’s also competing with highly venerated classics. There are very few games that even intends to stand up to the challenge, and sadly there are those who are in for the simple quick-cash and nothing of worth or intending to push an agenda for the sake of it. Eventually, all this will reflect in sales and direction the consumer goes. When one-third of the consumers seem to go back to their untouched game library and rather than investing in new titles, that’s time for some alarm bells.

Games cost money to make and buy, and it would seem that it would be the right time for both consumers, developers and publishers to take a good look how they are spending their money.

Experience and digital space

Short answer; No. Long answer; It’s a bit more complicated than that. With digital media, the ontology is often concentrated on viewing the relationship between the consumer, the media and the culture of the media. The digital part is significant. While there are now few generations that have grown up in a world that never lacked the digital component, it is still relatively new introduction in historical scale. Nevertheless, it is present everywhere nowadays and digital elements in out life most likely will keep growing as the time goes by.

Timothy Druckery, a theorist of contemporary media, even went so far to argue that it would not be possible to describe or experience the world without technologically digital devices. He argues further that the evolution from mechanical to technological computer  culture has been more than just a series of new techniques and technological advances, that it is more about the evolution between dynamics of culture, interpretation and experience. Much like Druckery’s collegues, he argues that representative works are based on experience, and it would be hard to argue against that.

Video and computer games are based on experiences people have. First computer RPGs had their roots in Dungeons & Dragons campaigns people had, and this applies to origins of Ultima as well.  Miyamoto has stated that The Legend of Zelda his goal with the game was to have the game feel the same way as if you were exploring a city you have never been in before. You can almost see the overworld map as a city layout in this sense, where certain paths are alleys, larger open areas are parks and numerous dead-ends permiate the game. Or maybe that’s just me. Satoshi Tajiri, the name behind the Pokémon franchise, based the game on his own experience with bug catching. Japan has a history with kids having bug catching as a hobby, and the latest big craze was during the 1990’s. When you consider how a kid has to cover creeks, run over rivers and search the forests for new bugs to catch, you begin to see the adventure and the excitement that Tajiri wanted to convey in Pokémon. You also begin to see where modern Pokémon has started to veer off, emphasizing plot over adventure. There was a good article how Yu Suzuki put Virtua Fighter’s developer through martial arts training each morning in order for his men to animate a punch or a kick right.

That is not to say a game can be created without any experience in subject itself. Hideo Kojima has never been a spy or a soldier on a battlefield, but he nevertheless put his experience from Western movies into use in Metal Gear. You can see the change in certain visual in Metal Gear Solid 2  when they got an actual military advisor on the team. For example, Snake no longer pointed his gun upwards and overall how characters began to handle weapons changed. Small, but rather significant change when you consider how much Metal Gear games depend on the whole experienced soldier schtick.

Nevertheless, all the above mentioned games are representative of some sort of experience and allow the player to experience a sort of simulation of it. With any new sort of media there has been the fear of losing something important to humanity, if you will. With digital media the question of the consumer’s identity has become a question through the fears of how any new media might (or rather will) change our way of thinking and the way we live.

Without a doubt we have both real and virtual spaces as well as the identities that go with them. We have a wear a different persona when we are with our parents or friends, and the same applies to the virtual space. Since the 1990’s virtual space has become more and more daily thing to the point of Facebook and other social media becoming almost essential. However, even in these spaces we have a persona on us that is different from others. Much like how when writing this blog I have a persona on you don’t see in other virtual spaces, though it is overlapping harshly with everything nowadays. While there is no physical aspect to virtual spaces (they are digital and non-physical by definition) they nevertheless are real and can carry to the “real” world. However, we can always the space we choose to interact with, though this has led to the birth of extreme comfort zones where one must feel safe all the time rather than challenging oneself and broaden horizons. After all, nobody wants to get stuck in place for all eternity. Unless they get hit by a car and fall into three years of coma.

Whether or not digital media and virtual identities change our selves in physical form is a topic for a different post (it does, but the extent in which way is expansive), but I can’t but mention that experiences the consumers gain from digital media affects us just as any other similar source. After all, electronic games are an active medium instead of passive like movies or music and require the consumer to learn in order to advance. This has led some to argue that games promote violence through teaching violent methods.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold are the two names responsible of the Columbine Shooting in 1999, and two years later Linda Sanders, whom lost his husband in the shooting, sued 25 different companies, like Id Software, Apogee Software and Interplay Productions, claiming that the event would not have happened if games with extreme violence like this wouldn’t exist. It was argued that certain games allowed the two assailants to train their shooting skills with precision and affected the two in a negative way. However, as we’ve seen multiple times over, games do not cause kids to go violent, and it would seem to be far more about the individual and their mental health than the media they consume.

However, it must be said that even when games are escapism from real world, they still are a product of real experiences. Playing may be just a game much like any other, but the more real world expands into virtual spaces thematically and ideologically, the less there is separation between the two. Ultimately, playing a game will affect the real world persona of the player, thought he question how much is very much up to the individual consumer. Games have been discussing censorship, violence and current topics for more than thirty years now, and for a medium that is about escapism to a large extent, that does not bode well. How much value we can put on a digital world that does not make use of its non-real capabilities and ties itself to the real?

Perhaps the digital personae we use has become less important as the melding of two worlds continues, and the identity we assume is an amalgamation.

A delicate piece of hardware

Much like with other modern technology, we’ve managed to squeeze more into smaller space. The laptops or pads we have nowadays are engineered to a point that barely anyone can open up their cases and fix them without further studying on the subject. Game consoles aren’t any different, though the PlayStation 4 is almost as big as the original Xbox. It wasn’t until we began to have consoles that began to show easily damaged sections in the mainline consoles. While the PlayStation could take some hefty damage (personal experience tells me it can survive a trip in a lake), the PlayStation 2 could be damaged by having enough weight at the wrong spot. This was the time when PCBs started to become thinner and more packed up with components downsizing with almost each year. You could lob a NES or SNES outside a window have it working with a cracked case, and the same really for the PlayStation as well. Personal experience, don’t ask. PlayStation 2 however was the first truly delicate piece of hardware that in the end begun to have issues with reading the discs. Sometimes from the very beginning.


Goddamn, this video came out sometime early 2000’s. Takes me back

Nintendo’s consoles usually have been durable, especially their handheld consoles. There has even been discussion how Iwata drove the DS’ tech team mad by demanding the console to be able to withstand multiple drops from a standard height.

However, the more we pack delicate technology in a smaller place, the more easy it is to break it. While most people fellate companies over the hardware, it’s uncommon to see anyone appreciate the design and intentions of the design. The PSP was applauded for its higher raw power over the DS, and while it was snazzy to have in your hands, it was a delicate piece of hardware that could break down very easily. The console wasn’t meant for everybody, and much like how SEGA used to sell Mega Drive for more mature gamers, SONY’s western branches clearly had the more adult audience in mind. The PSP really couldn’t take much damage, I’ve had to fix a few. The same applies to the Vita to some extent, thought the Vita seems to be able to take a beating or two more than its elder sibling.

The Switch has been out only for a while, but it’s already showcasing very erratic behaviour. Some have it going completely mad in sound department, some consoles refuse to launch games, connection issues with the controllers, and the screen’s been scratched by the dock itself. I saw the dock scratching issue the very moment the whole thing was revealed (it had no guiding rails to keep the screen clear), but having a plastic screen is a necessity. Why wouldn’t you want to have a glass screen? They’re so much better! The reason for this is safety and durability design. See, when you have a plastic screen, the console can dissipate a fall impact by wobbling around rather move the energy directly into rigid parts, destroying them. The very reason your phone’s screen shatters so easily is because it can’t bent, and the energy from the is released by shattering. It’s a design decision between durability and looks.

To sidetrack a bit, this really applies to Muv-Luv‘s BETA as well. The Destoyer-Class has a shield hardness of Mohs-15, but because that’s hardness topping that of a diamond, their shields should shatter when shot at. They don’t flex when hit due to their hardness. Mohs scale is for mineral hardness after all and should never be applied outside jewellery.

Newly borked devices is nothing new, either. The 360 had firmware issues since day one, and the infamous Red Ring of Death haunted machines every which way. Hell, the 360 may be a good example overall how to fuck your console from time to time, as some of my friends have told me their 360 crapped out because of an update. For better or worse, my 360 hasn’t crapped out yet.

No modern console is truly finished at launch. Firmware and software issues are relevant and will be patched out at a later date. This is largely due to modern technology. A Mega Drive never needed firmware patches, because it was less a computer than the modern machines. Whatever problems with the firmware Switch has now will be patched at a later date. However, the hardware and design problems are harder to fix, and if Nintendo is anything to go by, they may revise some of the designs in later production versions.

Though there really isn’t any good excuses to use paint coating that peels off with stickers. That’s just terrible. Who puts stickers on their consoles any more? You’d be surprised.

The first wave of adopters will always have to go through the same pains with modern technology. New smart phones and tablets suffer from firmware issues to the point of most common consumers willingly buying last year’s model in order to get a properly functioning device. The price has already dropped at that point too. Apple has been infamous with some of their smart devices’ firmware problems, and sometimes they were removing basic utilities from the hardware alone. Nobody really expected iPhone 7 not to have a headphone jack.

The question some have asked whether or not it’s worth buying a game console, or any modern smart device or computer component for the matter, if they require multiple updates months later down the line? We can’t see into the future, and it’s hard to say what device will go through a harsh update cycle. Essentially, you’ll need to look into history of a company and make a decision based on that. Just trusting that a company will update broken parts is strongly not recommended.

I guess releasing things partially unfinished and patching them up is an industry standard practice. Games get patched to hell and back, and while this isn’t much new for PC side of business, it’s one of those things that show how little of classic console business is in modern consoles. Not all games get patched though, even when they have console destroying bugs in them. NIS America’s track record with localised games that supposedly lock permanently and prevent you from finishing the game, break your console or generally have terrible translation would a perfect chance to use these patches to fix these issues. However, unlike with consoles and other devices, game developers can ignore these problems as the purchase has already been made and they probably are banking on hardcore fans.

Not that any product is final when it’s released. All products are good enough when released, but that good enough has seen a serious inflation with time.