Positive Cynicism – Video game companies make me want to give up video games

Aaron Davis

Aaron R. Davis

I’m not exactly a gamer. I don’t play a lot of games, but when I do find a game that I enjoy, I instantly fall in love with it and spend hours and hours playing it, even though I tend to get frustrated easily and should really probably be taking walks and stuff.

I also have a tendency to get entrenched with consoles for years and years. I only wanted to play Nintendo 64 at a time when they weren’t even making N64 games anymore. I missed GameCube for that reason, and was sort of forcibly upgraded when my wife just walked in the door with a Playstation 2 one day.

Because those are the kinds of games I like, I fell in love with the Lego adventure games. Lego Star Wars, Lego Indiana Jones, Lego Batman … those became my new game thing. But eventually I grew a little restless for some of my old favorites: Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Mario Kart 64, Pokemon Snap and Super Smash Bros. I missed those old Nintendo characters. Nintendo was always my thing; once I got that NES in junior high I put my Atari 2600 aside and never looked back (and now both are nestled in my closet with their cartridges). The Lego games sort of evened out not having any adventures with Kirby; seemed like a fair trade.

True to form, I didn’t upgrade consoles again until I had to. The PS3 had been out for some time, but I didn’t consider upgrading until they literally stopped making new Lego games for the PS2. If I wanted to keep playing them, I had to get a new console. That old love for Nintendo was strong, so I bought a Wii, and as I’ve said many times in many places, I love it, and I think New Super Mario Bros. Wii may be my favorite video game ever. Mario, Zelda, Kirby … it was like being 10 years old again and playing with games my 10 year old self never once thought he’d have. I wouldn’t have previously thought that just buying a game console and getting some new games could ever make me as happy as it did.

I still love my Wii. I love it so much that I haven’t really thought about having to upgrade, but I’m really excited about Lego Marvel Super Heroes, and guess what? It’s not going to be out for the Wii. So now I’m in the position of having to upgrade again, and at this point I’m really not sure how badly I want to.

My problem is this: I’m old.

Okay, I’m not that old. 36 is not too old to figure out a new game system. But it is old enough to be so firmly set in my ways that I just don’t want to change the way I do things. I’ve looked at the Wii U, and not only do I not like it, but it just sort of makes me feel anxious and frustrated. I do not understand how it works. I don’t get the whole gaming pad thing. I’ve looked at reviews of it on YouTube and I still don’t get it, which is part of what makes me feel too old for the damn thing. I don’t like the concept of having two screens to play a game on. I just do not want to deal with trying to figure it out.

The only thing that could make the Wii U actually appeal to me — and I see it’s really not selling very well, so there must be people who feel the same way I do — is if someone could give me a definitive answer on whether or not that pad is someone optional. I mean, do games require its use, or is it just some kind of optional add-on that you can ignore? Is it integral to a lot of games, or can it just not be used. Because, honestly, to the extent that I do understand how it’s used, it’s really fucking dumb.

Look, I don’t play any of the big badass games that hardcore gamers love. You can tell that just by looking at every single game title I’ve mentioned so far in this column. I like fun, lower stakes adventures that keep me entertained and involved. I’m not one of those guys who think that pausing a game to check your inventory is cheating, so I don’t need a second screen to take my attention away from the game I’m actually playing just to keep up with it. That doesn’t sound appealing to me at all. I just want to play my game, god damn it.

I don’t trust that the Wii U is going to offer me the same kind of gaming experience I enjoy. There are other consoles I can try out, but really it kind of just comes down to not wanting to let go of Nintendo again. I want to play the next Zelda. They’ve already got at least one Mario game for Wii U that I wish I could play. But I can’t seem to get any straight answers about my concerns, and what little I do know, I don’t like. Nintendo’s whole attitude about it seems to be “Fuck you, this is a good idea so just buy it, asshole.” This is like a dead rat solution; something no one wanted, which solves a problem no one had, but the maker seems unable to grasp the concept that everyone in the world wouldn’t want it.

So, I could upgrade to a PS3 or an Xbox, I guess, but now I’m hearing all of these rumors about Sony and Microsoft wanting to kill the secondary games market, right down to a persistent rumor that the next Xbox won’t even play used games anymore. The idea, apparently, is that each game will have its own activation code verified online, which means no used games, no rental games (bye bye, GameFly), and no taking it over to a friend’s house to play. One of my biggest issues with electronics makers is the way they seem to think they’re just leasing you rights to what you’ve actually bought and paid for, so this is an affront I won’t stand for.

But what kills me here is not that this will kill the secondhand market, but that it will probably raise the cost of games themselves. One of the things that keeps the cost of games where they are now (already too high) is the knowledge that soon people will be able to buy pre-owned games for half the price. If there’s a game I’m uncertain about dropping fifty bucks on, I can be patient and wait until I can get it for $20 at GameStop. It’s also nice to be able to sell games to GameStop when you’ve finished them and feel like maybe you paid too much and you don’t want to play it anymore, so why not go get something else? I feel like if the secondary market were destroyed by things like activation codes for every time you turned the damn thing on, there’s nothing to stop the retail prices from hitting triple digits.

See, it’s expensive, but I don’t necessarily mind spending the money on Super Mario Galaxy 2, because I know that it’s going to keep me occupied for hours and weeks and months exploring every nook and cranny of it to find everything that’s there. Those Lego games can go on for a long, long time in free play mode. But if I’m looking at eighty or a hundred on a game I’m not even certain of, and no chance of ever being able to play it used, what’s the incentive for someone like me, who is somewhere between casual and hardcore?

I feel right now like there is none. I will never buy a game console that won’t play used games. I don’t understand what Nintendo is doing. And I’m nervous about buying a PS3 or an Xbox 360 because I don’t know how close they are to being replaced by new generations.

So what’s the answer? Well, it looks like the answer might just be to stop playing video games.

And also to go to GameStop and pick up as many cheap Wii games as I can, of course.

Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at samuraifrog@yahoo.com.

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