Mad Mack: Three Terrible Things About Gaming In 2012
So here we are. The end of yet another year. And what a year it has been, full of wonder and innovation, with gaming seemingly going from strength to strength. Games have been released that are the kinds of experiences you could only fantasise about as a kid playing Duck Hunt. Whole worlds, lovingly and beautifully rendered, are now yours to explore and inhabit. The image of the solo gamer locked away with little human contact has been driven further into obscurity, and is now replaced by acceptance of gaming as a social activity – with the WiiVerse being the most recent development in social gaming.
There have been many highlights throughout the year. For one, XCOM’s success showed that you can take a beloved, older game, and update it to suit the tastes of the modern gamer without losing the appeal or core feel of the original.
DayZ, my personal Game of the Year (and yes it IS a fucking game in its own right – pulling me up for it being a mod for Arma 2 and therefore not eligible for GOTY status is like calling chess a variation of draughts because they are played on the same board), allowed you to recapture that simple childhood joy of going to the beach and meticulously building a sand fort over the course of several hours, only for some script-running cunt in a 4×4 to come flying in, kick over the sand fort, slap you about the face with his cock, and then ride off into the sunset to wreck someone else’s fun anew. That standalone had best get a wiggle on.
Mass Effect 3 was a pretty good finale to the trilogy (the actual shitty ending notwithstanding); indie gaming continued to impress, buoyed in some considerable part by kickstarter kicking off (see what I did there?); and Spec Ops: The Line decided that instead of being a really generic ‘realistic’ shooter, it was going to be fucking brilliant.
But of course, this year has not been all good times and cheer. In fact, rather than being representative of gaming as a whole in 2012, the examples I mentioned above are more like shiny diamonds glittering in the fetid waters of mediocrity, repetitiveness and exploitation.
‘Oh come on,’ I hear you cry. ‘It isn’t that bad. Stop your whining and enjoy the veritable cornucopia of delights that are laid before your feet.’ To which I reply ‘Oh really? Well then, how do you explain…?’
All the DLC
I have banged the drum on this topic more than once, but I am going to keep banging it until someone out there listens, and publishers stop looking at gamers like we are fatted calves they can mine for endless money a piece at a time (don’t look too much into that analogy, just go with it).
First, a confession. My name is David McConkey, and I bought the Battlefield 3 Premium Pass. At the time I did not realise that I would stop playing BF3 about a week after I bought the damn thing, and I figured that I had given about 200 hours to BF3 so it was not a full waste of money. But it was. It really, really was.
The whole problem with these season passes is that you are putting money into the hands of publishers for content that does not even exist yet. Where is the incentive for EA to release top quality maps in the add-on packs when 90% of the total DLC revenue will be generated in the first month of the premium passes going on sale? There isn’t one. Not really. So you end up being shilled into paying for content before anyone has even tried it out. AND let’s not forget that a few months after the last BF3 DLC is released, BF4 is due to hit the shops. Let me ask you something – do you think it is in EA’s best interest to save all the really good maps and content they have developed and put it in the new game, or give it all to a dwindling player base and force them to develop more top quality content for the new game?
Yeah, thought so.
For large online multiplayer games, DLC passes can work. Just because I didn’t get value out of it does not mean that someone won’t. However, it is the spread of these passes that is the scariest thing. I know that Modern Warfare 3 really kicked things off in 2011 with their Elite packs, but they are just going to become more and more common. Darksiders 2 had something similar, and I’m pretty sure the only reason Microsoft didn’t include something like it for Halo 4 is because they are piling all their vast resources into making sure players get on board with the new trilogy and developer team. It gives Halo an edge over the competition, but if they don’t start edging in subscription gaming to their next Halo games, then I will eat a dick.
Other game franchises, some that are completely unsuited for this sort of approach, are beginning to adopt the ‘Season Pass’ model for maximising the monetisation of each gamer during the early, heady post-launch days when the game is getting the most play. This is a trend that I can only see continuing into the future, until you will become used to paying for a game in the shop and then paying the same again just to access the game content. And we can all look back to 2012 as the year it all began. This, ladies and gentlemen, is our Phantom Menace, and season passes are our Jar Jar Binks. Yeah, think about that.
Franchises. Fucking Franchises
When you think of Valve and Blizzard, what do they have in common? Huge fan bases? Vast sums of money? Top quality games and IPs? Sometimes ridiculous game development cycles? All of the above? I am going to make an argument here – they are the royal family of 21st Century gaming, and Gabe Newell is the King.
And the reason they are the Royal Family is because it seems like they can’t take a dump without spraying our faces with genre defining and rule-breaking flecks of genius. Every game they release is just great. It builds on the last but changes it. They do not rest on their laurels, but rather they see the works they have created and they say ‘wow, that was good, and people like it, but technology is always improving, so let’s make sure that we improve our games with it.
Now let’s try something else. When you think of Treyarch, Ubisoft and Nintendo, what do you think of? For me, I think ‘palette swap’.
First, Treyarch. They released COD: Black Ops 2 this year, and, at the time of writing, it is sitting comfortably in the top chart position, where it has remained since launch. It has broken the sales records set by its predecessors and has generated a mountain of cash for Treyarch and Activision. And I just cannot figure out why. To me it seems that the COD games since the launch of MW2 are little more than variations of the same theme, and in a just universe would be considered little more than add-on packs or palette swaps of each other. But no, this isn’t a just universe, is it? So somehow, every year Activision get to release the same game and every year it breaks previous records. You know what COD has turned into? FIFA. Or Madden if you are an American. That is where we are at. Release the same game every year and watch the monies pile up.
While we are on that topic, can someone please explain to me how Ubisoft have managed to release a completely new Assassin’s Creed game every year since 2009? Please? I want to know. I personally thought the first game was dog-shit awful, but the follow up in 2009 improved on every single aspect of the original in all the ways a true sequel should. Then, I take my eyes off the ball for a second and suddenly we are on Assassin’s Creed 3, but between 2 and 3 there have been a couple of other full games, and five (yes, FIVE!!!) mobile titles. I am sure the games I missed are good, but do I now have 60 hours to dedicate to get from where I am at the end of ACII to the end of ACIII via Brotherhood and Revelations (that is assuming a generous 20 hours per game, which is probably barely enough to get through the campaigns, let alone all the crypts and relics and other McGuffins)? It just seems to me that they have churned out a huge quivering, sticky pile of games without really advancing the gameplay any.
I don’t really know anymore. How is it that games publishers can release the same game every year and people still go fucking crazy for it? Are attention spans really that short? Come on publishers. Look at what Valve and Blizzard are doing and take a leaf out of their book. You are at the point where you are just churning out unoriginal and uninspiring content at a fantastic rate. Take a step back and try to reach for better things, not just appeal to whatever base denominator you have found to be a cash cow. And gamers, I really cannot stress this enough. Stop. Fucking. Buying. Them.
Oh, and since we are talking about gamers….
The PC Gaming Community (or, more specifically, PC Gamers)*
This year I joined the ranks of PC gamers by sorting myself out with a half decent rig that should see me happily gaming on the highest settings for at least, ooo I dunno, a month? Two maybe? Things move awful fast in the world of PC gaming so it is really hard to call. Whatever, it means that for the first time I have this whole other world opened to me. I set up, wide eyed and excited, looking forward to joining in with my fellow PC gamers as we explored hitherto undreamt of frontiers that lie far beyond the earthly designs of mere console players. Truly for me, this was the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Until, that is, I actually interacted with some PC gamers.
I am not going to pull my punches here. PC gamers seem to think that because they can afford to pay for (or more likely, their parents can pay for) either a gaming rig, or the components to a gaming rig (neither being cheap options) and are able to use Steam to run their games for them, then their shit doesn’t stink. They have this idea that playing games on a PC makes them better than the (quote) “retard console fags” that make up the majority of the gaming public. There is this idea of superiority over others that stems entirely from the fact that playing games on a PC is marginally more complicated and difficult than playing them on a console. Well, I have a bit of news for you chief: playing PC games doesn’t make you fucking Rainman. It just means that you have to spend a little bit more time setting up and then running the game, and as a reward you have better graphics and can play larger games. That. Is. All.
I could not believe the levels of abuse that PC gamers seemed to want to heap onto anyone who would dare question the superiority and majesty of PC gaming. And heaven forbid that you dare suggest that consoles have some advantages over PCs, especially in the area of convenience and ease of use. You will be told to fuck off back to your Xbox like the little bitch you are, because you are obviously too fucking retarded to understand how PC gaming works. No, you will not get a well-reasoned ‘I see what you mean, but on balance PC gaming has got to be the preferred format’, nor will anyone even offer a sound rebuttal to your argument. No, you will simply get abuse for daring to suggest that PCs are anything less than Holy.
PC Gamers, or at least a significant vocal percentage, are arrogant, self-absorbed, elitist thunder-cunts that absolutely love to smell their own smug farts. Or, to put it another way, they are even worse than the most insufferable Xbox Live COD-playing, rage-quitting, racist teenager. They are worse because they should know better.
When I joined the ranks of PC gamers, I expected a fraternity. What I have seen since is as bad as any other gaming community, only worse, because PC gamers are – in general – held in higher esteem than most others. They scoff at how pathetic and immature XBL rage gamers are, and they pretend that such behaviour is far beneath them; but in reality this pretense of maturity is actually just a thick, glutinous layer of arrogance and bigotry.
PC Gamers. Be better. Be better than the worst console gamers. Remind me that there is good in the world. Restore my faith that there are people out there who have not lost sight of what is most important. PC games are just so fucking cheap on Steam and the graphics are wonderful and I can go from viewing a whole battlefield and zoom in close enough to see individual blades of grass and there are SO many strategy games and…and they are just so fucking awesome! PCs are fucking great. You should be too. Otherwise you sound worse than this:
So there we are. This is how I will remember gaming in 2012. I will remember some good, but I will remember infinitely more bad. And so, as we come to the close of yet another depressing year in gaming, I leave you with my one, final thought: the world is one year closer to its inevitable end – and that makes me glad.
(*this is based on my interaction with a small subsection of the PC gaming community; it reflects on my personal experiences, and may therefore not be representative of the community as a whole)