Modern gaming is amazing. Graphics are more true-to-life than ever, especially with 4k becoming widely available. There are thousands upon thousands of options in dozens of different genres. There are fancy $60 games you set aside entire weekends for, and $5 indie games you can pick up when you have a spare ten minutes. Cloud saves and personal accounts mean you can log onto any computer or console and have access to all of your saved games, achievements, friend lists, etc. It’s brilliant stuff.
But it isn’t all fun and games. Well… it may all be games, but it certainly isn’t all fun. There are definite downsides to the modern gaming era that we tend to overlook every time a new digital masterpiece comes out. Here are five reasons you sometimes throw your controller at the wall and dig your old Game Boy out of storage to play Tetris.
When I say money, I don’t mean that games cost more these days. You might be spending more, just because there’s more out there, but this isn’t the first era with $400-700 gaming systems or $60 mainstream games. It is, however, the first era where you don’t really buy games; you buy access to games. There’s a definite difference: It’s the difference between owning a lawnmower and having access to your neighbor’s lawnmower. What happens when the neighbor moves away?
What I’m really talking about is how we pay for games. Even if you shell out the $60 for the latest and greatest game, for example, there will eventually be more content that you have to pay for. DLC is becoming a fact of life for gamers, forcing even us single-player loners who avoid MMOs to more or less pay a subscription or buy a “season pass” to get all the content for a game.
But that’s okay, because there’s free games everywhere these days, right? Not really. More and more companies are moving toward micro-transactions, which means that instead of paying for the game up-front, you use an in-game store to buy power-ups, extra lives, or nifty items with real money, typically an extra buck or two here and there. But those dollars add up, and some “free” games end up requiring you to purchase in-game items in order to continue with the game.
Speaking of not getting the whole game you’ve paid for…, you might also be spending that $60 on a game that’s in “early access.” Now, on the surface, early access sounds cool – you get to play a game before it’s finished! But would you pay to drive an unfinished car? Listen to an unfinished song? Read an unfinished book? No, and for good reason. Early access is nothing more than a ploy for developers to charge full-price for their games while maintaining their beta benefits. When people complain about glitches, they can just say, “Oh, well that’s okay, because the game isn’t finished yet.”
It’s a brilliant business move, but crappy for the players who are stuck with an “unfinished” game for an indefinite period of time. And yes, I just said “indefinite” period of time – some games have been in early access for years. What’s the rush? It’s not like making games is their job or anything.
If you’re a console gamer, you might not have a lot of experience with game clients, but they’ve become a staple of the PC gaming world. Steam, Origin, and (shudder) U-Play are all examples of game clients. What does this mean? Basically, another program has to open before you start playing – that’s the client. So, if I’ve installed Sniper Elite 4 through Steam, when I click the icon for the game, it’ll first open Steam, which will then run the game.
Clients are separate programs that typically require an internet connection and update separately from the games, themselves. For example, Battle.net is Blizzard’s client. If you want to play StarCraft II, Diablo III, or Overwatch on PC, you have to open Battle.net, at which point it will likely tell you that an update is required. So it updates, then you have to open Battle.net again. Then it updates the individual games. Then you can start playing. Plus, clients can have their own errors, so you’re doubling the number of things that can wrong on the technical side of things. It’s enough to make you miss the days when you’d just toss a disc in and go.
You Can’t Share Games
On the topic of discs, let us hearken back to the olden days of 2001. A friend of mine loaned me his copy of StarCraft, for which I let him borrow my copy of Deus Ex Game of the Year edition. That same friend introduced me to Baldur’s Gate, Dungeon Keeper 2, and Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, all through borrowed game discs. Sometimes he’d have to give me the CD key that went with the game, but that was no big deal. It was a great system, and I can honestly say that most of my gaming preferences can be traced back to those borrowed games.
But games these days are mostly digital content. They’re not physical objects that you can loan to a friend. These days, if someone gives you a game recommendation, you better be super excited about it, because you’ll likely have to buy the thing in order to play it. This takes away a certain sense of camaraderie and community that was so prevalent in gaming even ten years ago.
Internet Connection is Required
I still remember when some games in the 90’s started requiring an internet connection to install the game, partly for updates, but also for DRM (Digital Rights Management – the thing that prevents you from buying copy and giving it to all your friends for free). People, including myself, freaked out, because not all of us had a reliable internet connection, especially when you had to occupy the phone line to do so. Hell, the PC in my bedroom didn’t have an internet connection at all.
Things have progressed a lot since those days, and yet, some things have gotten worse. Quite a few modern games require you to have a constant connection to the internet, which is acceptable for things like MMOs or any game that makes you connect to a server for multi-player shenanigans. The problem arises when your single-player game crashes because of a bad connection, or won’t let you play at all without internet. It may sound like a minor grievance compared to the others mentioned above, but gaming dinosaurs like me are allowed, or even expected, to occasionally grumble about things like “you kids and your persistent internet connection…” So please excuse me while I knock out my monthly grumbling quota.