Taking a look at the gaming industry today, you couldn't say that there was ever a time that it was bigger; at least demographically. In many ways, it's a good thing that gaming is as big as it is today. There is still a stigma about it, but it carries far less weight than it used to. Many differing themes and styles exist, all coming from new minds with new ideas and new ways of improving on the old.
Why then am I reminded of Rome, the Later Han Dynasty, or indeed any Empire that's grown fat and large? It is, after all, a well known concept that something can get too big for its own good.
I've been gaming for about 25 years now and today I saw a picture that sparked a memory inside me. A memory that got me to thinking about gaming today and how all the good that has come with its current size has also come with a lot of bad.
This was the picture, a typical "meme" pic that I'm sure everyone has seen.
When I saw that picture, the first thought that came to my mind was "I actually kinda miss that feeling."
That image hearkened back to a much simpler time of gaming. That feeling of waking up as a kid on the weekend, putting the tv to channel 3 and playing some NES or SNES games for as long as I could. The child like excitement of a brand new game, the punishment dished out from those games, and the simple nature of putting in a cartridge, turning the console on, and just playing.
I do miss that feeling.
Today, there is still excitement but it's not exactly the same.
There's also all the problems and complexities surrounding gaming, and if I really had a chance to sit all the publishers and developers (and in some cases journalists) down and talk to them as a gamer, this is just some of what I would say.
Console Wars: Don't pretend like you don't perpetuate and foster this kind of "competition" and "animosity." It's human nature to want to compete and have something subjectively "better" than your peers and you know this. Don't treat us like fools telling us that the very "war" you help to keep going should stop and all the "online hate" needs to end. You say this with one breath, and in the next you're putting out tabloid style articles, rumours, and comparisons that are meant to make us duke it out in every arena we can because you want word of mouth to sell your product for you.
You attempt to play on the ignorance of the newly initiated and divert attention away from being excited for an actual game, to being excited for the graphics in that game, or some other minutia. Everyone is responsible for their own actions and words, but don't act like you don't egg the whole situation on.
Corporations vs Consumers: Back in the "good ol' days", all a game publisher did was fund game development, market the game, and release it. Marketing was as simple as some tv ads, magazine ads, flyers, and word of mouth. Sure, getting the latest news about games wasn't always easy, but the relationship between publisher/developer and gamers was a simple one.
Today we have DLC, Microtransactions, DRM, conferences filled with secret showings, secrets, all manner of unnecessary complications that merely increase tensions between gamers and those who provide us with games.
Do you want to know why gamers get upset over on-disc DLC, day one DLC, Microtransactions, and DRM against used games? The answer is simple and twofold.
First of all, the ones most upset by these things are the gamers who've been doing it for a long time and know where gaming has come from and what it used to offer. We know that it was never an option to pay money for a color palette swap of a character. We know that it was never necessary to allow people to buy their way to victory, and we know the kind of friendships or exposure to new experiences we could get with trading or buying used games.
The second reason should be obvious. In a world where some of the greatest economies are trillions of dollars in debt, where the cost of living outpaces the living wage earned, where the cost of products either goes up every year or remains the same but gives you less, we are all trying to save as much money as we can just so that we can get by day to day.
When you give us day one or on-disc DLC, you're telling us that you didn't want to finish the game. That you took out content just to try to bilk us out of more of our money which we worked hard to get, most of us hating the job we have but doing it because we have to. When you put microtransactions in the game, you're sending the message that what's more important to you isn't that people enjoy your game the way you designed it, but that people can buy their victory in the game. When you try to lock us out of being able to trade games with our friends, or pay for a pre-played game, you're telling everyone that you think you deserve the full price paid to you multiple times for one copy of the game.
For those of us growing up with cheat codes that unlocked secret characters, button presses that changed the colour of our favourite Street Fighter's outfit, or in game challenges that unlocked hidden levels that we didn't have to pay for; none of the aforementioned cash grabs sits well with us. It seems that developers were willing to offer more 20 years ago than they are now.
Development and its costs: Some of you bigger publishers just need to be stopped. Your business models are unsustainable and needlessly bloated. AAA game development doesn't HAVE to cost 50 to 100 million dollars. Though you'll see a lot of graphics nuts on the internet, I'm pretty confident in saying that most of us remember games that play amazingly or have fantastic stories/characters more than games that sell themselves on how good they look. Give us an experience instead of a showpiece and most of us won't care about how many pixels appear at what speed on the screen.
There is so much more I could go into, but this blog is already long enough. I haven't touched on things like "make the games you want to make, but stop telling gamers what we like and don't like" or "stop releasing unfinished games with the intent of patching it later and then making excuses" and "stop releasing the same game later on and trying to charge full price" and countless others.
Some are going to come in here and say "if you want gaming to be the way it was, then go play Super Mario Bros. on a NES or NES emulator" and then go on about progress. To that I say "you shouldn't defend companies trying to gouge you, rip content from games to sell to you later, and call you a criminal all in the name of progress and better looking games."
Today, gaming is an industry worth billions. Hundreds of millions of people game of all walks of life, all genders, age ranges, and cultures. In many ways this has been good for gaming. More money means more ability to create new and unique experiences. But sometimes I think back and just wish that for one day, gaming could go back to that moment where you'd put your tv on channel 3, pop in your game, and know that you were getting everything out of that game.
I don't think I'm the only one.