Pre-order Bonuses & Other Things I Hate About Modern Gaming
Last week I wrote about some of the things I love about modern gaming and why the current generation is unmatched. Today, with tongue firmly in cheek, I’m going to play devil’s advocate and rip it to shreds.
As I approach the end of my twenties, I have increasingly come to realise that modern things are rubbish, and gaming is no different. It was much better in the old days when Sonic wouldn’t piss on Mario if he were on fire; when the opening levels of your favourite games didn’t automatically presume you had learning difficulties and pigs would fly before your grandma would dare play a video game. Back in the Nineties, an elderly lady waving a wand at a screen would’ve been burned as a witch and Wii Sports was a golden-showered fetish, practiced in only the seediest clubs in Europe.
Here are some of the reasons why gaming has gone to piddle.
1. No Case
As much as I have enjoyed some of the downloadable classics on PSN and Live – Shatter, Flower, Battlefield 1943, Trash Panic and Rez HD are some of my favourites – I'm still not completely on-board with the digital revolution. Call me old fashioned, but I’m not comfortable paying for something which I can’t touch or hold. Although disc media is liable to degrade over the years, and after a while no amount of dust blowing is going to salvage your well-worn cartridges, I do feel more in control of the well-being of my hard-copy games than something which exists only on a hard drive, or god-forbid, some sort of magical, game saving cloud.
Whether its games, music or movies, I am forever drawn to physical copies. I don't mind buying digital where there isn’t the option to buy a hard-copy, but when given the choice I will always opt for plastic and card. I get almost as much pleasure from meticulously ordering games on my shelves as playing them, and I want the opportunity to thumb through the instruction manual, read the back of the case and try to recall what caused that mysterious stain on the inside jacket of Tomb Raider. I also love lending games to like-minded friends so that we can share and discuss the experience - much like a book club, only for illiterates. On top of this, a digital copy has little value once it has been downloaded as you cannot sell it on, if you are so inclined, and it is the death knell for things like printed artwork and instruction manuals, features we once took for granted.
2. They Don't Make Them Like They Used To
One PS3, one PSP and one Xbox 360. They are the consoles which have died on me over the course of the last three years, all just outside of warranty and all subsequently replaced with a newer model at my own expense. My PSP stopped reading UMDs and the cost of repair was almost the same as buying a replacement, so I opted for a newer model. My rarely used 360 had started to sound like a helicopter, until one day it actually tried to take-off and smoke came out the back. But it was the PS3 that was most costly, suffering a yellow light of death earlier this year, taking with it the vast majority of my saves. In their infinite wisdom, Sony designed the PS3 to wipe-clean any hard drive you insert into a new console, so simply transferring your old HDD into a new PS3 is not an option.
With the exception of these three, in twenty years of gaming I have only suffered one case of console failure, and that was a second hand Dreamcast which i'm presuming the seller rescued from a ditch. What happened to the days of dropping a Game Gear from chest height and being more worried about breaking your foot than the portable? You could probably build a decent house of Super Nintendo's and I'm certain I remember reading that the Tudors used 3DO's as millstones. The current generation of consoles just isn't as sturdy as its ugly predecessors.
3. Pre-order Bonuses
I do not need a crime-solving fedora. In no way am I going to let a free pair of in-game wellington boots, with zombie killing abilities, influence my decision as to where I pre-order a new game. Retailer specific, in-game bonuses are beyond useless and they have been rammed down my throat for the last year, thanks to constant emails from online retailers.
Are we really so fickle that we can be won-over by worthless, in-game tat? There was a time when retailers would try to differentiate themselves from the pre-order competition by offering guaranteed delivery on or before the day of release, extend a credit towards your next purchase or even knock a small amount off the RRP, but why do that when you can get away with offering a different coloured t-shirt for Cole McGrath! Please, if you are going to offer clothing as an incentive, make it real-world so I can add it to my collection of gaudy gaming t-shirts, which shall never be worn outside of the house.
The Panda Hat pre-order bonus sealed the deal
4. Play it Again Sam
Despite the opportunities offered by increasingly powerful technology, new ways to interact with games and varied platforms, innovation is increasingly taking a back-seat to incessant sequels and HD remakes, which are only remakes in the very loosest of terms. As much as I am grateful for the opportunity to play ICO and Shadow of the Colossus in HD and the chance to revisit one of my all time favourite games, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, up-scaled and trophied-up, I'd much rather play The Last Guardian and MGS Rising at some point before I die.
More than ever, publishers are combing their back catalogues to make a low maintenance killing. E3 was full of remakes, with Nintendo being the main culprit, and it appeared to be to the detriment of new, innovative games. I have no problem with classics like Ocarina of Time and the MGS series receiving a new lick of paint, but you have to wonder when lesser games are suddenly getting the "vintage" treatment. Aside from the remakes, in a year when many of the biggest and most anticipated games have a "3" in their name (Uncharted, Modern Warfare, Resistance, Battlefield.....), you start to wonder where the next generation of Metal Gears and Zeldas are going to come from.
5. Unfinished Business
I will keep this short and spiteful, as I have touched on this before. How is it that in an age where games are easily patched, AAA titles can continue to be broken months and even years after first being released. Broken games are nothing new, but the readily available methods of fixing them are and should ensure a relatively hassle free experience after the first couple of months.
I recently bought Battlefield: Bad Company 2, about a year and a half removed from its big release, and really enjoyed the single player campaign. I had one eye on the celebrated multiplayer throughout, intending on sinking much time into it once the story was over and perhaps even buying some of the impressive DLC. As good as the multiplayer may be, it is plagued with issues that have caused my stats and upgrades to be lost between sessions, so i'm constantly starting from zero each time I play. On top of this, in the most basic of cock-ups, the results screen shown at the closing of each match almost always confuses the winners and losers. Fuck knows how issues such as these have survived countless patches. Don't even get me started on the disgrace that is NBA2K11, which quickly changed from one of my favourite games to one of my most despised, thanks to the most recent and final patch which renders my copy completely unplayable.
6. Gamers Have a Voice, But Sometimes I Wish They Didn't
Last week I talked about the advantages of being able to connect with other gamers from all over the world via online gaming, blogs or other social media and how exciting and invigorating it is. What utter bollocks. A quick session on any online multiplayer, in particular an FPS, will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that not everyone deserves a voice. In fact, many gamers deserve to be beaten to death with their microphone - something which i'm hoping will be Kinect-enabled by 2013. Mute buttons alleviate some of these problems, but there is always some c*nt who joins late and proceeds to unintelligently berate every other player with a mix of (incorrectly used) obscenities and their abhorrent views. Then there are the special people who enjoy playing with a microphone, even though they have no intention of saying anything, just so you can listen to their dog bark and share in their crappy collection of Nelly CDs.
Blogs and social media are magnets for these village idiots as they attempt ot share their top eleven sexiest ladies in gaming, usually spread across one paragraph of 1000 words, without a single full-stop. The imbecilles are taking over, and its not doing gaming any favours.