The internet has bought many great things to the world of gaming. Today we can play online with people all over the world, we can use downloaded mods to enhance our titles, and we can even turn to google for help should we get a little lost. However, there are many moments in my day to day life when I wish the internet and video games had never crossed paths. You may think that sounds crazy, but let me explain.
If you’re not the type to snap up a title on its release date, there’s a good chance you will already know all of the major plot points, story twists or ending of a game before you press start. Most of the time you don’t even have to go looking for spoilers to stumble upon them, because we are all curious, google-crazed creatures. Without fail, you will wind up on a video, forum, or social media site where someone blurts out the dramatic twist in a few short words, and once you’ve read it, it can never be undone. Guess who dies in The Walking Dead, spoilers, everyone.
Once upon a time, gaming was a very contained media. You’d head down to your local store, pick a title, take it home and play it. The most you’d find out about the game would probably be from the back of the box, a review in a magazine, or maybe, if it was a particularly big title, an advert on TV. Apart from that you would find out very little about what adventures awaited you, unless you had a particularly annoying friend who got the game before you.
Games are so much more immersive when you don’t know what’s going to happen next. It’s the story-telling that keeps us gripped and looking forward, and knowing that guy over there is about to double-cross you just ruins all the fun. Many games from my childhood genuinely shocked me by how they turned out. Can you imagine playing FFVII for the first time, already knowing what was going to happen to Aerith? Nowadays it’s very rare for me to be able to go into a game blind, unless I go out of my way to avoid anything that could be even remotely related to the game in question. It’s not easy.
Thanks to the power of super-fast broadband and fibre optic, developers can keep updating their games long after you’ve plucked them off a shelf. While this is fantastic for fixing glitches or other problems, here’s the real issue; games shouldn’t be broken anyway.
Today it seems to be a standard that if you buy a game on release it will have some form of problem thrown in with it. There may be a collision issue which means you fall through the ground and get stuck. There may be a gameplay bug which means your quest won’t complete. There will always be something there, and whatever problem you stumble into, you will inevitably have to reload the game, lose your last two hours of progress, and have to live in fear that it will happen again. I’m not saying this never happened back in the days before patching, but in my experience it was far less common.
These little problems crop up time and time again, and while games are admittedly getting bigger and more complex than they were 20 years ago, surely more thorough checking should be done before the games go to release. Publishers shouldn’t be so eager to push for a release that a few problems are okay because they can patch it. All the problems should be addressed from the start. To make matters worse, not everyone who games also has the luxury of an internet connection, which means that they simply have a broken product.
Whenever you pick up a game, you can be sure that within a couple of weeks some new content will be available to extend its lifespan. It may be a new map, weapon upgrade, outfit, or a whole chunk of story, but it will always be there. I honestly can’t remember the last game I played on a console that didn’t have a tonne of extra content available, and even handheld DLC is on the rise.
Gone are the days when an expansion pack meant an entirely new and genuinely enriching experience. Now they are usually just tiny and honestly insignificant additions, which take a few pounds from you when they are really worth a few pence. While some developers do still make complete expansions more worthy of your time and money, they are few and far between.
It has even got to the point where many games feel lacking the first time around. Once upon a time those extra weapons or maps would probably have been unlocked through normal gameplay means or a cheat code that your friend’s friend’s older brother read in a magazine and passed around. Now it feels as though publishers are just holding content back to keep you in their grasp, making us lay down more hard-earned cash to get the complete package. Foolishly we go along with it, but if it wasn’t for the internet, we would have never got ourselves into this mess in the first place.
The internet has always been a hub for those with a bitter spirit and sharp tongue, hiding behind a computer screen and spouting on about how much they hate the world. It is far from new or shocking anymore. However, amongst the gaming community, it is often taken to new, extreme levels.
Immense wars rage across forums between PS4 and Xbox One enthusiasts. Online multiplayer is chock-full of people who are more than happy to insult you in 100 different accents and languages. Women as a whole are constantly under fire, while extreme, disturbing cases such as Anita Sarkeesian’s are not as uncommon as you may think.
Before the internet, there was hate, of course there was. Back in the Sega Vs Nintendo days, people would bicker and take sides. Those who had an interest in games would sometimes get picked on if it wasn’t cool at the time. However, it was never to such a huge extent as it is now. Even I readily avoid Xbox Live because it’s simply easier to stay away than subject myself to the slew of unpleasant messages I get. The world is already rife with hate, and it isn’t welcome while I’m minding my own business, shooting alien monsters.
For all these reasons and more, I long for the days when buying a game meant playing it for me, not for everyone else with an internet connection. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all just switch off for a little while and play a game in our own time, by our own rules, and with no interference?
Oh, DRM required. Thanks, internet.