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Tough Love

I've always been an outspoken advocate for this hobby. God help the person who blamed society's ills on gaming within my earshot. The person who blames games for everything and sees them as a corruptible influence on kids found no friend or safe quarters with me. I defended the hobby because I knew I was right. I know that in my gut. In my heart. But I also defended it because I loved it. I loved it for all the reasons anyone loves anything. I loved it for all the times it transported me from my boring, mundane (sometimes painful) world to another that I could've only dreamed of taking part in. I loved it because as I grew, it grew with me -- like any great love does. From days as a wide-eyed kid with my Atari, to adoloscence with my Nintendo consoles, to Adulthood  and Sony, the industry aged with me and yet still somehow remained relevant. Over the last few years, however, a dark spot has formed on my love for the hobby, and I fear it will turn malignant if it isn't cut out. 

It's not the games themselves -- I still love sitting down with a game just as much as I did back when I first stuck Defender in my 2600. And I think by and large game developers are just as creative and amazing as they've ever been. I don't think I could ever stop loving this hobby, as I have loved it longer than any other thing in my life. I hear musicians talk about how music made them feel the first time they heard their favorite band, and that's how gaming makes me feel. I hear people talk about the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction they get from climbing a difficult mountain or getting an A in Calculus, and that's how I feel about gaming. Of the problems I am about to speak, love and admiration for the hobby aren't among them. 

However, you can still love something and not like what it's doing. That sums up very much how I feel about where things are going. I see developers shutting doors even after making a game that sells a million copies. Back in the day, they would have been heroes of industry. I hear publishers mentioniong that a game has failed to meet expectations after it sells nearly three and a half million copies in a month, and I wonder who these people are and where they got their expectations from. I see publishers abusing the loyalty of gamers by asking them to buy unreleased, unaccounted for content for nearly half the cost of the game itself, even before it has been released. I have watched the two main players in the industry make proclamations of "10 Year Cycles" all the while refusing to lower the price of overpriced, ancient hardware that is only months away from being replaced. And I have also watched the industry attempt to explain away the sales numbers that have fallen each month for hardware and software. Whether due to bluster or plain self-delusion, they believe that they don't have a problem.

But they do. They really do. 

New rumors of consoles requiring that there be a constant internet connection have surfaced and not been squashed. The insistence on pairing the precision control of a controller with an imprecise motion control mechanism looks set to continue. A recent interview with DICE revealed that one of the companies (Microsoft I would presume) has been trying to bribe them to include Kinect controls in their games. What better illustration of a problem is there than a company trying (and feeling compelled) to bribe game developers to include support for a device that just doesn't work? Sales numbers are going down because the companies have kept the prices so high that the $129 market (which is quite large, by the way) has never turned up to support this generation. Further, people like myself have found their love for the hobby tested by all the microtransactions and season pass asshattery. Can anyone make a compelling case for why you should buy a game on launch day anymore when you can wait a couple of months and pay one third the price and get a bunch of additional content? I tried, and I couldn't. If you can, enlighten me. I'd love to hear it.

Which brings me to the crux of this post: the industry has done the impossible. It has found the place where my disdain for how it is being run has exceeded my love of it, and the last thing I can do -- the only thing I can do to show it how much I love it is to stop supporting its bad habits. My love is about to grow tough. Where it was once unconditional, it will now be very conditional. The relationship is about to become very lopsided in my favor for a change, and brother, that's going to feel pretty good. I have realized that I am strong and that this hobby needs me more than I need it. I purchased over two hundred retail titles this generation, and roughly half that number of downloadable games. Believe you me, I hold the cookies in this relationship, and if I don't start seeing more respect, that money is going to go elsewhere. 

So from now on, I will abide by this simple set of rules:

I will no longer buy games at launch unless the publisher publicly and openly states that there will be no plans for Day One DLC and/or Season Passes. If a game includes those items, I will wait until it is either bargain bin priced ($15 or less sounds about right) where I can buy the extra content for less than the amount they would have gotten from me initially, or until a "Game of the Year" version gets released at a discounted price and with all the additional content. 

I will no longer support any system that emphasizes motion controls. I believe the Wii was a cancer on this hobby largely because it flagrantly disregarded the fact that controls are the single most important aspect to a game. I believe Microsoft has, sadly, gone in the same direction. There is a lot of money in pocket and I want to spend it -- all you have to do is give me what I want. The first and best way to be guaranteed not to get it? By shoving a control mechanism on me that doesn't work.

I will not support any company that demands I connect to the internet to use their device. I am the master of my time. I will be goddamned if anyone is going to tell me how to use it, especially a device that I've paid hundreds of dollars for. 

I will not support any company that implements measures to block used games or intends to tie software to one console. I think it's safe to see why this is such a bad idea after a generation where the North American industry leader had a failure rate of double digits. But it's not just that -- it again goes back to trying to tell me how I can use a device I bought legally. If I want to loan a game to a friend or family member (or conversely, borrow one of theirs), then I should be free to do that. Other industries do just fine with used markets existing, and in many ways, view that as a means of gaining a lifetime customer. Gaming can too. 

I will buy the machine that least resembles a media center and most resembles a game console. This should be self-explanatory, but I don't need Netflix on my console. I have a myriad of other devices for that. And think about that for a minute -- why would a game console manufacturer include all kinds of options that encourage the player to not buy and play games? I want a game console, because that will be the developer's console. 

In closing, I'm not doing this to be a prick. I'm not doing it to make a point. I'm doing it out of love. I feel I owe it to this hobby to not take part in a lot of the dark habits it has taken up. If my money goes towards the good side of gaming (and perhaps other like-minded people too), then perhaps it's not too late to save it. And if it is, at least I can say that I tried. I am afraid of where things are headed. The dark signs are everywhere. Something has to change. We have to go back to the basics of what worked, and let history be our guide.