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 DigitallyDownloaded.net 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.