Editorial: Are The Pick-Up-And-Play Days Over?
You know, the idea for this editorial struck me just a little while ago when I went to review a particular game. Granted, because I like to do one editorial per week, sometimes I have difficulty coming up with new ideas (and I'm aware I will occasionally repeat a similar topic a few times), but this one hit me like a ton of bricks: when I wasn't looking, someone went and turned my video game console into a computer.
Well, partially. Thing is, I've never been a fan of PC gaming, even when I played almost exclusively on a computer back in the days of Earl Weaver's Baseball, Robotropolis, and Hero's Quest. I never liked to sit at a desk, I always hated the numerous upgrades required (new graphics card, new sound card, more memory, blah blah blah), and in the past 10 years, the lack of innovation and diversity on the PC has been nigh-on non-existent. One of the reasons I preferred console gaming was because of its pick-up-and-play accessibility. Put in a game and play. That's it. No fiddling with settings, no concerning myself with whether or not I have the correct system requirements; just sit there for a few seconds, hit Start, and go. But last week, when I went to play a game, I had to wait for yet another update to go before I could get started, and I quickly reflected on the past few years since the PlayStation 3 released. ...somehow, some way, because it really is a computer, it has traits of PC gaming now.
We're not quite there yet, of course. There's no replacing of actual PS3 parts, although I may need a memory upgrade at some point unless I buy the 160GB model. And the updates happen quickly enough, although patches and updates used to be restricted to the PC realm, which is the one thing that's starting to bug me. First of all, I've always said PC developers could get away with releasing mediocre half-complete titles because they could just patch it at a later date. Well, what's stopping that from happening on consoles now? And hasn't it happened recently? Sure, updates can add additions and enhancements to a game, but there are also fixes and repairs included in some of these updates, right? It's a slippery slope. I don't like the fact that the system requires firmware updates, I don't like the software updates, and I'm not the biggest fan of DLC that - in my opinion - should've been included with the game when it first released.
On the other hand, such advancements can allow for continually changing games that ramp up the freshness with every new update. Look at Burnout Paradise and Warhawk as good examples; if you have all the DLC for each, they're hardly the exact same game they were upon their initial launch. The possibilities really are limitless, and I'm not shortsighted enough to believe this isn't a forward step for the industry. I guess I just miss the days of popping in a game and playing it. And I even miss going back to play it again, knowing I would have the exact same experience. My SNES in the bedroom? It has games that have been the same since I first played them back in the early '90s. They've never had updates and they never will have updates. The SNES itself has a power button, a reset button, and a controller. The shift has been gradual so I really haven't noticed until now, but really, it hit me pretty hard: the days of "pick-up-and-play" are gone. Yes, I know it's all for the better, but still... 'sob'
11/21/2008 Ben Dutka