Daily Elysium: Ok, Maybe I'm Just A Little Defensive

Oh, I know what youÂ're thinking. Two Daily Elysiums in o­ne week, it must be getting close to Christmas. But youÂ're thinking it in a really sarcastic way. DonÂ't think I canÂ't tell.

ThereÂ's an old saying where I come from: donÂ't kiss a rattlesnake goodnight o­n the first date. I think this saying is a good example of why I ignore most advice given me by other people. But, as it not surprisingly turns out, there is an exception to my rule, o­ne piece of finely crafted colloquial witticism that I do subscribe to, and itÂ's as cliché and tired as reunion tours for eighties bands. That saying is: thereÂ's no such thing as a free lunch.

ItÂ's a good reminder, which canÂ't be overstated, that every time someone offers you something free, they do so with the anticipation that you will give them money anyway. Those ladies handing out slivers of Jimmy Dean sausage o­n toothpicks at the Piggly Wiggly arenÂ't doing so because they think itÂ's glamorous. They do it because they are trying to entice you with a hint of the meaty goodness you can buy for yourself. The same goes for all things computer, and donÂ't you forget it.

Demos are the classic example. ThereÂ's not a publisher out there that releases a game demo without some degree of confidence that the demo will get more people to buy their game. And, for as much as gamers might complain otherwise, if a demo isnÂ't going to promote sales, be it because the game wouldnÂ't play well in demo form, the title already has enough buzz, or the game is just crap, you can expect not to see o­ne. The idea exists in some heads that demos are made available so gamers can Â"˜try a game outÂ'. Well, thatÂ's kind of a byproduct, a happy benefit if you will, but never kid yourself into thinking a demo is released for any other reason than to convince you to throw money around.

You know, overall, the gaming industry is pretty much like any other business. If publisher A can get away with technique Z to make money, then odds are they probably will, and thereÂ's usually nothing wrong with that. Notice IÂ'm drawing a distinction here between publishers and developers, not simply because I like the stereotype of the evil publisher with his wire rimmed glasses and waxed moustache, but because I think the two types of businesses are opposing. Developers are staffed by gamers primarily in business to make good games, and with some luck, make money doing it. Publishers are MBAs in business to sell the developerÂ's art for the express intent of making money off it. For publishers there is no pesky artistic integrity to hamper their great desire to make black (not red) lines go up o­n graphs in their Powerpoint presentations. It comes down to this, I think, and with very few exceptions. The first question the developer asks is: will it be a good game? The first question the publisher asks is: can we make money off it?

Maybe thatÂ's terribly terribly cynical of me, and if so chalk it up to the jaded grumblings of a guy whoÂ's watched too many games get thrust half-assed o­nto the public. But, we can save the complaints about half-assed games for another time. IÂ'm talking about moola, dollars, dinero, cash money.

You see, thereÂ's something much more nefarious afoot of late disguised as something for nothing, or so a quick look into my inbox recently revealed. When they finally build a treatment center for Everquest addiction I expect it to be named after me: The Elysium Center for the Hopelessly Weak-Willed. I know a lot of gamers out there have avoided the EQ craze, and look upon those of us whoÂ've fallen in much the way non-smokers look down their healthy cancer free noses at someone lighting up. But, EQ really is kind of like a very mild and non-reality-altering drug addiction. If the story of this addiction and how difficult it is to break free were to be made into an after school special, hereÂ's how it would goÂ"…

INTERIOR; ELYSIUM'S HOUSE:  (a doorbell rings and ELYSIUM looks up nervously from some haughty ass book nobody else would want to read. ELYSIUM gets up to answer the door. Zoom in o­n shaking hand o­n doorknob)

ELYSIUM: (nervously) Who is it?

EXEC: Hello. ItÂ's Sony o­nline Entertainment.

(ELYSIUMÂ'S hand jerks from door. Zoom in o­n bearded face. ELYSIUM looks uncertain.)

ELYSIUM: What do you want?!

EXEC: WeÂ'd like to give you some crack.

ELYSIUM: I donÂ't do crack anymore!

EXEC: Of course you donÂ't. Terrible habit. WeÂ'll just leave it o­n the doorstep for you.

(ELYSIUMÂ'S hands are shaking. His teeth chatter and he swallows hard.)

ELYSIUM: No no. Just take it with you, I donÂ't want any crack! I quit.

EXEC: Sure you did! We suspected you might have quit Â"… again. Well, you know what they say, sixth timeÂ's a charm. Of course, no harm in a seventh or eighth time, you know. No shame at all in falling off that bandwagon. You know, just for a day or two. HereÂ's a nice flower pot weÂ'll leave your crack o­n.

ELYSIUM: No! I donÂ't want it. I didnÂ't ask for any crack. I donÂ't have money for crack. Please just leave me alone.

EXEC: Oh, no charge for this crack. We just brought it by in case, you know, you might think Â"˜hey, I havenÂ't had any crack for a whileÂ'. If you donÂ't want it, thatÂ's fine. IÂ'm sure some kid will come along and steal it off this flower pot.

ELYSIUM: Well, maybe just a little crack.

Then thereÂ'd be some sort of swelling music, and probably an intervention at some point, and maybe a shoot out where little Timmy gets caught in the crossfire and dies in my arms, tears streaking down his muddy cheeks, and he says, "I forgive you for doing crack, even though it got me shot". Then he dies. Which is why you definitely shouldnÂ't do crack Â"…


Wait, what was I talking about?

Oh, right. Anyway Sony o­nline sent me an e-mail recently just giving me a heads up that theyÂ'd reactiviated my account this week. No charge at all to me, just a friendly little pre-Christmas gift, and I have no obligation at all to pay for a dime. Which, of course, is utter baloney (bologna, for you purists). Because, the moment I logged in – and, yes, IÂ'm shamed to admit I couldnÂ't log in quick enough – I knew that my reactivated addiction to this game would last exactly o­ne free week, and maybe an extra thirty minutes, for which IÂ'll have to pay for a full month, after that.

ItÂ's inevitable. For whatever reason getting away from Everquest is like trying to shimmy up a running water slide. Even if the torrent of water doesnÂ't get you, eventually someoneÂ's gonna come plummeting down that chute and send you crashing back to the bottom. And not o­nly is Sony o­nline aware of that fact, but they are perfectly happy to exploit it. Honestly, theyÂ'd be remiss not to. A lot of people would probably call me relatively weak for allowing myself to be drawn in for such an obviously tainted free lunch, but youÂ've all got your own hooks in you mouths just waiting for someone to give you a tug. So, donÂ't you go getting all superior with me!

Hmm, that was pretty defensive.

I donÂ't know if IÂ'm trying to get in anyoneÂ's case over all this. IÂ'm not shattering any veiled secrets by exposing the profit motive of the industry. The clear emulation between game publishers and the recording industry should be more than enough to sustain that flimsy indictment, but itÂ's hardly conspiratory. ItÂ's like walking into a BallyÂ's Fitness and accusing everyone of surreptitiously trying to get into shape. YouÂ're not exactly shaking any foundations with that revelation. Maybe IÂ'm just admitting I have a problem because admitting you have a problem is fifty percent of the battle.

Still, itÂ's just Â"… you know Â"… IÂ'm weak.

- Elysium


I've gotten emails like that for both Earth and Beyond and Anarchy Online. I just deleted them and then gave my wife a big hug. I felt better afterwards.

Don't feel too bad. If you're having fun that's the important thing, right? Sure they'll probably find some way to suck all the fun out of the game for you yet again, but maybe if you try and play only one hour or so, and then next time try to play for less than an hour and go from there, each day playing less and less, you may beat the free week afterall. Make a meta-game out of it!

I got that same email, I gave it about as much time as I do the usual larger member, better mortgage, amateur slut emails before I delete them.

You, my friend, are still an amateur slut.

Hey Elysium, I just got a free month of EQ with my Lords of EQ review copy. Want a taste?

I found this website last night at 2am. I don't know if anyone here has heard of it. It's mostly strips about the EQ experience. It would probably help remind you of what you liked and why you left without having to reactivate your account. Hell, I've never played EQ, and after reading the archives, it almost makes me feel like I've played the game.