The lights are on
I can't believe that more people don't play video games.
When I think of all the fun times I've had playing games, I'm surprised that
more people don't want to join our ranks. Then I think about the high barrier
to entry for home console gaming, and I realize it's no wonder more people
don't pick up the controller.
I'm not complaining about being a gamer, but in comparison
with the other hobbies I partake in, it requires a relatively high amount of
dedication. First, there is the cost of buying a home system. Depending on when
in a particular system's lifecycle you purchase it, it can run you several
hundreds of dollars. You may have even purchased more than one if you were interested
in playing a game that was console exclusive or if one broke at some point.
There are also various peripherals (a Kinect for the Xbox 360, PlayStation
Move, a second controller, etc.) you can spend money on.
The games themselves are $60 new, and might not even be that
cheap used depending on the title and when you buy it. But there are other
considerations once you leave the store. If it's a used game, you probably have
to buy a new online pass if you want to play multiplayer, and later on the servers
might be shut down, closing off that portion of the game entirely. Questions of
ownership – whether you're talking about backwards compatibility, used games,
or how much of a future your software has – are murkier with the next-gen
systems where backwards compatibility does not exist and the used game
landscape will likely be different than it is now.
Having a fast, stable online connection will also be
important for the next home consoles. The Xbox One needs to check in to
Microsoft's servers at certain intervals, and although Sony is saying the
PlayStation 4 doesn't require an Internet connection, PS4 features like video
sharing and cloud functionality necessitate one.
There is also the incurred cost that isn't related to your
wallet. Frankly, some people may not be interested in games because of the
social stigma to being called a gamer or the reverse – the fear of being judged
for the games you like to play or that you might not be good at playing them,
Time is another non-monetary cost to consider. Apart from
the time it takes to become proficient as a gamer or with a particular genre or
specific title, there is simply the amount of time it takes to get into your
average game. Between the obligatory opening tutorial, side missions, filler levels,
collect-a-thons, secret areas, and more, it can take a significant portion of
time to play a game to completion or to your satisfaction. For those of us with
precious little time, sometimes the notion of playing a game for hours without
any guarantee of payoff is its own barrier to gaming at that particular moment.
Even with all these things getting in the way of a solid,
satisfying gaming session, I'm not going to turn in my gamer card. Perhaps
cheaper, easier-to-consume mobile/tablet experiences are where I should turn my
attention. Or maybe free-to-play will be more of a force in the future.
Regardless, companies should reward gamers' long-standing dedication with
practices that are not meant to gouge our wallets, exclude us from easily
accessing the content we've purchased, and in general make it easier for us to
want to hand over our hard-earned cash. We quite willingly put up with a lot
for our hobby, but that doesn't mean we should be abused for it.
Email the author Matthew Kato, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.
Huge backlog. The benefit of being a slacker, I suppose - I can get used games well into their life, on the cheap. Unless it's a Nintendo game.
I love the Big N and their exclusives, but they really have the peripheral/add-on thing down. They make more dumb cr@p for their games and consoles. And what's with Microsoft charging for a game, charging for online play on an internet connection that you pay a server for, and plastering ads all over the place on top of it all?
Sorry - imminent rant. Time to listen to Zelda music on Youtube.
Just buy a PC and create a Steam account.
This is also why I prefer antichamber over games like c.o.d of WoW
An interesting piece, but I would like to see your input on how to break down some of these barriers, monetary or otherwise.
Most hobbies are expensive. And with video games, you at least get to keep what you put into it. Look at something like golf. There's the high initial price of clubs and balls. But then you spend anywhere from $30-$100 a round. That's money that you spend for the experience and then it's gone. Not a golf fan? Try paintball. Again, the high cost for the gun and equipment. Then you spend tens of hundreds of dollars on buying paint balls, CO2, and fees for the course. And again, it's an experience that ends and then you have nothing to show for it.
With video games, you pay the high initial cost for the console and the game. But after you experience it, you still possess it. You have something to show for the money invested. You are completely free to go back and relive the experience over and over again unimpeded. And if you are so inclined, you may sell the game back or even the entire console to recover some of the losses.
Obviously activities like reading or sewing are far cheaper. But I'd say video games are one my cheaper hobbies and I still spend quite a bit on them.
Side note: it does suck not having as much free time to play the games you buy. I feel like it completely alters the way I perceive a game. If I played Ocarina of Time for the first time today, there's no way I'd fall as madly in love with it because I wouldn't spend hours aimlessly wandering around Hyrule exploring and talking to all the NPCs. I'd go from story point to story point trying to beat it quickly so I could move on to the next game. It's kind of sad, really.
A lot of hobbies cost a lot of money. For example, I recently decided to learn how to play guitar and the cheapest decent guitar will run you about 200 on top of the price for a amp and bag and the little things. If you want a teacher it costs even more, and then you have to buy a new guitar when you get good enough to realize the beginner one you bought just won't get the job done anymore. That'll run you another 600 easy. So a lot of hobbies cost a lot of money.
Pretty good write-up there Kato.
Never thought I'd be wistful for a day when I could just plug in and play.
I am the midnight gamer. I wait until the wife and kids are in bed and then I spend time slaying dragons, Cyclops, chimeras and other evil creatures. I shoot slave traders, terrorists, aliens and psycho midgets. I throw touchdown passes as the quarterback of the crimson tide, I discover ancient ruins, I hold the fate of many between my hands. I am a gamer, and I am damn good at what I do.