Moving house has reminded me that the games industry sucks

I am so, so tired.

6 mins read
A picture of Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh. He looks as sad as I feel.

Having spent the last two weeks packing my home of eight years up, moving, and now staring down the barrel of unpacking it all, I’ve come to a very simple, sharp realisation.

Well, two realisations. One is that moving is exhausting and sucks. The other has to do with games (and books, films, and whatever else).

The move to digital media should have been far easier.

Having a vast library of video games sounds good… until you have to actually move them. Having row after row after row of books lined up in a library looks great… until you realise that while a Kindle weighs 100gms, moving that many books in a single day is a quick pathway to torn biceps and a body that can’t sleep later that night because it’s cramping all over.

And, sure, you could pay someone to do it. If you’ve got several thousands of dollars sitting around and nothing better to spend it on.

I understand that having a large collection of Hatsune Miku figures was always going to make moving house somewhat inconvenient (in a best-case scenario). But figures can’t be digitised so easily.

Books, video games, music, movies and the rest have no such inhibitions. There is absolutely no rational reason for why we aren’t all carrying around our entire collections on little thumb drives. Rather than moving bookshelves and furniture around and then spending weeks trying to figure out where our most valuable and beloved treasures are, we could instead be enjoying them, instantly, in our new places.

Because I really do have a lovely place in my new digs. I’ve got a pristine and unbroken view of one of Australia’s finest harbours from a waterfront apartment building that feels more like a resort. I’m looking forward to finally being unpacked and actually having the chance to enjoy this.

Hell, I named this site precisely because that was a future I firmly believed in. There was a point, about 12 years ago, when I thought that physical media was just a burden. I thought that having a vast library of content on a single device was something to be excited for.

But then I continued to buy physical media, for any game that I truly enjoyed.

Why did this happen? Well, that answer is so simple that it really shouldn’t need to be mentioned: The industry and suit wearers saw an opportunity to profit while undermining the entire experience of gaming, and ran with it.

First it was predatory DLC (horse armour!), then it was even more predatory microtransactions (pay to win!). Then it was free-to-play games that were outrageously popular and actually played well, but turned you into a combination of data mine and Mario’s unlimited “?” block, with the CEO ready and willing to bash his head against you repeatedly.

Now it’s subscription services, which promise to turn all gaming into a homogenised mess where every game is the same “unlimited content” endless grind because that’s how developers make actual money from these things.

And through all of that, buying and playing games via digital distribution becomes an increasingly risky thing because at some stage or another the developer/publisher will fall over, or simply decide that you shouldn’t have that game anymore and BAM! No more game.

I’m not saying anything new here, but in carting all those games from one place to another, I have been reminded of just how much of a waste it has been. We live in times of unprecedented access to storage and data. You can buy 1 TB micro-SD cars now. The ENTIRE library of Game Boy games is, like, 200MB. You could fit most of the PlayStation 2 library (if not all of it) on that thing.

So even as our capacity to digitise our libraries and enjoy games in convenience is enhanced, our desire to do so, thanks to the predatory behaviour of companies, has been diminished. Again, none of this is news, I know. It’s just that this has been crystalised for me over the past few weeks, and it sucks to reflect on just how dystopian video games really have become.

Because it has been a series of micro-aggressions on the part of the industry. Like that fable about the frog allowing itself to be boiled by turning the heat of the water up bit by bit by tiny bit, we have all, collectively, let these arseholes convince us that all of this was what we wanted.

If only more people had the opportunity to really reflect on it. And waste weeks of their lives moving what could have been moved by shoving it into a backpack.

Matt S. is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of DDNet. He's been writing about games for over 20 years, including a book, but is perhaps best-known for being the high priest of the Church of Hatsune Miku.

  • I see where you’re coming from, but with all these storage devices you miss out on the romance of tangeblity. Physical media has soul, books especially but all of it does. That’s not something I’d like to loose.

    On the other hand, I’m not moving house anytime soon. So, grain of salt.

    • Oh believe me, I get that too. I’ve got many books that I consider to be utterly precious and I don’t begrudge moving those.

      The 100 paperbacks for every 1 precious book though…

      There should be a better balance there. Digital for genuinely “consumable” art. Physical for the precious stuff. Instead we’re incentivised to go physical for everything because who on earth trusts Amazon, Sony, Microsoft and Disney.

  • I’m definitely too attached to my physical collection to ever consider going all-digital, but the idea of moving house is a frightening one, and I’m sure we’ll do it at some point in the next [x] years!

    These are definitely timely ponderings considering the announcement of the impending demise of the Xbox 360 Marketplace. A reminder that the Xbox One onwards’ “backward compatibility” is, in fact, anything but, and is simply digital rereleases of the stuff Microsoft and publishers could be bothered to re-license, with everything else consigned to the void. There’s going to be a *lot* of really great digital-only stuff lost when the Xbox 360 Marketplace closes. And this isn’t even getting into the stuff that was delisted during its active lifespan! (RIP OutRun Online Arcade and After Burner Climax… forever in our hearts.)

    Part of the reason I’m maintaining such a substantial physical collection is that I want to pass it on… somewhere when the inevitable happens, as morbid as that might sound. There are already games from the last couple of generations where I have physical copies for which digital equivalents no longer exist, and given the number of limited-press titles I’ve picked up over the years, that number’s only going to expand. By keeping hold of these games, curating them and keeping track of them (as I’m gradually going through the slow process of doing) I can at least play a small part in ensuring that some of this stuff doesn’t end up completely lost to the ages. Outside of piracy, obviously, which is historical preservation of a sort, but one which I think most critics and historians would prefer not to *have* to rely on if at all possible!

  • Your essay has driven me to contemplation:

    The physical media collections I have (videogames, books, comic books, LPs/CDs, DVDs/a few Blurays) make up most of what I own: most of the physical stuff that matters to me. And my wife brought her huge library of books into our marriage as well. Our house is packed with the stuff … and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I visit friends’ houses, who have only a couple dozen books in the house, proud of their nicely arranged and uncluttered open spaces — and it feels to me like a space not lived-in. When they are looking for something to read, watch or play … these friends simply sit on the couch in their big, empty living room … and open a device which is their conduit to all stimuli. A conduit which, more and more, is controlled by big corporations and constantly bombarded with ads telling us what we should read, watch, play, think. Not to mention bombarded with the hate, fear, and closed-mindedness that fills all news sites & social media — because those negative emotions fuel clicks.

    This empty apartment, equipped with the requisite handful of corporate-controlled stimulation devices, is a significant part of my vision of the frightening future dystopia we all could be headed towards. So much individuality and, conversely, collected tradition … are lost.

    The physical media collections in my house are a manifestation of the life I’ve lived (in various aspects: intellectual, historical, creative, nostalgic, escapist), and I dive back into all of them on a regular basis. So do my wife and kids: our lives all thereby enriched.
    (Along with some new stuff of course,) that meaningful old stuff is what we want to be surrounded with at home … not big open spaces that look like living rooms and bedrooms out of a catalog.

    My friends with no stuff are pretty much looking to simplify. For their entertainments, they just look for what’s today, what’s new. In the world of videogames, this is tangential with the quickly-becoming-dominant mindset — programmed into us by corporations — that only the new games are worth our time. Once a game is a few months old and we’ve played it, it no longer matters. Let’s pay for the use-license of a new videogame instead, and another, and another. Who cares about owning anything any more? What good does a 2-year-old copy of Gris physical for Switch do for me? Zero, according to most folks. Just clutter on my shelf. I beg to differ.

    That being said, I’ve been a bit spoiled of late, when it comes to moving, so I can definitely sympathize. I had to pack & move all my stuff four times in my late 20s/early 30s — back then, I had the energy for it. But the wife and I haven’t moved in 21 years and are likely to stay in this same place until we retire in another 13-15 years’ time. Having our stuff inhabit the apartment around us works, in that context. We’re going to move and downsize when we retire: and that is when the reckoning will happen. 90% of those physical media collections will be claimed by our kids, donated, sold, or scrapped. And we’ll enter that kind of stripped-down existence that makes things easier for folks as they grow older. Until then, you’ll find me at home between the piles of Saturn games, French literature paperbacks, bebop & industrial LPs, Kurosawa DVDs, and longboxes full of Wildstorm comics. Those things are more than artifacts of my life in the past: they are part of who I am today, physically. Having all that on a thumb drive? … Not the same.

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