Realisations of Life Without PSN

Kaz Hirai has spoken, and PSN services are due to resume this week. The extent of the theft of personal details is still not clear, as rumours persist of vast lists containing the credit card info of PSN users being shopped by unsavoury characters. Sony has taken responsibility for the breach, admitting the gravity of the situation and the fact that card details of up to ten million users may have been compromised.

I’m baffled as to why it took the Sony big-wigs this long to come forward and make a public apology and a definitive statement, and it would seem a number of investigative bodies and governments are asking questions of Sony. For the time being, Sony are dangling a welcome back program to help combat customer vitriol, including 30 days of their premium service, PSN+ , free as well as some yet-to-be-named downloadable content (The Little Mermaid and Mahjong, anyone?).

Grizzly details aside, the last fortnight sans PSN has taught me a great deal about not just Sony, but also myself. Here are some of my realisations, in list format, with a couple of pictures.

1. I rely on PSN for social updates

PSN is an effortless way of keeping tabs on friends half way across the world. With the majority of my friends residing in Japan, I have come to rely upon the brief titbits of information that PSN provides as a hassle free and low maintenance way of staying in touch, in the loosest, most anti-social way possible. It’s like a shit Facebook for people who are loath to make an effort.

You’d be surprised what you can deduce from peoples playing habits. If friends have been absent from PSN for an extended period, then I figure that either their internet connection is down or they are trapped in a cabinet.  I’m also a nosey bastard when it comes to gaming, as I love perusing other people’s trophies and seeing what my friends are playing. It’s not creepy in the slightest when I start a telephone conversation with a friend I haven’t seen in months with - "I see you’ve been playing a lot of FIFA recently".

2. Online connectivity is integral to console gaming

In light of the events of the last fortnight, there has been lively debate as to whether PSN is part of the PS3 experience and something we are owed, or if it is a luxury, and something that we are fortunate, but not guaranteed, to have. For the most part, these debates have quickly descended into childish name calling and console fanboyism of the worst kind.  I can appreciate the argument that PSN, with the exception of PSN+, is a free service and is not guaranteed. However, when you buy a PS3, Sony’s network is held front and centre as a benefit, and a vital component, of the PlayStation experience – a (relatively) unique selling point which differentiates it from the competition.

It is clear that in this day and age, online connectivity is a must and no console could possibly hope to get by without it, as it is now an integral part of most new games.  If not through their multiplayer components, the network is likely to be utilized through one-time use redeemable codes (used to encourage the consumer to buy new, not used) as well as online accounts separate from Sony, as used by EA. When games come with content that cannot be accessed without redeeming a code – like the Betrayal of Jimmy DLC which came with my copy of Mafia II, which I have been unable to access – it is clear that the network is a necessary part of the PS3 experience, being so deeply intertwined with the games it supports. PS3 just isn’t the same without PSN, and without its (free) presence Sony may have struggled to keep up with the competition.

3. I’m not entirely over my infatuation with trophies

Something dawned on me a few days back. If, god-forbid, my credit card details have been compromised, my insurance should cover the losses. However, if my trophies fail to sync when online services resume, then they are lost forever. Ploughing through Mafia II on a quest for platinumization, a game which I have been playing throughout the entirety of the PSN disaster, I became deeply concerned with the possibility of losing my hard earned shinys.

Clearly, my priorities were somewhat askew. Fortunately, Sony has confirmed that all trophies, friend lists etc. will return in-tact and any new trophies will sync once the network returns. It would seem that I haven’t moved beyond my fascination with trophies just yet, though time limitations and a lack of motivation have lessened my desire to platinumate the games I play. However, I still peruse the trophy list of each new game before getting underway, weighing my options and deciding if the platinum looks achievable and fun. Although it no longer bothers me if I’m only at 12% progress on NBA2K11, I still thoroughly enjoy collecting trophies, and this downtime was a gentle reminder of the part they play in the enjoyment of my games.

I don’t care if I’m running out of oxygen. I’m not getting back in that bloody buggy

4. That Mass Effect 2 was a huge improvement on the first game

Mass Effect 2 was my favourite game of 2010 (it was a toss-up with Red Dead Redemption), but up until two weeks ago I had not played the first game. With all the Sony mess, and not having much I wanted to play on my favoured console, I thought it would be the ideal time to give Mass Effect a spin. I gave-up five hours in, disappointed that neither the characters nor story were anywhere near as engaging as the superior sequel, as I found myself bumbling through combat and lengthy dialogue with disinterest.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was the planet roving, moon buggy sections. I couldn’t face the prospect of bouncing over another mountain peak, being attacked by another over-sized worm or looking for scrap. I’m sure I would have enjoyed it, had I persevered, but it did little to grab my attention in those first few vital hours.

Staying with the 360, I finally played Portal and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was great to play something a bit different; though I think the charm would wear a little thin if I were to jump straight into the sequel.  At least some good came of the PSN fiasco.

5. I’m more competitive than I thought

Smack bang in the middle of a recent gaming funk, without anything new to play, I decided to scroll through my old PSN downloads for some quick thrills. Predictably, I only got as far as Shatter, my favourite PSN title which I still enjoy as much as the first time I played it, almost two years ago. Go here for an explanation as to why I love Shatter so much.

I got all the way to the main menu before I realised that, with the network down, any new high scores would not be uploaded to the leader-boards, to be measured against the achievements of friends. Realising the pointlessness of it all, I quickly pulled the plug and challenged an old lady to an arm wrestle instead.


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