An Open Letter to the People Who Buy Games

On October 28, 2010, in Games, by psu

OK. Rant time.

I have been down on video games lately. Part of the reason for this is that I’ve been busy reacquainting myself with hobbies from my past and my brain is only big enough to hold one obsession at once. Another part of the reason for this is that at least to my mind, there simply has not been anything that interesting released in the last, say, 18 months. There have been the standard titles that are good enough to pick up and fool around with. But nothing good enough to actually flip the bit that makes me want to play every night. Perhaps the most important reason for my recent lull has been more sinister: I’m tired of gamers, because gamers are a bunch of juvenile self-centered whiners with an overly developed sense of entitlement. For example: take Bill Harris and Russ Pitts. I’ve gotten to the point where I can’t stand to listen to the “community” talk about games, and this has made me lose interest in the video games themselves.

After many long years of observation, I have concluded that for the most part, the “core gamer” mentality is largely driven by two main psychological engines:

1. The self-centered juvenile male sense of entitlement.

2. A crushing feeling of material poverty.

There are two things that gamers hate over every other evil in the entire universe:

1. That the developer of the video game did not sit down and specifically implement every single pet requirement that the gamer wrote down on his Dorito-encrusted wish list while sitting in his parents’ basement re-watching the entire DVD set of Battlestar Galactica.

2. That the game costs more than $30. Or $20. Or $5. Or any money at all. God forbid anyone actually make back any return on their investment. The amount of forum whining against high game prices, in game advertising, DRM, and any other way to make the business model for video games have even a little bit more margin for the people on the production side is almost endless.

Now, I have snarked about these sorts of things before. The Tea Leaves archives are full of me and Pete taking advantage of the peculiar persecution complex that the hard core gamer has: we’ve talked about how games are too easy or games are dumbed down or how the support for online game sucks or whatever. This is nothing new. In the past I have generally written this sort of thing up to a combination of ignorance and stupidity on the part of the people who like video games a bit too much.

But the Russ Pitts piece above, and the general love given to it by Bill Harris say something different to me. What they say to me is that even people who up until this point I thought of as relatively adult and reflective thinkers in this strange world of video games are in fact infected with the same core gamer brain damage as all of the other pubtards on Xbox Live.

What does this article say? I will summarize.

First it says “the industry is doing something that is bad for me.” That is, they make these “expensive” games that apparently do not work. Second it says that after putting out huge amounts of hard earned cash to purchase the game, the poor poor impoverished game critic cannot return an opened video game to his retailer if it does not work. While I agree that in principle this is a situation that one should not have to tolerate, surely you can’t say that this is the most important threat to the health of the video game industry that has ever occured in the entire history of life the universe and everything. Here’s a hint: be more careful about what you buy, and learn to use Ebay or Amazon reselling to limit your losses. This is not that hard. It is certainly not the crushing hand of the capitalist oppressor. Get over it.

Anyway, back to the game not working. For a group of people that spends most of their entire lives dealing with hardware and software systems, gamers, and especially gamers with a lot of experience seem to be woefully clueless about how these systems are put together. Let me make this as simple as possible. Suppose software were like an RPG, and you were allocating stat points. Then you can allocate a fixed number of points into the following buckets:

1. Number of requirements delivered at the given ship date.

2. Cost.

3. Correctness.

As we have seen, the poor game developer, by the nature of the audience that video games target, does not have a lot of leeway with respect to the first and second buckets. If we know anything about gamers it is that they will absolutely not tolerate any compromise on either features, the content in the game, or the cost of the game. This by itself is staggering if you consider the evolution of the medium. What is required of you to make a “real” AAA game in 2010 is that you fit three orders of magnitude more content onto that disk that used to be in (say) that Asteroids or Super Mario 2 Nintendo cartridge back in the day, and that the game cost nearly the same amount of money (or less) than before. Adjusted for inflation, the situation is even more ludicrous.

In addition, if your company does not happen to have an infinite well of money (like Blizzard, Valve, or maybe Popcap) you have a limited amount of time and human resources with which to generate this huge torrent of content.

Therefore, where do you compromise? Of course you compromise on #3. It is a no brainer. There is nothing else you can do. It is the way things have to be, like a universal law of software physics.

If gamers want it better, then they have to pony up. Either:

1. They have to be able to wait for all games to take as long as a Blizzard or Valve game to reach release.

2. They have to pay more money


3. Both.

Rant over. That’s all I had to say.

Note: if you are a gamer and you are currently my friend, I didn’t mean you.

Second Note: I might have the tiniest bit of sympathy for Mr. Pitts if the web site he ran didn’t cut his article up into three micropages of text to make sure that I get to see all the banner ads for his sponsors three times. Maybe he should consider making a usable web site before complaining about unplayable games.

OK. Now I’m really done.

Editorial Note: I got the Amazon returns policy wrong in the first version of this rant. So I edited it out of history.


8 Responses to “An Open Letter to the People Who Buy Games”

  1. J. Prevost says:

    My favorite is people who get hundreds of hours of entertainment out of a game, and then *still* have the gall to complain about being milked for money when they’re not given even more in free updates but have to buy some sort of expansion or sequel for new content.

    Or to put it more plainly: Apparently it’s not even enough to be Blizzard or Valve any more.

  2. Colm Mac says:

    This sort of drives me nuts. Mr Pitts is an editor if he would like developers to focus on quality on release he actually has a certain amount of power to ensure that as someone who publishs reviews of said games.

    From the Escapist’s 3 page review there is only a single paragraph mentioning the bugginess.
    “It’s disappointing to see such an otherwise brilliant and polished game suffer from years-old bugs, and unfortunately our review score for the game has to reflect that. Reviewing 2008′s Fallout, I felt inclined to give a certain amount of visual glitchiness a pass because that game covered so much ground, from a development point of view, and was simply awe-inspiring in many respects. Seeing the exact same bugs in a new game, two years later, is harder to excuse. Truth be told, I enjoyed New Vegas a lot more than Fallout 3, but I can’t give it a full score on the basis of the bugs alone. ”

    They still gave it 4 out of 5. Doesn’t sound like much of a reason to spend time fixing bugs if there is no criticial cost to doing so. I’m assuming that the 2K game which is unplayable is Civ V, if so there is no mention of bugs in the Escapist’s review (they gave it 5 out of 5). I don’t know what Microsoft published game is the one he considers unplayable.

    As the amount of time and money the developer will get publisher is often dependent on what score the publisher believes the game would get on release, if they know they are going to get near perfect marks, there is zero reason for a publisher to fund bug fixing.

    Game journalists don’t do their job as consumer advocates.

  3. Proven says:

    And if the “Microsoft” game is Halo: Reach, I can officially say that they’ve authorized getting replacement disks for free. Just walk into your local gamestore.

    I agree about the 3 page split of the article. I only finished reading it because I wanted context before finishing this post.

    Also, have you tried playing Minecraft? A starter course on what it’s about:

  4. Chris says:

    *chuckles* It has been a depressingly empty year for games… The rising cost of development is not, I believe, helping anyone. The upper market games suffer, and the investment isn’t there for anything below this scale, so these also suffer. Deleting PSN demos has become a chore, making me wonder why I bother downloading and installing them in the first place.

    This year I’ve enjoyed some short bursts of Minecraft, and I’ve been playing New Super Mario Bros. Wii with my wife all year, and Storage Inc. with my weekly gaming group while we wait for the last player to arrive for our boardgames… but beyond these, 2010 has been a vast videogame wasteland for me. I’m not hopeful that next year will be any better.

    Best wishes!

  5. I find myself throwing a link to this post a lot in over the last 24 hours or so, as the first wave of pushback to Zarf’s plan ( starts to arrive. Across the many blogs covering this story, while most of the comments are some variant of “HOLY CRAP AWESOME,” there’s a chorus of folks off to the side going “Twenty-five DOLLARS for a GAME? Pfah.” ($25 being the minimum Kickstarter pledge that results in a PC version of the game as a reward.) I don’t know what to say other than what you say here.

    Though I do love this shutdown by ‘n’ to one particular whinger:

  6. bruceycomeloudly says:

    (sigh) yes. we have see this coming all year im sure. we went from cameras to cars to telescopy… which is an awesome fake word… with you. But I think that is the draw to your writing. both you and peter have remained detached from your childhood addictions to gaming. I think its why I keep returning to read your articles; they are always searching for something better to do than play video games, and frequently you guys find things that are in fact more interesting. gives me a reason to stray from the habit.

    In trade, I’m gonna lay on you my favorite recipe. its for pork belly. it takes a really long time. You can do anything with it.

    Step 1: buy a pork belly. these are often tricky to get a hold of. I believe in you. if you want one, you will get one.

    Step 2: marinate (or cure) your pork belly for 24 hours. the 3 (or 4) essential ingredients here are salt, sugar, and spice (and acid if you are following the 4). I am currently using salt, sugar, sage, garlic and wine. i put them all together in a blender. I dont even peel the garlic, i just blend them all into oblivion.

    step 3: preheat your oven and put your belly, the entire belly, in a roasting pan that is deep enough to hold a belly and 2 gallons of oil.

    step 4: cover the belly in 2 gallons of oil and preheat your oven to 275.

    step 5: cook for as long as possible. 8 hours is usually good. 12 is awesome.

    step 6: cool, cut, and keep submerged in oil for as long as you want. I’ve kept bellies under oil for months.

    when you want to eat your pork bellies, heat up a pan on medium low heat and put the belly skin side down in the pan. be sure to remove as much of the cure/marinade that is on the skin as possible. leave it in the pan for 10-15 minutes skin side down with out moving or touching or anything. lower the heat to low if it sounds like its making to much noise. the skin will turn to cracklin. the belly will turn all wiggly. Its great on top of soup, salad, along side pasta, with mashed potatoes, on a sandwich, with your eggs and toast for breakfast (best green eggs and ham you can make). dont be afraid to go all asian with it, use fish sauce and palm sugar and 5 spice or sechuan pepper and lime juice in your marinade. don’t tell david chang I said any of this, pork belly is his life’s work and he never wants you to make it at home.

  7. bruceycomeloudly says:

    btw, you can adapt this recipe to duck legs, chicken thighs, lobsters … you name it. the times will be different. chicken and ducks only need about 2-3 hours at the same temp. go ahead. make casoulet at home. you earned it.

  8. Revreese says:

    I must say I have found quite a few games this year that have made me spend a lot more time than I expected, but I too get sick of the constant whining about this or that feature not implemented, or moaning if they have to buy an extra ten hours of content.
    Do you enjoy the game? did you get your moneys worth of hours from it? would you recommend it to a friend? if yes to these questions.. what the heck are you moaning about?!.
    If I spend £40 on a game, but that game provides me with solid entertainment for a decent length of time then I am happy.