Gamers, we like to get mad at stuff (present company most definitely not excluded).
As much as I like to light a torch and a carry a pitchfork with the best of them, somebody needs to be the voice of reason.
And so I thought, what could possibly make less sense than have that voice of reason be me?
This is really a no-lose situation.
A lot of the things in this list I feel like I’m playing devil’s advocate, but really I’ve never quite understood the hate that DLC seems to get from gamers.
It seems a lot of the anger lies in the idea that developers are simply holding back half of a game and then releasing it later – there’s some sense of entitlement to content many feel should have been in the game in the first place.
The first and most obvious point to be made here is this: if you like a game, why are you upset that there is MORE content for it?
Secondly, and more importantly, developers today are working with some pretty strict deadlines when it comes to games – publishers have a lot riding on games making certain release dates. A good example of this is Call of Duty making it in time for the Christmas shoppers every year.
The catch to all this is the same reason we’re often stuck with enormous day one patches – there’s a big gap between the time a game “goes gold” (i.e., when it’s physically burned to discs and shipped to stores worldwide) and the time it actually goes on sale.
The development team still needs to hang around in case there’s any issues at launch or things that need patching, so a good way to spend those couple of months (aside from office beer pong) is to work on DLC packs for your ungrateful asses.
It wasn’t too long ago that “gamer” was a legitimate subculture. We used to gather in small knots at school and talk about how we beat Contra the night before.
We would organise LANs, discuss RPG strategies and wear that particular membership in geek culture like a badge of honour.
Thanks to casual gaming, being a “gamer” no longer means much. Your mom probably plays Candy Crush while she sits in line at the bank, every person you know on Facebook has at some point posted something about Farmville strawberry shortages on your wall and even the jockiest of jocks at school probably play Call of Duty on their PS4.
I think the reason we really hate casual gaming is the same reason wine connoisseurs from Cape Town turn their nose up at me when they see me with the neck of a bottle of Four Cousins rose’ in my mouth.
The thing that we’re not getting is this – for every ten people whose idea of a fun weekend is drinking box wine straight from the tap, a few of them are going to go on to develop a taste for legitimate, good wine. And the more people interested in wine, the bigger the market gets, and ultimately that’s good for everyone.
Not me though. There’s no hope for my being a cultured wine drinker – my more sophisticated friends have tried, and failed.
Now this one is a tough pill to swallow. I’ve certainly taken plenty of jabs and the devil-incarnate Bobby Kotick over my time writing for NAG, so seeing this name in the list may surprise you.
Kotick has often been criticised for turning the games industry into a numbers game – valuing profits above all else, and essentially discarding passion and innovation in pursuit of making gaming a business.
And therein lies the rub, friends – he wanted to turn gaming into a business above all else, and he did a damned good job of doing exactly that.
Kotick has made more money for gaming stakeholders than a bucket of ice has for ALS. He might have run gaming franchises into the ground along the way, but Kotick is a big part of what has made the gaming industry the multi-billion dollar business it is today.
Without Kotick, we wouldn’t have publishers willing to spend half a billion dollars on a multiplayer FPS. We wouldn’t have games like GTA V be the grand, sprawling marvel of gaming that it’s become – because the money just wouldn’t be there.
Without enormous franchises like Call of Duty, Guitar Hero and even Skylanders, developers just wouldn’t have access to the kind of money they do today. Behind every AAA title are a few people with big chequebooks, and they need to see that a return on investment is possible before they’re signing any of them.
Kotick’s big, ugly, corporate machine provides exactly that.
Let’s get one thing straight from the get-go; “pay-to-win” games are awful and should be boycotted at all costs. There is absolutely nothing fun about getting destroyed in a game because you don’t have access to the same tools that everyone else does.
Where free-to-play really does get it right, however, is in using a level playing field with micro-transactions fuelling various cosmetic or gameplay enhancements.
I think the reason some people despise free-to-play games is that they are inherently limiting in some way. I’ll use League of Legends as an example. That game has 123 different playable characters, all of them with a unique set of skills and abilities.
These characters can be unlocked using grindable points (which of course take a long, long time to accumulate) or simply bought using real money. Now, if you assume a standard game costs $60, you might expect to pay that much to unlock every character. And you would be oh, so very wrong. It would cost literally hundreds. And people hate that.
I too, was one of those people, until I actually played it. Having to grind points to unlock a particular character, actually makes that choice meaningful. You want a character that fits your specific playstyle, that has a skillset that appeals to you and that you enjoy playing.
This, I found, adds a whole new layer of excitement to the game. Getting to unlock a character and use it for the first time is exhilarating. What’s more, you tend to master that character’s abilities and play it repeatedly. People in LoL typically refer to specific characters as their “main” – they’ve specialised in that character. That’s quite something considering there’s 123 of them.
I have the exact opposite experience in DotA – a game which gives you access to all the characters. In DotA, I struggle to play the same character two games in a row. I’ve never really “specialised” in any of them – I have favourites, sure, but I’m so spoilt for choice that I tend to move around a lot.
What I’m trying to get at is that limiting the experience gives us choices, and those choices feel meaningful when they cost us money or time. I love buying skins for my guns in Counter-Strike too, but I know those skins would give me way less pleasure if everyone just had access to all of them.
Free-to-play, when done right, can actually utilise microtransactions not only as a means of monetising a game, but also to improve the experience.
We like to do this. A lot. I’ve gone well over my self-imposed word limit so I’ll try keep this last one brief, but gamers fighting with each other is one of the most idiotic things we’ve ever agreed is a good idea.
This typically takes the form of debates on which platform is better, or which game is better, or whose mother is more sexually promiscuous.
Problem is, we need each other. Without consoles, the games industry wouldn’t be nearly as big as it is now, and games quite frankly wouldn’t be as good.
And without computers, well, without computers we wouldn’t have games at all.
So can’t we all just get along?