The Best Things About Playing Video Games In Australia

In which I attempt to do the impossible: find the positives in playing video games in a country with a broken classification system, overly expensive games, digital rorts, and truly terrible internet.

But it’s not all bad and we all know it. Australia is a great place to live and occasionally – just occasionally – that extends to playing video games. Yes, believe it or not, there are some real positives to playing video games in Australia.

Point one…


Things Are Getting Better All The Time

Lock your cynicism in a box for a second: things really are getting better.

Take classification for example. Slowly but surely change is on the horizon. It only took us 10 years, but Australia finally received its R18+ rating and, contrary to the opinions of some, that did have a positive impact. For one, it made our classification scheme more effective for parents, which was one of the driving forces for change to begin with. Secondly, certain games that I – personally – believe might have missed the cut under previous guidelines, miraculously made it through unscathed in 2014. The one that sits front of mind in this regard is The Last Of Us.

In addition, Australia’s other major issue – game pricing – is slowly resolving itself to an extent, with local retailers cutting each other’s feet off in an attempt to stay competitive with the Big Ws of the world. This could be a race to the bottom and consequences may be dire in the long term, but from a consumer perspective, right this second, it’s a good thing.

And we’ve got more choice than ever. I think that’s key here. If you don’t want to buy games at retail you don’t have to. There are other options and, for now, they’re cheaper.


Our Online Situation Is Also Improving

Ye olde issue of the ‘tyranny of distance’ is always going to rear its ugly head for Australians. Latency will be a problem for the foreseeable future, but it seems like far less of a big deal these days, thanks to some smart engineering solutions on the part of publishers and developers, in addition to a renewed commitment from some to create dedicated servers. Most recently and notably we’ve seen games like Diablo III and Titanfall get the local server treatment. In Titanfall’s case it transformed an experience from a complete damp squib to the slick, rewarding fresh take on the online FPS it was always designed to be.

Of course there are still problems, but I choose to believe that solutions are on the way and, in some cases, already exist. That’s a positive thing.


We Live In The Future

When it comes to global same day releases, Australians have surely earned the favour of the time-zone Gods. Only those in New Zealand have it better, with an extra hour of a head start.

Simply put, living in the near future has its advantages. If a game releases on the same day across all territories, Australians will be among the first to play. I think we are allowed to feel a little smug about that. I for one enjoy a coyly arched eyebrow, and a cocky smirk as the messages rain in on my console.

- - Now Playing: Brand new cool game everyone in the US wants to play

“OMG where did you get ‘Cool New Game’”

“I hate you for playing Cool New Game”

It’s a smug type of glory that only lasts for a maximum of 24 hours at best, but it sure is fun to be King for a day.


We Are Awesome And We Have The Power To Change Things

This might be the most important positive.

I’ve personally seen it during my tenure here at Kotaku Australia. I’ve seen incredible negatives transformed into positives through people power. The R18+ issue is perhaps the most prominent: here was a problem that was solved through the sheer force of will, facilitated by smart people who helped harness that power and focus it in the correct direction.

The pricing issue is a similar one. Prices of any product or service don’t go down by accident. Prices go down when consumers wield the ultimate power at their disposal and vote with their wallets, and that has happened in Australia without doubt.

When things are bad here in Australia we’re not afraid to have a colossal whinge about it, but that is always just the first step. Taking the second step is more important, and it’s a step that Australian gaming community is never afraid to take: that step is mobilising the general whinge into something constructive.

It’s funny, the things that are notoriously bad about playing games are inextricably linked to the things that are good. I think the reason for that is simple: when something sucks we immediately set about trying to fix that problem. For that reason, I honestly believe that gaming in Australia will forever will forever remain on an upward trajectory.

Up, up and away!

[Oh, and I almost forgot: the Australian version of PlayStation+ is surprisingly great! Oh and JB Hi-Fi in-store reviews. Those are also pretty cool.]


Comments

    Unfortunately the living in the future thing doesn't work for Steam downloads which are locked to US timezones. :(

    I'm currently preloading Dark Souls 2. It's going to be a looong Friday night waiting for that thing to unlock.

      Furthermore, the 'future' is more expensive than 'the past'

      After seeing your post I went and checked GreenmanGaming and my key was finally there so now I am pre loading and happy :D

      Actually it doesn't work at all *period* =/

      Even physical releases don't mean squat coz our release dates are in line w/ EU even then we get it even later. If anything it actually takes a round the world trip before we get it.

      Most of the time its usually Asia gets it first, Jumps across the Pacific to NA. Then floats over through the Atlantic to EU where it eventually may appear here in Aus..... hmm I guess w/ such a huge travel time thats why games never make it to australia eh? xD

      Last edited 22/04/14 5:41 pm

    I actually never realised the timezone was the issue with us getting releases a day earlier. I always wondered (especially in the music industry) why Australia is generally one business day earlier than the UK/US. Even if it is a major UK/US artist.

    If it is an australian artist we're generally 6 months ahead for other reasons.

    So the upside of gaming in Australia is that eventually we will catch up to the rest of the world? Oh and we might get some games a day early.

      THINK POSITIVE!

        OK, I took your advice and though positive and applied that positivity to what makes Australia different when it comes to games and I think I've come up with a few points.

        Population Distribution
        Due to the nature of Australia's populations congregating in and around the capital cities of each sate and territory Australian gamers are more likely to be located closer to each other. I've come across this quite a lot when playing MMORPGs.

        Cultural Diversity
        Everyone knows the whole spiel about Australia being "Multi-Cultural" however penetrating those cultures can be quite hard. There are some cultures out there that are generally very exclusionary and the good thing about gaming is that it's able to allow gamers to use games as a common ground that can be used to gain a foot hold into a variety of cultures Australia has to offer.

        Time differences
        This really is a double edged sword. While it can be annoying when it comes to finding other people to play with from different countries it can be quite a boon if you are playing a MMORPG. Because of the time differences it can be quite dead and it allows you to play without less players (This is of cause if you are playing on a different country server if they allow it.). An example of this is (Was before all the boting) farming materials in WoW and grinding Mob.

          In my experience, the cultural diversity thing doesn't always work out too well in online games. Rather than breaking down barriers and learning more about each other's cultures and finding common ground, I find it's more just rampant incoherent abuse. But maybe I'm playing the wrong games.

            you might just be playing on a console...... PC online gaming much better ;)

        AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE OI OI OI!!!

    We only get the iTunes stuff a few hours ahead of the US, with the whole rest like Steam, we are behind schedule. I remember having to wait the long hours before being able to play X rebirth or Colonial marines - not that any of those games were great, but that's not the point here.
    Release date was day/month/year, I was only able to play on day+1/month/year. Since Steam is geolocking prices and the like, might as well geo-release stuff ahead of the US.

    I know that I'm supposed to be morally opposed to anything of the sort, but we also get some soft-launches well ahead of the majority of the world. Plants Vs. Zombies 2, Real Racing *whatever number they were up to that nobody liked*, and Hearthstone was out here before it was in... some other places, I think?

    I mean sure, some questionable quality in there, but ehh, it's an upside.

    none of that list is a 'best thing' - as mark serrels has aptly put it, its THINK POSITIVE.
    the rating system having gone on as they were for so long is a bad joke - it should have been fixed years ago when the ratings board realised MA15+ didnt cover everything they were willing to let teens see.
    the pricing structure of many games still impose the aussie tax, regardless of whether its less than before - it will have been less at launch in their #1 region (whatever that was) too. digital downloads go a long way to fixing this, but dont fix it completely for alot of the AAA titles.
    our online situation is not improving - if you live in a city but are connected to a rim or are too far from the exchange, your adsl1 or slow adsl2+ speeds will not improve. your latency may improve to locally hosted servers, but if your bandwidth is low will you get a renewed 'premium' experience? unless you have or are getting some sort of nbn connection thats not satellite or wireless, you are stuck with what you have right now for the foreseeable future.
    we live in the future - for some games yes we do get early access. does that matter if their servers are in the usa? not so much.
    your point about being australian and having a colossal whinge - we did, their was an inquiry under prime minister rudd, businesses involved defended their pricing structure as not illegal (the 'tough!' defense) or blamed copyright holders in the case of apple, and then nothing really came of it. you can only vote with your dollars, not your mouth in these types of situations.

    Last edited 22/04/14 1:47 pm

    I remember back when Jedi Knight 2 came out, it was out here before America and someone I knew on a forum back then was banned from a different forum as a pirate because he was playing the game "a day before it was released".

    Guess where the forum was based...

    that list was mostly " Hey... things might one day get better guys!"

    Not such a big deal anymore due to online updates, but back in the day the delayed releases in Australia usually meant we got more polished versions with less bugs. Also if the game was getting a localised PAL released from Japan, we'd often get the "international" version with more features than the US.

    Sorry Mark, nice try.

    Things Are Getting Better All The Time
    We waged the wrong battle. While we do have an R18+ rating, it is just a modified MA15+. The real battle should have been the guidelines, but since we got the R18+ rating, people just seem to not care that we are still under an outdated system.

    Our Online Situation Is Also Improving
    Only if you can pay for something like Telstra Broadband or live right next to the exchange.

    We Live In The Future
    In a digital world, we are still locked to American time frames. Sure, we can BUY games from EB or JB or where ever 12-16 hours before the USA, but that doesn't mean much as we shift into a digital space.

    We Are Awesome And We Have The Power To Change Things
    Only if people fight the right battles, see point 1. Australians are easily duped into thinking they won something meaningful but in reality they won nothing at all.

    Way more public holidays than the US and most jobs have 4 weeks leave a year. More gaming time.

    My uncle moved to the US and had to negotiate to get 2 weeks leave a year. They were offering 1.

    We may have game prices that are higher but that doesn't tell the whole story. Our wages are higher than most of the world and we have a larger disposable income so I think the actual amount of pay we spend would be lower. I lived in Canada for a while and purchased games both there and in the US. The new prices on games there is obviously much lower, but a few months later it looks very different. Games lower in cost here much faster, and a few months after release I found some games at lower prices here (I'm referring to retail and not digital)

    Also some Japamese or European game developers release games here way before the US, for example, the recent Professor Layton Vs Phoenix Wright game, which everyone in America is jealous about :P

    Having to wait till monday to watch game of thrones when its out on Sunday in america.

      You know the US Sunday IS our Monday yeah? so you can torrent it right after it's aired in the US.

    A negative of the future part is that we get delays with games that have an online component because the servers are usually US based so we can either connect but the game isn't unlocked, or buy the game and can't connect.

    One other thing that's starting to happen that I like is that we're starting to see games released in Australia days to months before the US (eg. Bravely Default). It always warms the cockles of my heart to see the Americans whinging loudly that it's so unfair we're getting games before them. It always makes me laugh too when they act like they've never gotten a game months to years ahead of us.

    Always great when your double xp weekend starts mid Saturday afternoon, and runs through to the afternoon Monday when you're at work :(

    Without the hectic pace of a full NBN I can take things slow and enjoy my surrounds while waiting to respawn.

    "the Australian version of PlayStation+ is surprisingly great!"

    ...and unsurprisingly more expensive for zero reason as usual...

    I kinda wish game journalists would have a go at digital pricing more often. Seriously, there is no reason to charge $90 for a game on an online store.

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