This morning I want to talk about something that isn't quite so serious. I want to talk about the state of video gaming. For those of you who don't know, I'm a pretty big gamer. I've been gaming for over thirty years. I started off on an Apple IIe, Atari 2600 and Colecovision. Yeah I definitely had a blessed childhood. Joking aside, I'm still gaming 32 years later. The platforms and economic drivers have changed but my
addiction hobby remains largely intact. Today my primary gaming platforms are x86 Linux, RetroPie and the Playstation 4. Rather than playing twitchy arcade games and adventure games like I used to, I spend most of my time playing single player Role Playing Games, Retro games and Indie games.
The first thing you'll notice is that my list of platforms includes neither a Windows PC or an XBox One. That's because for the most part I have no stomach left for using proprietary Microsoft products any more. To be clear: While I have been slowly becoming more and more of a free software zealot over the last few years, when it comes to games I still don't really care how proprietary a game is or isn't. The primary purpose of a game is entertainment. That having been said, I still refuse to participate in any Microsoft commercial ventures on the basis of principle. I do not wish to reward the company's behavior. This is the primary reason why my AAA gaming experiences occur on Sony platforms.
The second thing you'll notice is that my list of platforms doesn't include anything created by Nintendo. That is for two reasons: Nintendo's approach to gaming has been rendered woefully obsolete. Every time you buy a new Nintendo platform, you have to buy the same games all over again (Virtual Console anyone?). In addition, their first party franchises are pretty old and pretty tired. Nintendo's business model is primarily about remaking the same few games over and over again while "reselling" them to a largely shifting demographic of suckers. Remember, one is born every minute. I have no urge to participate in this farce. That having been said, I love a lot of the older NES and SNES games. However, thats what the Retropie is for.
The third thing you'll notice is that I primarily play single player RPGs. This is by far the most important thing you could have noticed. Why is that? Well for starters, my twitch reflexes suck. Now I still indulge myself with the occasional non-RPG game but generally that's not a big thing for me. In addition I hate multi-player gaming. Why? Because multi-player games, especially those of a competitive nature, have become the primary vehicle through which an entirely new cancer has emerged. What cancer am I speaking of? Continuous Revenue Streams. Multi Player games aren't really just about competition anymore. Most modern Multi Player games are nothing more than a vehicle to entice the player into spending more money. The most prominent and virulent form of this infection is the entire "Free to Play" genre.
What is "Free to Play"? Simple. You get the game for free. However in order to play it effectively or competitively, you'll need to spend some hard earned cash. We've even gotten to the point where $60 AAA games now have "economies" and require players to spend additional money in order to be competitive. EA is not the odd guy out here. They just took it to the next level. Other developers and publishers will absolutely follow the trail they are blazing here. The hard truth is that regardless of how many nerds boycott this game, it will still sell millions of copies and the millions of parents who got suckered into buying it will end up spending millions of dollars more to unlock Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader because they lack the stomach to tell Junior no.
Is that cynical? You bet your ass it is. But it's also true. When I buy a game I am looking to buy a complete experience. If it ends up being good, I might even experience it more than once. The one thing I have never and will never be interested in is being part of a continuous revenue stream. This model of gaming ruins a lot of things. Namely you can only experience it once short of creating a brand new account and spending a lot of additional money. It also makes the game entirely dependent upon a set of online services that will likely be shut down once the revenue stream begins to seriously dwindle. So not only are you spending more money for a more transient experience, but that experience is inherently time boxed because one day it will simply disappear.
So why Role Playing Games? I like stories. Most modern games don't bother trying to tell a decent story. Now that's not to say that all RPGs have great writing. A lot of them don't. But at least they are trying. I don't really play FPSes anymore because of my lack of twitch reflexes. Plus I don't consider consoles to be a great platform for FPSes due to their inherent precision related control issues and my Linux PCs only have integrated GPUs. Oh and just in case you haven't already reached this conclusion yourself: I don't play Massively Multiplayer RPGs (MMORPGs). Why? It is because of the fact that this genre of games essentially introduced the concept of the continuous revenue streams. And for that, I will likely never forgive them. Beyond that I love playing older Retro games and indulging myself in a wide variety of indie titles. If you want to experience real innovation in gaming, you need look no further than the wide range of indie titles being released on a daily basis across a wide variety of platforms. These games are the real MVPs.
In conclusion, when I buy a game I'm looking to buy an experience. I don't want it to be transient and I don't want it to be dependent on the size of my wallet moving forward. I also want to have the option of re-experiencing it again in the future. This is why I am primarily a Retro and Indie gamer who plays occasional competitively priced AAA RPGs on his PS4. Regardless of how gaming evolves over the next ten or twenty years, I'm confident that I'll still be gaming due to the fact that I already have invested in and have access to a wide variety of non-transient experiences/games that I can explore to my hearts content. And boy let me tell you: My backlog of games is absolutely massive.