Step 1. Go to shop and buy a game
Step 2. Open game box
Step 3. Insert cartridge into console
Step 4. Switch on console
Step 5. Play game
Gaming used to be simple; you had a cartridge, a console and a plug socket. Put them together and blam! You were gaming!
As years go by, technology tends to improve, streamline and become easier to use. A perfect example of this is the mobile phone, I remember getting a new phone 10 years ago and I remember the two features on it that I was desperate to have. Was it the ability to access my emails on the move? No, it couldn’t do that. Was it being able to store my music on my phone? No, it couldn’t do that either. Did it have a camera? No, this phone was still a generation away from camera phones. The key things I wanted were a) A colour screen and b) The ability to hold more than 15 text messages. Now, 10 years on, I have a phone which holds the entire internet in my hand, has a stunning HD display and the ability to hold a seemingly infinitesimal amount of text messages. And it’s all still so simple. So why isn’t gaming simple anymore?
If I now want to purchase a game I have many choices to make: Which console? Physical copy or digital download? With DLC or without? What about the Game of the Year edition?
However, my biggest bugbear now is the final obstacle thrown up in front of you to stop you gaming. The Update.
I recently purchased the Crystal Dynamics title Tomb Raider. I decided that because of a sale I’d heard about on the PSN store I would purchase it via digital download, so I powered up my PS3 ready to raid some tombs…
Step 1. Switch on console
So far so good, but hang on…
Step 2. Install Updates
Updated firmware needs to be installed or else I can’t get online. Obstacle number 1.
Step 3. Restart Console
Step 4. Open Store
Back up and running, let’s find me some tombs, but…
Step 5. Check for updates
Step 6. Install Updates
Oh. I can’t open the store unless I install more updates, I’m sensing a pattern. Obstacle number 2.
Step 7. Open Store
Step 8. Download Game
Woo Hoo! The game is purchased and is downloading, nearly there! The download will take a long time but it’s a big game and I’m still sat on the sofa in my pants so I’ll accept that.
Step 9. Install Game
Boom! Here we go. It’s a full PS3 game and will take a long time to install but that’s the price you pay for the convenience of digital downloads. (note: I’ve now put trousers on)
Step 10. Check for Updates
Step 11. Install Updates
Wait a minute! This is a brand new game, why is it not up to date? This isn’t good, especially as the updates are not installing properly and keep resulting in an error! It looks like those tombs will go un-raided for quite a while yet! Obstacle number 3.
After 4 & ½ hours (literally!)
Finally it lets me update!
Step 12. Open Game
Step 13. Play Game
Now I’m sure some of you reading this will think I am exaggerating my experience but I can assure you I am not and I have a number of annoyed text messages to my fellow InRetroSpect companion Sam Turner to prove it.
Also, I would like to point out that this complaint isn’t specific to this game, developer or even console, it has almost now become expected for launch day updates or patches to be released to fix bugs that weren’t fixed before release. The most high profile example of this came from when Bethesda first released their 2011 title The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and players found major game-breaking issues once they had clocked in a certain amount of game time. This was of course subsequently fixed and the title has gone on to earn many deserved plaudits, however it was undeniably tainted by this issue.
I will never and have never claimed to have any knowledge of the development of modern gaming. However it strikes me that the desire to get new games out into the public domain, where they can start recouping their investment, may be forcing some developers to reduce some of the time taken to play test these games. In a world where games can be fixed by releasing a patch immediately after its release, perhaps the need for intensive play testing no longer plays such an important role. Until this current generation of consoles, a game breaking glitch meant for the majority of the time, the game would remain broken. In that sense the update is one of the best additions to our current gaming landscape. However, has the convenience of modern gaming meant that it is now more acceptable for a customer to purchase a theoretically faulty product?
The other major issue which arises from this subject is that the more reliant a game or a console is on updates then as a result it becomes more and more reliant on a strong internet connection. More and more, in order for gamers to enjoy their passion, they need to invest in a strong internet connection. It used to be that if you were not much of a multiplayer fan then you did not need your console online, however gamers in areas of weak internet coverage are now beginning to be left with games or hardware that contains faults that they cannot fix.
Games and consoles have undoubtedly taken huge leaps forward over this generation. However, with current and future generations existing in an environment where the rumours of an ‘always-online’ console persist and where each time you switch on your console you face delays, I have to ask the question “Why can’t I just switch on and play anymore?”