Getting Over It

For years now I have steadfastly, and some would say childishly, refused to plug a controller into my PC. As a result I grappled with ports of games like Assassin’s Creed, Bulletstorm, Dead Space and Deus Ex: Human Revolution which, while functional with mouse and keyboard, were clearly designed with a different input in mind. There was some deep-seated, purist, nonsensical part of me that felt like using a controller on my PC meant I was just turning it into an overpriced Xbox, that I was conceding some core concept of purity and sanctity.

This was, of course, utter poppycock. I’ve known that for a long time now, and so this week I gave in and plugged in a 360 controller to play Warhammer 40k: Space Marine. It was so very much the right decision, and got me thinking about what other brick walls I had been needlessly throwing between myself and having fun with my chosen hobby.

I thought of quite a few.

As a result I’ve found myself reconsidering, reconciling and compromising a lot like this lately. For years I’ve taken up arms in minor gaming causes, but after too many boycotts because of DRM and too long indignant rants over DLC I find that what I’ve most accomplished is stealing the joy and the whimsy that gaming is supposed to be about in the first place from myself.

So, I stand before you a man prepared to begin shucking the trivial principals and naive idealism that has informed my approach to video games for the better part of a decade. And I have a feeling that I may just be a happier gamer for it, in the long run.

That’s not to say I’m never going to get annoyed at some hidden clause abused within a terms of service agreement or find fault with the actions of ill-informed executives at major publishing houses again. But, the thing is you don’t have to work hard to find something to be unhappy about in the games industry, and even if you don’t try, it’s a certainty that someone else will and then actively pursue you to let you know what you’re supposed to be pissed off about. If you spend your time even casually watching for something to be annoyed about in this enthusiast industry, you’re not going to have much time left to actually play games.

Day-one DLC, always-on DRM, anti-piracy measures, rising prices in video games, corporate shenanigans, online passes, digital distribution and a score of other issues dominate conversations and the increasingly dour debates in dystopian forum communities. I use the word “conversation” loosely, and only in the sense that people pick a side and then spout the platitudes and well practiced talking points of that side ad nauseum. If your past time is participating in circular arguments, then this is a boom time for you, but less and less do I find that the discussions of gaming in the less well-tempered corners of the web actually make me want to play games.

It is a practice I am familiar with because I have spent years allowing myself to be sucked in to the trap of if not actively participating, at the very least reading and pondering on these issues. It’s not that there are no discussions worth having in gaming, it’s just that some of them are long since settled and dead. And, yes, in a lot of them gamers — at least old-school, inflexible gamers like myself — got totally screwed.

Thing is, when you lose, the best way to make sure you keep on losing is to go around whining about how bad that last loss was. And, let’s face it, gamers are on kind of a losing streak when it comes to issues like preorder bonuses, rising game prices, microtransactions and those other things I mentioned before. But, if I had to hazard a guess as to why we keep losing, it’s because we are still fighting the fights that are long-since lost, rather than the ones that matter tomorrow.

Or maybe even more importantly, we are wrongly seeing them as fights worth having in the first place.

Let’s say video gaming was skiing instead. If someone came up to me and told me that makers of skis were screwing over skiing enthusiasts because they were limiting the way bindings on skis worked to make sure that people had to buy the most expensive boots, I’d probably shrug the least interested shrug possible. From the outside looking in, the math is painfully simple. Is the cost of entry into skiing still lower than the value you get from skiing? If yes, then keep skiing. If no, then maybe this isn’t the place for you.

Of course, it’s almost an insultingly simple response and one that completely fails to address the underlying corporate manipulation at play, but again we’re just talking about skiing. Or video games. Either way, what I most certainly never want is to do the math and realize that the enjoyment I get has dropped below my threshold of cost. And, the more I participate in the dialogue of dead horses, the less I actually like playing games. For me, I can’t separate the angst from the action, and I realize I’ve just got to start letting go.

I hate when people tell me to get over it, I do, but honestly sometimes it’s just the best possible advice. Maybe it’s that as I get older, I just don’t have the energy to be insulted by every slight any more, or maybe it’s just that I’m beginning to realize the more I focus on what’s wrong with the industry the less I’m actually enjoying gaming, and that seems like a crappy deal. Ubisoft has really crappy DRM, but in my math, playing a fun game like Driver: San Francisco and getting over it is more fun than storming around the internet shaking my fist at the wind for blowing.

I can’t speak for the rest of gamers -- nor would I have the temerity to tell you that what’s right for me is right for you -- but I can tell you that I’m done waiting for gaming’s Norma Rae to come stand on a table and organize us into a collective bargaining force, in part because I don’t like Sally Field as much these days and second because no one is going to do that. The industry will go on operating as a self-involved, profit-driven force that will push the envelope on customer service every chance it gets for as long as they keep making money at it, and I can either try to play what’s fun or I can’t. The choice is actually mine.

Do I fault people for having a conversation about the direction of the industry? Not at all. Do I think everyone should adopt my “just get over it” model? Not really, though I think there are a lot of people like me who will find a lot more fun in letting go. Do I think gamers tend to make the biggest waves on issues that have long been settled? Yeah, actually I do. And I think by doing so they are already ceding the decision on the issues that will matter today and tomorrow to the industry.

But, the most important question I’ve been asking myself lately is, for once, a totally different one. Despite all these things that are wrong with the business of gaming, is it more fun to spend my time feeling like a marginalized gamer or playing the games? Then, when I have the answer to that question, I ask what I’m going to do about it? The answer is usually to play a fun game.

Comments

Ubisoft has really crappy DRM, but in my math, playing a fun game like Driver: San Francisco and getting over it is more fun than storming around the internet shaking my fist at the wind for blowing.

If you tolerate the abuse, you will only get more abuse. They will continue to increase the abuse levels until you stop buying games.

I ask what I’m going to do about it? The answer is usually to play a fun game.

Just play games that don't abuse you. Lord knows there's a billion of them. Indie games like Space Pirates and Zombies are as good as mainstream games were a few years ago. The graphics aren't at the same levels, but the actual fun quotient is extremely high.

Oh, and DE:HR is much better with a mouse. The other games you mention play very nicely with a controller, but DE benefits from fast, precision aiming.

You have just entered my world. Welcome. I just want to play games and have fun. Sure I have opinions that I share on the internet - but really, I am just really excited about video games and like to play them. Is the day-one DLC that is already on the disc obnoxious? Sure! But I buy 90% of my games new, so I get access to it already. Is Ubisoft's DRM lame? Yes! But their games are always really fun!

I like fun and find myself a happier person when I focus on the things that I like more than the things that bother me - especially if I can't change the source of annoyance, and especially x 2 if the source of annoyance is of a philosophical nature and doesn't actually affect my ability to have fun.

I also really like vodka - they should make that a video game.

I have been playing Space Marine with a keyboard and mouse and find that they did a great job at implementing these controls. Shooting feels good and they did a good job making melee work so it feels natural.

I personally feel that if a game was meant to be played with a controller, I'll just buy the console version of the game.

i am starting to be in the same camp. I look at all the hullabaloo over Origin, then I look at the videos. I couldn't give EA and Dice my money fast enough. I just don't care. I want to play that game.

If you tolerate the abuse, you will only get more abuse. They will continue to increase the abuse levels until you stop buying games.

But, that's the thing. I'll give them my money until they run me off, and then I'm out. Since, and I'm pretty sure of this, Ubi is going to be doing this anyway, I'll at least play a few fun games in the meantime.

To be honest I'm not sure whether that means I've got a new outlook or I've just given up hope for the mainstream industry. I think an argument could be made either way.

I generally just play on console, where my Microsoft overlords taken care of it all for me anyways.

Elysium wrote:

But, that's the thing. I'll give them my money until they run me off, and then I'm out. Since, and I'm pretty sure of this, Ubi is going to be doing this anyway, I'll at least play a few fun games in the meantime.

Exactly. And in that meantime, ranting and getting mad doesn't help solve anything, for anyone who is still buying games DRM. They aren't listening. The only language that Ubisoft or any other publisher understands is dollars. C.R.E.A.M.

Personally, I am fed up enough with Ubisoft that I'm not buying anymore-- the From Dust kerfuffle was my last straw. And I'm not buying anything on EA Origin, I'll just wait until I can score bioware titles from amazon for steam-sale prices. Not buying anything via Impulse either, now that it's owned by satan. All of this may leave be with fewer games to play, but I've already got more games than I have time to play.

Klyith wrote:
Elysium wrote:

But, that's the thing. I'll give them my money until they run me off, and then I'm out. Since, and I'm pretty sure of this, Ubi is going to be doing this anyway, I'll at least play a few fun games in the meantime.

Exactly. And in that meantime, ranting and getting mad doesn't help solve anything, for anyone who is still buying games DRM. They aren't listening. The only language that Ubisoft or any other publisher understands is dollars. C.R.E.A.M.

Personally, I am fed up enough with Ubisoft that I'm not buying anymore-- the From Dust kerfuffle was my last straw. And I'm not buying anything on EA Origin, I'll just wait until I can score bioware titles from amazon for steam-sale prices. Not buying anything via Impulse either, now that it's owned by satan. All of this may leave be with fewer games to play, but I've already got more games than I have time to play.

Fair enough, and your commitment to your beliefs is commendable. The thing is - you are just punishing yourself, not the publisher. They are not going to miss your 50$.

Recent, related piece from Ars, "In Gaming, Everything is Amazing, but No One is Happy."

SallyNasty wrote:

Fair enough, and your commitment to your beliefs is commendable. The thing is - you are just punishing yourself, not the publisher. They are not going to miss your 50$.

Bullcrap. Since when is is "punishing yourself" to save $50 and not be annoyed every time I try to play a game? Of course they don't care about me or my money, but this isn't about them, it's about me.

This has very little to do with commitment to beliefs: if ubisoft made Klyith's Perfect Game then I would cave and buy it. I'd rather reward good games. But until then, it's not worth my time and money to deal with them. Same with EA. That has nothing to do with principles, Steam is not morally superior to Origin. I just don't want to be bothered.

...
Also, if all the dopes call for DRM boycotts actually did it, then yes they would care. People hated starforce enough to actively avoid it, and it died off. Mission complete.

On the initial point of the article...I hadn't had a gamepad for my PC since I ordered a Gravis GamePad to play Jazz Jackrabbit as a young lad. I finally caved and ordered an Xbox 360 controller packaged with the USB puck receiver about a year ago (mostly for driving games) and I really haven't regretted the purchase. As many of my friends have 360s, I can bring my own controller over and not have to worry about their not having one, batteries being dead, etc., and for those games that do happen to control better with analog inputs, I've got a universally supported wireless controller readily available. And, for those rare split-screen PC games, I can use M+K and hand a friend the sticks, and have an enjoyable local co-op experience. I'm a serious long-time PC gamer, but there's really no reason beyond foolish pride to deny that other input methods can have their place in my gaming setup.

good article

Generally I am with pitchforks and flaming stick crowd when it comes to PC gamers rights. But you are right at some point you do have to just "get over it" and play and have fun. For me the concession I make is that I purchase UBI games but only when they are in STEEP discount on steam. I really dont care if I have to wait an extra year to play a game, so I can still register my distain (paying 5-10 bucks instead of 60) while still playing fun games that works for me.

wordsmythe wrote:

Recent, related piece from Ars, "In Gaming, Everything is Amazing, but No One is Happy."

Man I need a better way to file away interesting things I've read. I wanted to link that and just found it, half an hour after you posted it. Thanks for covering it though.

Bullcrap. Since when is is "punishing yourself" to save $50 and not be annoyed every time I try to play a game? Of course they don't care about me or my money, but this isn't about them, it's about me.

I think both are fair. My point is more that it's ok to do what gives you the most joy in gaming. For me, it's not being angry about things that ultimately, in my life, aren't that big of a deal and enjoying the games instead. If you can't enjoy the games with the limitations you are faced with, that's your choice and you have to do what's right for you. I guess what I'm saying is that it's fine for gamers to make that choice in either direction. I'm just having a shift from one way of thinking to another.

This last year has been a slow process of getting over some of my gaming ideals, as well. Most of them can be boiled down to this: I can be interested in what I'm interested in without worrying about being out of step with gaming culture at large. It's okay to be interested in games, genres, franchises, and whole platforms that others, sometimes seemingly everyone, are really gaga over or poopooing. And all those great games out there? There's no way I'll be able to play them all. Like, ever. So, just let them swim right on by and just grab the ones that are really interesting, regardless of what they are.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

This last year has been a slow process of getting over some of my gaming ideals, as well. Most of them can be boiled down to this: I can be interested in what I'm interested in without worrying about being out of step with gaming culture at large. It's okay to be interested in games, genres, franchises, and whole platforms that others, sometimes seemingly everyone, are really gaga over or poopooing. And all those great games out there? There's no way I'll be able to play them all. Like, ever. So, just let them swim right on by and just grab the ones that are really interesting, regardless of what they are.

You say that, and yet the other night, as I was fruitlessly trying to perform an Animality in the Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection for an achievement, instead of playing Rock of Ages or From Dust, I would have argued that some things in gaming are categorically incorrect.

Also, and more seriously: my anxiety over Deus Ex and missing out on DX:HR? Gone, for the reasons you mention.

Elysium wrote:

As a result I grappled with ports of games like ... Deus Ex: Human Revolution which, while functional with mouse and keyboard, were clearly designed with a different input in mind.

Really? I'm playing with M+K, and I haven't seen anything to make me think that it was "clearly designed" for a controller. Granted, you've finished the game, and I have not, but I don't expect to come across anything to make me feel hindered by using M+K.

Honestly, I think the best defense against the big companies and getting screwed over by EULAs and the like, has been the massive rise in the power and availability of gaming engine technology, as well as a huge improvement in content creation tools.

There are a LOT more options out there nowadays, and it's becoming increasingly clear that you don't need a huge studio and millions of dollars to make a good game - Magicka, Torchlight, World Of Goo and SPAZ are all prime examples of this. And this is excellent news for the gaming industry, because it's been opening up the doors to a large wave of creativity which, personally, I've been enjoying quite a lot.

Some of those arguments are really about simple dollars and cents. Who are the people bitching about DRM? PC gamers. Where's the least amount of money coming from? PC gamers. Who is more than willing to shell over cash without so much as a thought? Console gamers.

Not so much because console gamers are stupid (I am one, after all). Well, some of them are...but more because you simply don't have to care. While there are certain kinds of DRM and other issues that make me sigh, I just can't bring myself to become angry or outraged. I pop my disc into my Xbox, PS3 or Wii and it runs.

The only thing I could get in a fit over is all this Project-10-Dollar stuff, but considering I completed Dragon Age: Origins without any of that DLC before remembering I had a code to download it for free, well, it felt like a complete and whole game. I just couldn't really care less (that's a lie, I could...)

I think it's a matter of knowing when to pick your battles. I will not be purchasing Modern Warfare 3, and will instead spend money on Battlefield 3. Is it a worthless gesture? I bet it is, but I don't care. I want someone to know that I like what's going on in EA more than what is happening with Activision.

That's the only way to protest or talk. Money. Otherwise, I say just play what is fun.

Is the cost of entry into skiing still lower than the value you get from skiing?

That right there sums things up very well I think. I hear a lot of complaining about things like Netflix prices going up, the Star Wars blu-rays being all sorts of wrong, DRM being crappy, etc. When it comes down to it, we all decide how important these things are, and how much we value each product.

While Netflix has gone up in price, it is still a great value, so I pay for it. I didn't like how the original movies were handled in the Star Wars blu-rays, so I cancelled my pre-order. I put up with the "always on" internet connection crap that was part of the DRM for C&C4 because I enjoyed the game.

Besides, slogging through some bad parts to get to the good stuff... isn't that a euphemism for life?

ccesarano wrote:

Some of those arguments are really about simple dollars and cents. Who are the people bitching about DRM? PC gamers. Where's the least amount of money coming from? PC gamers. Who is more than willing to shell over cash without so much as a thought? Console gamers.

Not so much because console gamers are stupid (I am one, after all). Well, some of them are...but more because you simply don't have to care. While there are certain kinds of DRM and other issues that make me sigh, I just can't bring myself to become angry or outraged. I pop my disc into my Xbox, PS3 or Wii and it runs.

I completely agree with this. I console game over PC game as it's simple. I sit down, hit a button, and I'm playing. I do it in a comfy couch, on a big screen TV, with surround sound, and it's good. It's familiar, and relaxing, because gaming, for me, is a way to relax and enjoy some 'alone' time.

Reading through all of the config issues (and lots of other stuff I don't understand) in the Dead Island thread that the PC players are going through, I can understand why PC gamers are quicker to raise the pitchforks and burning torches. They work hard for their enjoyment, and as such, they have more invested in the final result.

That's not a criticism, it's just an observation. Time is limited for me with family and work commitments, so the greater percentage of my available time I can direct towards fun, the better for me.

SallyNasty wrote:

I also really like vodka - they should make that a video game.

Also this.

I feel the same way. I just don't care as much now as when I was younger about these issues. I mean I do care but when it doesn't directly interfere with my gaming I don't.

As for the PC or console aspect...definitely much more simple on a console but I prefer my comfy chair at my PC still for now.

Going with Steam rather Xbox for most of my purchases this season (Batman, Rage, Saint's Row). Got a 15' HDMI cable running from my vid card to the secondary TV, a wired Xbox controller, and a couch to sit on. The only thing I'll really be missing out on is the multichannel sound system hooked up to main TV.

The only major game I'll still be purchasing for the Xbox is Skyrim, and that's mainly because the spouse enjoyed spotting nirnroots in Oblivion on the big TV.

Bend over and take it?

Computer game --> Butt?

I personally make the choice on a game by game basis. I really wanted Splinter Cell Conviction. It came with UBI always on DRM. I still had a fun time punctuated by moments of annoyance at the inability to connect to their server.

Would I buy another one? Depends on if I deem the game to be worth it. I'd prefer it without it, but sometimes I just don't get that choice if it's a game I really want to play.

Next up Battlefield 3. I'm actually getting my second hard drive today just so I can dual boot and only install Origin and Battlefield 3. What's that Origin? All I do is play battlefield 3? You just go on and keep thinking that.

I still dislike DRM in games, it's probably the one thing I still do as far as games go to not play a subset of them. The good part is that most games with DRM on the PC can be had for consoles, where the DRM isn't PC-hobbling. I may not get to use my fancy graphics card and high end i7 processor for those games, but I still get to enjoy them without annoyance. I tend to avoid Steam for games if I can, buying from gamersgate, gog, and impulse wherever possible, mainly because of the "airplane" factor. Taking games you buy on steam on an airplane means locking everyone else in your house out of all of the other steam games on your home computer. You can't just take Spore and leave Bejeweled, it's all or nothing. I don't have a laptop for gaming, but concerns like that make me think twice about steam.

Happily, my PSP will let me leave my PSP Go at home for other people to use while taking my PSP3000 on the plane and we can use all of my games both places with no internet connection. I think iPhones are the same way, if they're anything like the old classic iPods.

I suppose there's also the motion control bias, but there's so few good motion control games that can't be played in other ways that it's not a problem.

I am, of course, a happy PC controller user since the release of Final Fantasy 11. If a game has a controller option, I use it.

Elysium wrote:

But, the thing is you don’t have to work hard to find something to be unhappy about in the games industry

Isn't that a terribly sad thing though? We shouldn't be in this situation, it shouldn't exist.

The rest of the article. I can't blame you for wanting to just enjoy things. I know that i'm a minority of a minority and i know there are many more than you who don't mind about these things. I just hope that it doesn't come back to bite us in the ass.

To put this in perspective i only have one thing to get annoyed about with Football (the real vesion) - lack of goal line technology. In Tennis, i have nothing. Swimming, nothing. Photography, nothing. Cricket, nothing. Board games, nothing (well, stupid limited run of Space Hulk aside). Cards? Nothing.

The only equivalences in the world are movies, music, games, business and politics. I find it disappointing that there is so much you can easily dislike in an entertainment medium that is on par with the disgusting things that go on in business and politics.

Elysium, I too, just want to enjoy video games. But as Malor points out, I am well beyond tired of being abused by publishers/developers/whoever the wang forcing DRM and other garbage on me is.

But with that said, I feel that as I've gotten older(and markedly less angry. Most days, anyway) I've hit upon a simple solution: The Pile.

You see, I currently have over 100 fantasticly awesome games in my Steam list. In fact, there are 107. I also have a fistful of games I bought from GoG, whom I will continue to buy games from. So, quite frankly, I don't really care if Ubisoft is releasing an awesome game loaded with DRM; I'll bemoan it, of course, because I really want to add that game to my gigantic pile with the promise of playing it eventually, but the reality is that I probably won't, and so they won't get my $50 or $60 and I'll have one less game on my Pile.

That, I think, is the key to the whole argument. There are so many fan-freaking-tastic games available for you to buy, RIGHT NOW, from companies who love you as a gamer and a customer and are shouting back at us "HEY! WE WOULD LOVE TO TAKE YOUR MONIES!" as we stand up shouting "STOP THE CRAP AND TAKE MY MONEY!", that I think that we can present a point on a subject, and proceed to ignoring the game in question, or developer, or publisher and play other awesome games.

There's too many great games for me to bother with ones that come in bad packaging. (restrictive DRM, poor port, GfWL ...)

Gaming matters to me, though. So I'll continue to be vocal about these issues. It may or may not impact my enjoyment, but I'm willing to make that small sacrifice if I have to. Progress is slow going, though. If it weren't for the vocal few, potentially everybody would be rolled over.

I don't care about some things gamers tend to complain about, like first day bugs (they'll always exist in highly complex software) or "delayed" games. (they're just target release dates)

I thought both DXHR and Space Marine were both controlled quite well with the mouse and keyboard.

I'm kind of torn. My pride isn't what it used to be when I was a young buck so my hackles don't get up as quickly as they used to. I don't have time for BS.

But on the other hand, I don't have time for BS. Just like I don't waste time on cheap beer or scotch anymore, I don't waste time on amusements that cause hassle. There are always other options.

Elysium wrote:
Since when is is "punishing yourself" to save $50 and not be annoyed every time I try to play a game?

I think both are fair. My point is more that it's ok to do what gives you the most joy in gaming.

Yup, and everyone, I think, agrees on this point. I think the place where the tempers and cognitive dissonance come in is because we gamers have a general feeling of entitlement. We privately think "I hate DRM" (or whatever), "... but damnit, I have a RIGHT to play this new AAA+ game!"

I think I'm particularly susceptible to this being an older gamer. Back in the day, you bought every AAA game that came out; after all, they only game out about once a year.

It's this conflict - I have a right to PLAY your game, but I also have a right to refuse to BUY a game because of something I dislike - that causes the turmoil. Particularly with the, shall we say, less self-reflective gamer who likes to use numbers for vowels.