Slackur's Obscure Gaming Theatre

Posted on Oct 13th 2021 at 12:00:00 PM by (slackur)
Posted under GamePass

Image from Wikipedia

I distinctly remember in 1998 when the G3 iMac, or what was usually then known simply as the iMac, was announced in a variety of colors.  I had grown up on a C64, and later the X86 and Pentium line, and what I could not wrap my head around at the time was how Apple was making a major selling factor out of the ability to pick out a translucent color scheme for your new expensive desktop.  At the time (and honestly, still to this day) I thought it was a completely absurd marketing strategy and I simply couldn't imagine buying a computer based upon the color.  Yet I was baffled by how many people around me, even the tech-illiterate, suddenly had to have this new computer, as if the gumdrop shape and selectable pigmentation was all they ever needed to suddenly understand my youthful nerdy passions.

When digital music delivery systems began taking off, I distinctly remember thinking it was a nifty novelty and I even helped run a Napster server (if you are old enough to recall that crazy time.)  I thought it had a place alongside cassettes and CDs  but I assumed a purely digital economy would not be able to replace the general public desire to own physical copies of entertainment.  In a consumer driven economy, who would want to give up personal ownership of the stuff they bought?  I just thought these digital delivery systems would co-exist with physical media, not continuously replace it.

If it isn't obvious, I'll never work in marketing nor should I ever be trusted to guess consumer trends.  (While on the topic, my fashion sense has more to do with what's on top of the 'clean' pile, but I digress.)  My thought process and my preferences are very much out of touch with your average person, and that has never really bothered me.  The point of referencing this dichotomy is because I have been reflecting on conversations I've been having with fellow gamers and those shopping at gaming retail.  As I ask others about some of my favorite games recently, from Biomutant to Tetris Effect Connected to Aliens: Fireteam Elite, I've gotten a consistent series of responses such as, "Oh yeah, I played that a bit on Game Pass," or "That's on Game Pass, right?  I'll have to look into it," or "Instead of buying that I'm just waiting on it to come to Game Pass."

I'll be the first to admit, if you aren't me, Game Pass is a great deal.  With over a hundred games on rotating availability across the PC and Xbox library, some brand new titles day one, lots of indie games, and for a reasonable monthly fee, it is easy to see this is a significant part of Microsoft's gaming economy going forward.  It isn't perfect, but it is definitely ushering in how gaming will be primarily delivered in the future.  (Yes, I am guessing this as a future trend, in the mild hope that there is a direct and inverse connection between me guessing future trends and the reality being very different.)  For your average gamer who plays on XBox and/or PC, it makes perfect sense.

I'm not going to get into the whole "lease versus own" argument of digital games or how streaming services don't interest me much since I'm a physical game collector, at least not in this particular write-up.  But I would like to pose a suggestion borne from my conversations with gamers who have Game Pass; it seems such services are making video games so consumable as to be far more disposable.

Back in high school, I worked with a friend who would rent PlayStation games from a local store every weekend. (Kids, ask your parents.)  When I first met him, I was thrilled to have a fellow gamer with whom I could chat at work about our shared gaming experiences.  New games, old games, every weekend from Friday to Monday, he would spend as much time as possible whisking through whatever game he rented.  But when I'd start talking about what I enjoyed playing, it quickly became clear how differently we played games. 

Me: "What'd you rent?"
Him: "Um, Very something?  Van... something 'Heart.'  It was like a strategy thing, like on squares."
Me: "Oh, Vandal Hearts!  That was great!  I thought the story was interesting and I liked the mission variety."
Him: "Yeah.  It was OK."
Me:  "What did you like about it?"
Him:  "I don't know.  I don't remember much.  I played it for like twenty hours so I could beat it before I brought it back, but it kind of ran together with those other strategy games.  It was OK.  I liked the blood that spurts up when someone died."
Me:  "Did you at least like the music?"
Him:  "I dunno.  I play games with the sound off so I can listen to metal."
Me: "Oh.  Um, hey, did you play Arcade's Greatest Hits: The Atari Collection 1?  That has a lot of great games-"
Him:  "That one with a bunch of old games on it?  Nah, those are boring and you can't beat any of them.  They're pretty dumb."
Me: *Mentally draws katana and demands duel to the death for dishonor*

So yeah, we were very different gamers, and there's nothing wrong with that.  I mean, obviously there was something wrong with him, but that's a different topic.  Anyway, he didn't so much as play video games as he consumed them; grabbed one, blazed through it, and got rid of it so he could move on to the next one.  Sure, he had his favorites like Twisted Metal and Tekken, but almost everything he played was with the intent to get through it and move onto the next one.  There wasn't much joy or passion to his hobby, and it became more of a background process, the expectation of the weekend.

And really, it isn't my place to call that wrong; it was clear that was how he wanted to spend his time and money.  In over a year of working with him, we never really connected over video games; he almost didn't care what he was playing and nothing seemed memorable.  Meanwhile I was enamored with the hilarious Full Throttle, jamming to the music of WipEout, lost in the intensity of Panzer Dragoon, and getting my tail kicked in King's Field.

I remembered all of this recently as I've been striking up conversations with folks who have Game Pass.  Not everyone has the same disconnected, video games-as-background-noise response as my aforementioned co-worker.  Yet having the wonder of video games as a consumable service does seem to be creating a different mentality in a large swath of the general gaming populous.  Games I've recently bought and played still feel like events, like sharable experiences, not unlike when I'd save up and buy a used NES cart.  My friends who primarily play through Game Pass often do not seem to have the same touchstones, the same tangible-ness, the sense of communal connection to even the games they really like.  Many times I'll be in conversation and bring up games I've enjoyed, and the response is either a wait for the service to have it, or that they briefly touched it, or that they blew through it several games ago and have a faint memory of it.

I previously noticed this phenomena with PC gamers who primarily used Steam, and even before that, when ROMS of classic games first became big on computers.  It is certainly not universal, just a observable trend I've seen.  In fact when I've puttered around with the several thousand arcade games I have loaded on our Atgames Legends Gamer Pro, I can easily scroll through lists of games, Netflix-style, and have an easy time slamming through a few.  Yet afterwards it often seems I'm really not getting as much out of it as I used to when I would pick up a game, sit down physically and mentally, and make more of a purposeful moment.

I do want to clearly state that I don't think there is anything wrong with playing video games as a service.  After all, they are games; we play them to be entertained, to pass the time, to be enjoyed in the way we decide.  Obviously many people find Game Pass worthwhile and as of this writing it has over 20 million subscribers.  To be fair, if I were not a physical game collector I'd probably have it and enjoy it.  Yet I can't deny, especially having attended another retro game convention recently, that there is a difference to buying a physical game, going through the process of playing it on native hardware and making the act of playing a video game more of an event than a consumption. 

Sure, it can be argued that this is all semantics.  Plenty of people play games on services like Game Pass and find their favorites, make longstanding memories, and do not get trapped in a zombie-like state of jumping from one game to the next.  Because video games are inherently and forever intertwined with continuously developing technology, these types of changes are the inevitable result.  Games-as-service may take a bit of the art out of the artform, but the industry is now more mainstream than ever.  Video games have reached a cultural influence that old-schoolers like me could have hardly imagined several decades ago. 

Regardless, it isn't as if gaming is going back to the way it once was.  But as I thumb through gaming magazines from decades past, it does truly seem like our gaming culture is entering an era where we've lost a touch of soul while gaining a whole lot of convenience. 

Eh, probably I'm just getting old.


Permalink | Comments [5] | Digg This Article |

Recent Entries
Shoot the Core-cast Episode 052 - Deathsmiles (12/6/2022)
Sale of Online Programming Assignment Help by Students (12/2/2022)
RFGeneration Secret Santa 2022 Signups are LIVE!! (11/21/2022)
Plants vs Zombies is Amazing (11/20/2022)
Shoot the Core-cast Episode 051 - Operation STEEL (10/25/2022)

Thanks for the article. I can relate to a a lot of your thoughts. What happens sometimes is when i start to play a title that i dont have as disc and that  is on gamepass, and i like it and finish it, then i still buy the physical copy later. I guess to somehow manfestate the memories of playing it.
Speaking of younger gamers: I realized how often we expect things to be known and as common, when i talked about Switch-Zelda games with 20-year-old. Is asked him, if he liked the old Zeldas? He sad, yes on Wii. When i asked, "no- the old ones for the SNES"- he simply sad "Which what?!" Smiley
I've also sometimes played a game first as a download, then I picked up the physical copy.  Despite fealing a little silly in repurchasing, I agree; it definitely establishes more as an experience, reminds me more easily to go back to it, and I get to loan it out to share the experience.

*sigh* Yeah, I can definitely relate to generation gaps in gaming. One of our family friends started on Xbox as a kid; it is a bit different talking 'classics' between Centipede and Halo. Cheesy
@slackur: I have semi-frequently done the same thing, buying a game digitally, and then again physically, though mostly it's indie titles that get a physical release later, such as Axiom Verge, Freedom Planet, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse, and other examples. I've never purchased a AAA title or big name game digitally, then gone back and bought the physical later. A lot of times, I do that when I found an indie that spoke to me, and like it well enough to support the dev with a physical purchase, to encourage them to hopefully do more of that in the future. As we get further away from the age of physical media, however, I suspect that will become even more niche, and physical editions of games will be relegated to smaller indie titles getting "limited run" style print runs, hopefully with patches and DLC on card/disc, while most stuff in the AAA space remains largely digital, unless someone comes up with a new optical format that surpasses both the capacity and speed of Blu-Ray, so that a game can actually fit on the media. Even so, with day one patches being a major thing, at some point owning physical games is going to be useless for bigger titles, outside of Nintendo first party stuff perhaps, because publishers are content to push games out the door in massively broken states, knowing that in the time between "going gold" and the street date, they can sneak out a patch that will fix the issues they're already aware of. Aside from later "GOTY" releases that have fixes/patches/DLC included, buying physical will almost certainly just be a token experience for the diehards like us, who just have to have those things sitting on our shelves.

Heck, even the shmup I'm playing this month isn't immune. I have the Steam version, which has some issues, but even though it doesn't have a Steam-integrated score leaderboard, it has a local leaderboard you can track your score in. The PS4 version, however, has nothing of the sort, and if you don't have PSN, you have no score tracking at all. From what I understand, the Switch version is the same way, which I'll have to look into, since I actually do have Nintendo Switch Online. I fear we're becoming dinosaurs, my friend.
Relate hard to this article. Well said
@Crabmaster2000: Thanks. I knew it wasn't just me.

We may indeed become dinosaurs, but they happened to leave quite the lasting legacy, and continue to inspire new generations. Smiley

 Login or register to comment
It appears as though you are not a member of our site, or are not logged in.
It appears as though you can not comment currently. Becoming able to comment though is easy! All you need to do is register for the site! Not only will you be able to access any other site features including the forum and collection tools. If you are a registered user and just need to login then you can do so here.

Comment! It's easy, thoughtful, and who knows you might just enjoy it!
This is slackur's Blog.
View Profile | RSS
Thoughts on video games, gaming culture, concepts intertwining interactive media, my attempts at sounding intelligent, and other First World Problems.

Please don't leave a message, but a conversation. ;)
Blog Navigation
Browse Bloggers | My Blog
Hot Entries
Hot Community Entries
Site content Copyright © unless otherwise noted. Oh, and keep it on channel three.