Christmas is a time for cheer, a time for compassion and giving and joy and goodwill to all men; and that’s absolutely true as long as you ignore anything that vaguely resembles reality and ensure you stare unblinking and teary eyed down the LED-stained, rainbow-lit corridor of glitz, illuminated only by a fit-inducing stream of glossy, convoluted Tellybox advertisements and the digital images of grinning, constructed excuses, as greasy as David Cameron’s shiny laminated forehead that reside solely in that world. As you can tell, I’m in a jolly old mood this evening.
That MUST be why Maxis and EA chose this very time of year to explain in stunning, point-obliterating detail, just how they’re robbing the games industry of any potential future. How they’re coming in with a hammer and are ready to wreck up the place Richard Nixon style and leaving nothing but the dribbling inebriates that keep Activision hitting copy-paste and going for a good old jerk off to pictures of Bobby Kotick’s bank account on an annual basis (not the jacking off part, that happens on the hour in their offices, I hear). If you’re looking confused and a little scared, and more so than you ordinarily would browsing the pages of Respawn, then allow me to explain.
When Maxis held a Reddit-flavoured AMA (ask me anything) in the marked direction of the latest, and luscious looking SimCity, it didn’t take long for the discussion to turn defiantly toward the subject of DRM. Digital Rights Management. You know. The James Cordon of the User Experience world; DRM is the detestable, clacking buffoon, waddling his way past you and smearing his fatuous features all over your previously pleasant experience. It sits next to you as you play, chewing with its mouth open, defecating at you, and trying with the blind tenacity of a moth on a table lamp, to put his podgy fingers in your mouth, despite your desperate attempts to shoo him away. Sorry, ‘it’. You can’t deny the celebrity personification is remarkable. Go introduce yourself to EA, Cordon, there’ll be fellatio all round.
SimCity, you see, is going to require an ALWAYS ON INTERNET CONNECTION, which, anatomically speaking, is the sweat underneath James Cordon’s right boob fold. Ahem.
Sorry, disgusted even myself there for a second. WHY is a city building game going to require you to be on the internet all of the time, forever? Today, it’s because the game utilizes cloud-computing to calculate the tipper-lorry sized quantity of brain-mushingly complex processes that will be taking place in this city-building game. Problem is, the day before, it was because they wanted adjacent cities to your own to be real people’s cities. The day before that, it was because they wanted to curb unregulated user content, or fight piracy or PROTECT user data, or implement a real-time annoyed-consumer counter that emits a little broken trumpet sound every time someone looks through a haze of tears at their bank statement entry marked ‘SimCity’. Or something, you get the picture.
Whatever it actually is, it doesn’t even matter. What does matter is that this is ultimately Ian Watkins-ing the future of the industry. Why? Because 20 minutes after release, when the next iteration of SimCity is pressed repeatedly into our faces, and EA decide to switch off all those servers that the game happens to be integrally dependant on, when they decide to kick over the IV drip of their terminally confined patient already gasping for air; the game stops. It’s no longer playable. That’s it.
Initially, you’ve just a lost a game you spent upwards of £30 on. Bye bye product, bye bye money! You’re forced to amble down to the shops and stuttering and spluttering through bleary eyes, you hand over your cash to the doe-eyed assistant who gives you your copy of SimCity SUPER NEW ONLINE FOREVER EDITION and bottles your tears to forward on to the publisher.
The other, inherently more concerning reactionary outage to this CALL, is it is a loud and abrasive hoisting of a white flag. We’re giving up. Come on everybody, collect your towels; we’re throwing them in. The games industry is calling it a day.
We are no longer interested in creating classics, in forging experiences that live forever, in making something that will be passed on for years to come. We’re now squeezing out multi-billion pound pints of milk, with month-long shelf lives that, as soon as that sell-by-date comes to pass, you can forget ever coming back to it. Unless you want to be violently ill.
Imagine if we couldn’t revisit Half Life, or Super bladdy Mario Land because the servers had been switched off. It’s way more than just a fumbling, intrusive money-grabbing scheme, it’s worse than us simply not being able to play games we’ve bought, that we own. The crux is that we’re simply no longer trying. We’re PLANNING not to be playing these games in 5, 10, 20 years time. We’re constructing them to go out of date and disappear once their allotted time slot has been appropriately seen out and as much of the cold hard stuff has been wrung from their writhed and crippled body as possible. How can we possibly create life-affirming classics that will be fondly remembered as thought-provoking strokes of artistic, literary and interactive ingenuity if we’re only aiming to frantically putt as many as we can off the shelves and then forget it ever existed.
It’s a travesty. Mostly because SimCity is a staple of my younger gaming days to some degree; as are many of the titles that will fall victim to this creativity quelling campaign purported by the biggest names in the business. So what can we do? There’s never been a better time to support the underground. Indie titles can be found at brilliant prices, and offer a world of DRM-free gaming delights. The simple solution is to get involved. Forget about SimCity, and find something great to play hidden in the undergrowth of the tangled and blanketed forestry that is the indie gaming scene. And then start praying.
Plus, console-side, 2013 is looking to be one of the most exciting years we could hope for at this point, what with GTA V, Metal Gear: Ground Zeroes and Bioshock Infinite merely salivating over the tip of the proverbial iceberg. We’ll have more soon, and I promise, I’ll try cheer up before New Year.
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