With the advent of the internet, the land scape of gaming has changed. It allows us to play games with other people all over the world and it has even provided the ability to play games online and download them to play on our computers and consoles.
The internet age has been a great thing for gamers, but it is not all roses and puppies. There are many things that can go wrong and that have already gone wrong. Most of this wrongness has to deal with consoles, but some of it applies to the PC as well.
Since I don’t want to be a downer, I will talk up some of the positives of the internet age first.
Lots and Lots of Games
First great thing is the boom in the amount of games available to us. The internet age has allowed for more and more developers to create games and get them in front of the gamer. We can play games in our browsers. We can download games to play on our PCs, our consoles and our phones. Pretty soon we will be able to play games on our TVs with out a console.
With this greater availability of gaming and the ease of connecting developers with gamers, we have a huge surge in the number of indie developers. The barriers of entry into the gaming market have decreased to nothing more than a step. So more and more people are creating games.
Not to say that everything is great. Amongst all the games is a lot of poorly coded and straight up bad games. Yet, it is within the morass of bad games that we find a number of diamonds. The low barriers to entry are bringing along with it a new wave of gameplay innovation. Developers are forcing us to rethink how we play. They are making us change our perception of just what a game is. Games aren’t just about “fun” anymore. They are tools as well as toys.
There are games out there that make us think about social and political issues. Much like their editorial cartoon brethren, they juxtapose the world around us and provide us with means to rethink how we perceive the world.
We also have greater access to the educational possibilities of gaming. We have had educational games for years, but their reach has increased tremendously with the internet.
To put it mildly, we are drowning in a sea of games and are enjoying every minute of it.
New Ways to Connect
Along with the shear number of games, we have a greater means of connecting with other gamers. Prior to the adoption of the internet, multiplayer gaming was done locally either on the same machine or over a Local Area Network. In the early days of dial up we were able to network over phone lines to other players. The broadband days have made possible Massively Multiplayer Games.
Along with this ability to connect to other players, we have the ability to communicate within the games as well. In-game chat takes the form of text and voice now. It will only be a matter of time before we can video chat while we play too.
We also have the ability to follow what games are friends are playing too. We can view each other’s libraries of games. Find out what games our friends are playing, how far along they are, what they have done in the games and much more.
We have never been able to share this much information this easily before.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
Sadly, not everything is awesome about the digital age. Along with all this information we are sharing, we are also making personal and financial information targets for those with nefarious purposes.
Sony’s Playstation 3 has already been the target of a massive security breach. A lot of people had credit card and personal identifying information stolen. It was a huge misstep and damaging for their reputation and to the gamers who were effected.
Other problems are with how data is managed. A lot of content is being tied to specific machines rather than accounts. Nintendo is nefarious for this. They have made it nearly impossible to move purchased content from one Wii or DS to another. You have to jump through a lot of hoops to get it moved.
Sony and Microsoft are not much better. They tie their downloadable content to the console and the account. So you can transfer content to a new console that uses the same account information, but you have to be logged into that account to use it. You can fully transfer that content, but you have to jump through a set of hoops to do so here as well.
The PC provides a bit of relief, if you buy from the right companies. Valve’s Steam allows you to download your games onto any PC. So the only hoop you have to jump is reinstalling Steam and downloading your games.
But even still, like the consoles, the games you buy are not transferable to other users. Even if you tire of a game and want to give it away, you can’t. They are locked to you. There is no way to sell or give away a game like you can with a physical copy.
This isn’t so bad for those who like to keep every game they have ever purchased, but it really messes with the price and value of games. Like I talked about earlier, gamers think about the cost and value of games. By sticking us with the games forever, they really need to increase the value of the games or lower the price considerably.
New Ways to Pay
Back to some good stuff.
The digital age has also bought with it new ways to pay for our games. We are no longer tied to retail outlets and paying for our games out right. There are new ways for game developers to get revenue and more ways for us to pay the developers we love.
For one, the digital age has made advertising a more profitable avenue for game developers. They can provide us with low cost or even free games using it. Some developers and publishers are abusing this avenue though, so we should be careful. They are still trying to charge full retail price and saddle us with ads to pad their bottom line.
We also have the ability to pay in small sums for more content. This is in the form of downloadable content (DLC) or micro transactions, little items for use in the game. We can also pay subscriptions or buy chunks of time to play. We no longer have to pay a full $50-60 to play a game. We can now play it free and then buy extra content.
We can even buy smaller games in episodic format or small chunks of a larger game as we play.
The landscape for paying for games has made gaming easier for more people to get involved in both as a developer and as a gamer.
Prior to the digital age, we were limited in the platforms on which we could play games. These were primarily the PC and the console.
Now we have more. We can now buy and play games more easily on our cell phones. We can play deeper and more advanced games in our web browsers.
As more and more electronic and computing devices are connected to the internet, the ability to play games on them will come along with it.
I think this is probably one of the brightest points of the digital age. I really look forward to seeing just what comes of it.