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Are Gamers Really In Control?


You don’t have to be a hardcore gamer to know that over this last generation, gaming has transformed itself from being a closet-hobby of the few into a multi-billion dollar, global entertainment juggernaut for the masses. Gone are the days when work colleagues would look at you like you’d just grown a second arse if you happened to mention last night’s greatest gaming achievement. Now, it’s usually others that are gossiping about what app they’ve high-scored or of how they, like, totally owned their granny on Wii Sports last weekend.

Bless.

This transition has been an unquestionable success and has raised the profile of the medium to heights that tower far above its humble origins. That said, all change brings with it some downsides, and gaming’s metamorphosis is no different.

Those of us who’ve been around the block a few (more) times (than we’d care to) remember the quaint days of old, where you’d pop into town, purchase a (shock) cartridge or disc and, with it, own access to a world – all of your very own. Nowadays, if it’s not hard-wired with social-media experiences or pre-loaded with DLC and micro-transactions, it seems positively old-hat.

I'm certainly kinecting with the absurdity of this ...

I’m certainly kinecting with the absurdity of this …

The core gaming experience is still in-tact – if you look hard enough for it – but the bells and whistles can often be a gaudy and unwelcome addition. It’s a transition that’s seen many gamers roll their eyes in disgust – not to mention vote with their wallets. The freshly initiated ‘casuals’, however, seem to have been all too happy to fuel the passions of greedy boardroom executives the world over. Gee, thanks for that.

And so, given this context, what does the future hold? Well, if Microsoft’s vision is anything to go by: biometric data being fed straight into an overseas database from sensors injected into our eyeballs so that targeted adverts can ping all around your lounge beamed from mini-projectors that were implanted into your skull at birth. Or something.

It’s pretty easy to be jaded and cynical about this Orwellian view of a consumerist, dystopian future – one surmised sublimely in Disney’s Wall-E – yet it’s also worth reminding ourselves that these self-same organisations are (not so) secretly desperate to please us – and they damned well sit-up and take notice when the Internet tells them that they got things wrong.

Take this summer’s PR nightmare with Microsoft, for example. Despite what they may have publicly said, Microsoft clearly had an extreme vision of what the future of gaming would be: monetised, DRM heaven where as much as an additional fart in in the room (presumably from your second arse) would result in an on-screen message prompting you to insert more coins to continue. They may have tried to dress things up in sickeningly polished and vacuous marketing bilge, yet the intentions were all too clear to see.

I'm with stupid.

I’m with stupid.

And what happened in the end? They withdrew every single twisted and contorted policy until they were essentially right back where they started at the end of the last generation.

Thank god.

You have yourselves to thank for that – for that monumental shift in public policy. Just think: outside of politics, how many others walks of life feature such humiliating and humbling public climb-downs in the face of such savage, unfettered democracy? That’s not something to be taken lightly –  and not something that we should ever let escape our attention.

Not that you ever will. You grumpy lot.

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Husband. Parent. Gamer. Go figure.

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One Comment

  1. The problem is, the next time it happens there will be slightly less noise and fuss and they will get away with it. It is the same as when fuel prices in the UK went above a pound for the first time- the whole country was up in arms, so the industry just kept trying.

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