In Real Life

Video Games And The Age Of Inconvenience

When I was young I used to wait for video games to load. I would press play on a cassette player. My computer would emit bleeps and I would wait. I would look at expensive attachments in magazines. Disk drives that reduced loading times to 30 seconds. I would paw at the pages of the magazine with an uncontainable tech-lust.

“Mum, I neeeed this.”

But by the time I was 11 years old the idea that I had to wait for a video game to load had already become an absurdity. My Super Nintendo games loaded as quickly as I could clunk-click them into the cartridge slot.

Fast forward to May 22, 3am. I sit and watch as a man flips effortlessly between games, music and television — a thing I’ve been doing since I discovered the ‘AV’ button on my TV remote control. I watch as he waits for applause and then, miraculously, receives it.

This is progress. This is entertainment’s Brave New World. Doing the same thing you did before, more clumsily, less precisely than you did it before. Because it’s fancy.

Because we can I suppose.

————

We live in the age of inconvenience. Technology is supposed to make things simpler but the way we access our video games is becoming increasingly complex.

The aftermath of the Xbox One press conference played out like a bad Monty Python sketch. No-one would discuss how the Xbox One dealt with used games, or friends lending games to others. Then they did talk, which made things worse.

Dozens of contradictory statements from multiple different sources; official twitter accounts contradicted the contradictions. Soon there were a hundred different versions of the same rumour chasing each other across the internet tubes like some fucked-up post-modern version of the end credits from the Benny Hill show.

At this stage very little can be derived from that circus of misinformation, but we can be sure of one thing: whatever solution Microsoft has, whether it’s ethically sound or not, will not be simple. It will be complicated. The fact that not one executive was able to explain how used games will work in a single, bullshit free sentence is testament to that fact. The solution will be difficult. It will be clumsy. It will be inconvenient.

When did the act of buying and playing video games become such a bloated, inconvenient process, how did we get to this point?

Everyone’s at it. Video games should be more accessible than ever. This is the end goal of every company looking to grow its audience but first parties seem intent on creating a terrifying amount of needless obstacles. We used to clunk-click cartridges easily into slots, nowadays the act of downloading and installing a video game can seem paralysingly difficult.

Last weekend I had it in mind to download Super Metroid for my Wii U. It took me over an hour to achieve this simple task. My Wii U lost my stable net connection five times whilst downloading a massive, mandatory update. And then, worryingly, the connection dropped out during payment. Then, hilariously, it dropped out again as I tried to download the game.

The whole process took me an hour. I’m going to go ahead and guess that Joe Blow consumer would have given up after 10 minutes. And with good reason.

When did the act of buying and playing video games become such a bloated, inconvenient process, how did we get to this point?

————

I am 32 years old. I play video games. I’m passionate about them. I am willing to undergo severe levels of stress to purchase and then play video games. I stare at the PlayStation Vita gathering dust on my bedside table and I’m a little afraid.

There’s a game I want to download and play on my Vita but I don’t know where to start.

I don’t want to buy the same game twice, but I’ve forgotten the log-in details to the PSN account on my PS3. Sure I can get the password, but the account is tied to an old work email account that I can no longer access.

Then there’s the storage issue. The memory card that came with the PS Vita is extremely small. Mandatory installs for games I’ve already played on the device means I have very little space available. Even if I was able to log into my PSN account, I probably wouldn’t have enough storage left to download the game I paid for.

Then there are the updates. There’s bound to be updates. And everyone knows how painful it is to download updates on a Sony device.

How long will this all take? Is it really worth it?

Technology is supposed to make things easier, more accessible, but Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft have missed the memo.

You can switch between TV, video games and music. 20 years have passed since I clunk-clicked a cartridge into my Super Nintendo. This is the endgame.

I am 32 years old. I consider myself pretty tech savvy. But I leave my bedroom. My PlayStation Vita continues to gather dust. Too much hassle.


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