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.
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.]