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Blocking Used Games

re: http://www.gamespot.com/news/next-playstation-to-lock-out-used-games-report-6368582

Looking through the comments, it's funny so many people refuse to believe the console makers want to restrict used games. This is Capitalism, folks. Console makers make their money on the games, not the consoles - it's a razor and blades scenario. If they see they can make more money by eliminating the used game market then that's what they're going to do. Of course the game developers and publishers are all behind the move as well.

The companies that sell or rent used games won't like this, but what are they going to do? What happens to used game sellers doesn't even enter into the picture for the console makers and publishers. The number of game sales lost to the rental companies must be fewer than the increased number of new game sales they expect to make to the public. Competition and market changes put companies out of business every day. Capitalism.

MS and Sony (and no doubt Nintendo, sooner or later) know many people will not like what they're doing. They also know very few of those people will actually nut up and take the drastic step of removing themselves from the current game market. Capitalism and Demand Economics.

This is just the opening salvo, anyway. Eventually everything is going to be digital - which de-facto eliminates used games and allows publishers and console makers to control game rentals. As I've said before, PC gamers have been living with this for years. Welcome to 2012, console gamers.

SOPA Thoughts

I don't think this bill should be passed because what it aims to stop, stealing of copyrighted material,is ALREADY ILLEGAL. All we need to do is enforce the current laws. But that kind of grandstanding is nothing new where politicians are involved.

That said, in the interest of appyling some critical thinking, isn't there an element of misleading hysteria in the fears of what the law would potentially do? This is aimed primarily at sites that make copyrighted material available for free download - i.e. blatant pirating sites. Game companies don't complain about video replays, walkthroughs, machinima and other uses of their IP because it's FREE PUBLICITY, which improves their sales. They're not going to complain about these things just because this act is law. No complaint by them = no site shutdown.

Also, along the lines of my original comment here, copyright owners can complain to YouTube etc. and have the offending material removed under current law. We don't need anything new.

The Digital Flea Market

Gamespot recently posted an article about Valve and others speculating on the prospects for trading, buying and selling digital copies of games by consumers. (http://www.gamespot.com/news/6331098/valve-on-steam-game-trade-ins?tag=updates%3Beditor%3Ball%3Btitle%3B4) Here are my off-the-cuff thoughts.

First off, you're going to be limited as to whom you can trade your game and where you can buy or sell your digital games. Now that Valve has proved it works, all the big publishers are going to set up their own digital delivery serivces - and not just for PC games. We've already seen EA pull their games off Steam so they can sell them themselves on Origin and not pay a cut to Valve. I'm pretty sure we'll never see games traded or sold between different publishers' services. Incidentally, all these seperate services will be a confusing nightmare for the consumer, but that's another rant.

As for selling your game back to the source from which you bought it: If you sell your game back to a publisher run source, are they going to sell that same license to someone else and consider it "used" and thus charge less than they're charging for a "new" copy? No. I can't see where a "used" copy of something digital is worth less than the "new" one. Hence, I don't see any incentive for the publisher to buy back a digital copy of a game. It doesn't happen with music or movies, it won't happen with games.

("Yeaaah... HENCE!")

For that matter, I'm honestly having trouble seeing why a publisher would want to help consumers buy and sell digital games among themselves. Maybe they get a cut of the transaction price, but I'm betting they get more when they sell it "new" the first time. I'm sure there's a reason we don't see the Apple Store or Napster selling music on consignment. Also, publishers and developers hate Gamestop and the resale of physical games because it cuts into new game sales, and they want them to go away. They're not about to promote resale in the digital realm.

And I still see a market for GameStop to buy and sell used physical games as long as publishers keep selling physical copies - but thatis not by any means a given. Personally I think all media will eventually be distributed soley in digital form.

Immaturity in Gaming

I recently read the editorial in the August issue of GameInformer by Andy McNamara in which he decries the immaturity of gamers in online play. (http://www.gameinformer.com/blogs/editors/b/giandy_blog1/archive/2011/07/12/lfte-the-highest-court-aug-11.aspx). To quote: "far too often gamers use online gaming as a way to insult people on a personal level regarding their race, their sexual orientation, or even something as simple as how they speak. It doesn't just happen occasionally in passing. It is a relentless assault on good taste in game ­after­ game." I wholeheartedly agree. And it doesn't just happen while actually gaming, it happens on message boards, comment sections and anywhere else one can anonymously say whatever one wants. Granted, it's a widespread Internet problem, but in my experience it's worst on YouTube and sites that have anything to do with gaming. He closes his editorial with the observation that "this childish behavior will always be the black eye that keeps the rest of the world from respecting the medium"

I would take what he says a step further and point out that childish themes, subjects and influences in game design hold back gaming from getting the respect it deserves. Specifically, I would say, as long as games are focused on violence and the depiction of women mainly for sexual stimulation -things thatappeal mainly to young men - our hobby is not going to achieve the level of widespread appeal that other media have. I've heard it said that the game development industry is infused with immature man-boys who design games based on what appeals to them, at the expense of true growth and genuine mature content. (Need I say I'm not talking about porn here...?)

Looking at the top 20 bestselling XBox games according to Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/videogames/14220271/ref=zg_bs_nav), 10 have shooting, punching and/or stabbing enemies to death at the core of their gameplay. Of the rest, two are (US) football games, which are arguably based on violence and appeal to the same audience as the shooters; two are Catherine, which (if you ignore some signs of mysogyny) is a step in the right direction, but still has extended segments of violent gameplay; one is Portal, in which you don't shoot things too much but you get shot at and die a lot; 3 are not games but purchase points cards and Kinect hardware. That leaves two games that might appeal to someone who isn't interested in violence - Dance Central and Kinect Sports. Fully 88% (15/17) of the bestselling games according to Amazon.com feature violence as a, if not the, main feature.

The problem appears to be getting worse as time goes on and consoles and the PC have developed their capability to display blood and guts more realistically. The games on the DS are lower resolution so we get more Professort Layton and less Call of Duty. My ownexperience with PC games in years gone by was not so focused on violence, even if you count strategy games and military flight sims as violence, which you are free to do. There used to be a lot more of the likes of Monkey Island, Sim-* games, Rollercoaster Tycoon and Myst.

To add to the issue, we have games that (successfully!?!) attempt to attract an audience specifically through the morbid appeal of grotesquery. Mortal Combat is just another figthing game franchise. What sets it apart, by the developers own admission, are the over-the-top, sadistic "Fatalities" now gloriously rendered in full HD so you can see innards, and windpipes of the recently dismembered and decapitated. We have marketers trying to appeal to God knows who (alright, we do know, actually...) by positioning their product as something your mom will hate. And most disturbingly, we have the developers of Duke Nukem who don't have sense enough to know depicting women as naked alien sex slaves in bondage, for whom the only release is death at the hands of the player, is a little offensive to most people, even if it's supposed to be tongue in cheek.

As long as the gaming industry is in the hands of and supported by immature males this trend will only get worse. I know we can do better. The best thing we can do is continue to point out the problem, stop buying the same old product and support developers who make great games by trying to do something different. This is not to say there is no place for violent games, any more than there is no place for violent movies, but it shouldn't be 88% of everything that's available.

Foreign Cinema

I've decided that I hate the way game developers are pushing "cinematic presentation." I don't know why the games industry feels the need to mimic an older media in order to provide visual appeal that is, in my opinion, ultimately unfulfilling and doesn't play to the unique strengths of games.


The entertainment business has always tended toward the unoriginal, mimicry and cashing in. As games become big business, big business people who don't necessarily know or even care about gaming get some degree of control over the basic game design decisions and especially over marketing decisions. Shortsighted MBA's know movies are highly visually appealing, they know games are partly a visual experience. So they put two and two together and get three.


So what's wrong with the cinematic experience? In short, it's not the gaming experience.


The first negative is the the specific namesake for our general problem, the cinematic. Whether it be an extended segment of story exposition or a few seconds of your character falling through the floor at a predetermined location. When you're sitting in front of your video screen holding an unresponsive controller waiting for the game to let you start playing again you're losing immersion. You're no longer a part of things, you're an outside observer.


Second, we see games with set-piece situations that are designed with the emphasis on looking cool rather than on gameplay. You're either shooting non-stop at a giant monster or you're running/driving/boating as fast as possible through some sort of over-the-top mayhem. The Modern Warfare 3 trailer from Microsoft's 2011 E3 press conference is a prime example. (http://e3.gamespot.com/press-conference/microsoft-e3/?tag=masthead%3Be32011%3Bvideo%3Bmicrosoft) If the gameplay that follows these spectacular shows isn't first rate, it can start to feel like the actual gaming parts (you know, the part that really matters...) are a letdown. In light of this we see game developers making shorter and shorter games because they're focusing resources on shock and awe filled set-pieces instead of good gameplay, level design, stories and characters. Because unfortunately, in the end, it's easier.


Last and least is the idea that we're playing the game through the lens of a camera. I would like to meet the individual who first decided to call the point of view for a game "the camera" and tell him he's a moron. I would then like to meet the individual who took this idea to it's logical conclusion and decided to make "the camera" look and act like an actual camera. I would like to take that person's picture with a real-life soul stealing camera as fitting revenge for what he did to games. If I'm supposed to be seeing the game world through my own eyes, why the hell am I seeing lense flare, halation, lens distortion, vignetting, sepia tones, motion blur or any number of things that are not shortcomings of my biological eyes? If I'm playing a game set in the medieval era hundreds of years before cameras were even an inkling of an idea, why am I seeing lens flare, ... you get the drift.


So what to do about this? The answer is obvious but it's also difficult. First off, lose the jealous little sister to Hollywood mentality. Games are still maturing and they will certainly go beyond movies. The unique strength of games is their interactivity. Put the player in the world and let him affect it, not just watch it.


I've been gaming for a long time and the push toward cinematic visuals is a recent trend. Games were developing to their own strengths before its introduction, so the first step would be to get back to basics and move forward from there. Games were fun even before the whole "cinematic" thing was introduced. There are some good things to keep, to be sure, but not at the expense of gameplay and immersion.