The Soapbox: The Future's So Bright I Have To Squint


WhatÂ's the difference between a Soapbox and a Daily Elysium, you might ask, though I wouldnÂ't necessarily recommend it. A Daily Elysium is usually grounded in some kind of real and present issue; it addresses a hot (or at least tepid) topic and wanders quickly through a series of brief points to a possibly logical conclusion. A Soapbox, however, stands – or at the very least leans anemically against a stucco wall with a pale face and an expression not unlike that of extreme constipation – on its tremulous own, and is as valid an expression of (ir)relevant opinion now as a month to come or since. Further, I think a Soapbox can only exist in a kind of extreme hyperbole, a literary wormhole or hyperspace that doesnÂ't exist within or follow the rules of traditional space. Perhaps we should call it hyper-hyperbole, so wandering and obscure, rife with parenthetical aside and stream-of-conscious narrative that it would have Faulkner checking his Chicago Manual of Style. Think of it as a word jigsaw puzzle without a picture to guide you and possibly missing a dozen or more pieces.

IÂ'd like to promise you that it only gets better from here. IÂ'd also like to buy the world a Coke. I wouldnÂ't bank on either happening if I were you.

I was planning to write something cynical and devilishly critical for you today, because if thereÂ's any one thing IÂ'm certain of, itÂ's that the Internet has not reached and can not reach a critical mass of cynical gaming commentary. IÂ'm not sure what it is about this electronic medium that takes otherwise well adjusted and moderately contented people, boils their thick, salty blood, and replaces reasonable perspective with a kind of disdain that you usually only see at the post office or the department of motor vehicles, but one need not look particularly hard to find scathing invective and brutal unsolicited criticism. Frankly, you canÂ't swing a dead possum without hitting some, not that I necessarily condone the swinging of marsupial corpses. In fact, IÂ'd bet youÂ'll see those things right on this very front page again before the weekÂ's out - the gaming negativity, not the roadkill.

But, IÂ'd like to step away from that familiar deluge of tumultuous bile for just a moment, flowing through our collective psyche like some Kafka-esque river Styx, and smell the roses, or at least the fetid decaying biomass that used to be my roses of unbridled optimism. IÂ'd also like to indulge my propensity for exaggeration, and turn that misdirected force toward a brief and shining moment of sanguinity before it gets swept up again, a well oiled weather vein in the malodorous wind of online opinion, and turns forever south toward negativity Â"… or perhaps Mississippi assuming thereÂ's even a difference.

Frankly I canÂ't believe youÂ've decided to read on. It shows courage and spunk. I like courage, though spunk I can usually do without. What impresses me most is that youÂ've ventured forth without my giving you any idea what I might want to talk about. I can imagine several possibilities for this action, 1) it shows that you trust me to lead you somewhere interesting, 2) youÂ're recording my every mistake so that someday, should I try to actually participate in society, you can expose me as a dimwitted fraud, 3) you have OCD and must click absolutely every single link, and as such you have my sympathy. Either way, IÂ'm impressed to see you here, and now letÂ's get, finally, to the topic at hand.

Lots of people spend a great amount of caloric energy sending neural impulses to their deft fingers in an effort to wax ad nauseum on the certainty of PC gamingÂ's death. Nothing seems quite so enticing for web writers, perplexingly both from people who bemoan the PC and those who extol it, as prophesying the (un)timely demise of the PC market. They sit in lofty judgment as digital NostradamusÂ' (or the less correct but more Latin sounding Nostradomii) whose litany of post-modern quatrains weep for the crashing future of our exhausted platform. Like hassling George Broussard about the thundering silence issued ever forth from 3d-Realms regarding the anti-future of Duke Nukem Forever – often referred to as Duke Nukem Taking Forever or Duke Nukem You Guys Suck Forever – web-writers spray forth great geysers of commentary either wailing over or celebrating the twilight of the PC. And we PC gamers, Like Mac enthusiasts but with more credibility, have gotten very used to hearing and ignoring the string of detractors who opine the certainty of our demise.

I just donÂ't buy it. First, I donÂ't get the perpetual all or nothing perception people have on just about every topic. I donÂ't know quite what it is about people that disables their ability to comprehend the stormy nether regions between polar extremes when more than two options exist on any given table, but you see it all the time. ItÂ's either PC or console. ItÂ's either Nintendo or itÂ's Xbox. ItÂ's either Pepsi or Coke. ItÂ's either love or hate. My friends, I assure you, PC gaming can live in that Dr. Pepper realm of guarded camaraderie and open-minded grayness. PC gaming may never dominate the market as it once did, but must even a slight downhill roll equate automatically to a doomed certainty? IÂ'd offer in illustration, that despite my very best efforts IÂ've never rolled a bowling ball downhill all the way to the ferrous molten core of the planet. No, eventually my balls, no matter how dense, eventually find purchase on the stony ground of EarthÂ's floating and shifting crust.(Just for the record, I meant my bowling balls)

Consider how many amazing games are on tap for the PC; games that are anxiously awaited for their depth of story, their innovative gameplay, their mystique, or their technical superiority. I see great discussions over the latest Deus Ex 2 shots, and hear nay-sayers espousing the intrinsic worthlessness with well practiced ennui simply because the bump mapped environments do not quite reach precisely the same level of foggy atmospheric anxiety as Doom 3, and then, possibly in the very same Cheeto-favored breath, rail against Doom 3 for its lack of plot. Can we not love the story of Deus Ex, and then later let our eyes dance in the muddied hell of Doom 3? Must we either achieve hallowed transcendence or wallow in our own grim, moldy disenchantment without reaching the neutral terra-firma of compromise?

There are just far too many terrific games around the corner and onto the bright thoroughfare of Sunshine Boulevard for me to stall and overheat in the gridlock of Sardonic Avenue. I ache to play in the expansive world of Freelancer, to conquer the universe in Master of Orion 3, to rebuild America in 1503 A.D., to (with luck) openly hunt Gungans for sport in Galaxies, to redefine central European history with Lionheart, and to wage bloody revolution in Republic. Will many of these games that I openly pine for – like an exiled expatriot retracing the drunken steps of Hemingway to their untimely and morose end, sipping warm Sangria at a dusty Madrid bullfight, while captured in a brief moment of metaphysical reverie smells the summer wind across the Kansas plains of his brutal youth – suck? Of course they will, but an equal number of games IÂ've not yet considered will steal across the rancorous voices of the internet, and hint at digital pleasures IÂ've only vaguely imagined. It happened with Divine Divinity, and Battlefield 1942 last year, and IÂ've no doubt that this sweeping electrical storm of PC gaming will strike down on me again and again.

In the face of retailers abandoning return policies, video card shenanigans, and patchware, I remain determined at optimism. After all, IÂ'm still having fun playing my little games, and isnÂ't that the whole point?

- Elysium


You're drunk aren't you? Aren't you? You are drunk!  

But really... can't we all just get along? Unfortunately, the internet gives everyone a voice, and people just love to be cynical.

Everyone's a critic, but that doesn't mean you have to read what they type.

And stop trying to write when you've been drinking.. for shame Elysium, for shame.

I read this entire soapbox and I'm not sure if my IQ went up 10 points (from looking up some of the SAT words) or if Elysium was just indulging in incoherent babble that no one was meant to understand. 

I do agree with the point however.  I've been thinking about getting a console for months now, but the games I'm looking forward to the most are coming out on the pc and most of the best console games are getting ported over to the biege box anyway.  I think I'll save the $200 and buy a few more pc games.

'Fess up, Elysium - you're getting kickbacks from thesarus dealers, aren't you?  For shame!

Actually, I'm fairly ashamed to admit I only used the thesaurus twice, but one of those times produced the word malodorous, and I'm so proud to have used it that I have no regrets!

Yes, I was drunk.  Drunk with power!

- Elysium