Take My Privacy, Please. - AbsoluteDeicide Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Take My Privacy, Please.

"I heard all the new Xboxes are going to have cameras that watch you while you play games...". 

This is what I heard at 7 AM as I was walking to my car after working the night shift at a major retailer.  Two men who looked like construction workers in their thirty or fourties were discussing Microsoft's upcoming console while waiting for the store to open, presumedly with negative connotations about prying eyes being a possiblity while gaming. 

I couldn't help but laugh.  Not at their reservations; but at the fact there were at least two cameras pointing at them as they had the conversation and their entire shopping experience was going to recorded by multiple cameras and (alleged) microphones and stored in a database for weeks.  That fact didn't deter them from coming to the store (it's not something they probably even thought about), but the off chance of someone looking at them while they played video games was a worthy topic of discussion.Is accepting the fact you're being recorded in public different from the fear of having the privacy of your home invaded?  Certainly.  But in both cases you're determining the risk of unintended consequences being less than the reward you recieve. 

The entire "security versus privacy" debate is such a grey area dependant on personal beliefs that blogging about it on Game Informer would be kind of pointless.  I only bring it up to highlight the possible downside of the question I'm interested in:

How much privacy do you want while playing your games?  If you really want games to improve and reflect what gamers want to play, your answer should be, "Little to none."

The perceived invasion of privacy coming from the Xbox One is not new.  I'm actually having serious bouts of deja vu going back to the pre-launch information coming out about the 360.  I recall having a conversation with my father ( who hasn't played a video game since Zany Golf) about a story he saw on the news: Microsoft's new gaming console was going to keep track of players' gaming habits.  The intended response he was looking for was probably for me to be scared of Big Brother, swear off video games, straighten up and fly right, etc.  My response?

"Good."

I wanted  developers to know how what I play, how often, and how I play them.  And now they do, because we can now look back and see what those scare tactics ultimately amounted to: the Achievements (and later Trophies) we've all come to accept and love.

 

When a movie title has the same name as the year you were born, you're naturally going to rent it as a kid.  Many times.  And it turns out what frightens us as children oftentimes seems silly as adults.

Now flash foward to a new generation of hardware, and even discounting the all seeing eye that is Kinect 2.0, the Xbox One is still rife with unpopular features.  Is Microsoft trying to lose customers?  To put it bluntly: kind of.  Why would anyone put up with "rigid" requirements like having to check in once every 24 hours to play games and restricted/regulated used games policies?  Data collection.  I still want Microsoft to know how I play my games, and the more reference points I can provide them, the more accurate and dimensional the data will be, and the end result should be games that reflect more closely what their audience is interested in.

I'm sure most everyone who visits this site has at some point wanted to work in the video game industry, or at least has seen Grandma's Boy and thinks it would be fun to be a game tester.  In 2007 I saw a magazine with Halo 3 on the cover, and picked it up because I liked the artwork:

After tearing the cover off and hanging it on my wall, I decided to read the article (I was bored).  I was surprised to learn it didn't contain any of the hype or new features of the game I'd read about so many times before, but was instead focused on the behind the scenes science that goes into playtesting and focus testing games.  Some of it seemed like science fiction, and some of it seemed borderline invasive:

     ""Is the game fun?" whispers Pagulayan, a compact Filipino man with a long goatee and architect-chic glasses, as we watch the player in the adjacent room. "Do people enjoy it, do they get a sense of speed and purpose?" To answer these questions, Pagulayan runs a testing lab for Bungie that looks more like a psychological research institute than a game studio. The room we're monitoring is wired with video cameras that Pagulayan can swivel around to record the player's expressions or see which buttons they're pressing on the controller. Every moment of onscreen action is being digitally recorded. ..."

     "Bungie doesn't just test its own games this way. It also buys copies of rival titles and studies those, too, to see how Halo matches up. "I've never seen anything like it," says Ian Bogost, a professor of digital media at Georgia Tech, who toured the testing lab in the fall. "The system they've got is insane."

Of course Microsoft knowing what you play every day, wether you buy new or used, what clips you feel worthy of sharing and saving, and how you drive in Forza isn't as comprehensive as them bringing you into a lab and having scientists analyse your facial expressions, but it's still more data for them to draw from.  If you think this is unproven or unreliable thinking, take a look at this.

Prior to E3, I had heard all the rumors surrounding the Xbox One and had watched the underwhelming console reveal.  I was ready to hate this thing with a passion.  I wanted it to fail before even giving it a chance; partly because I wanted to help with the "consumer rights" movement, and partly because a $20 oil change had just turned into a $1,000 project to get my car to pass inspection and I was hoping nothing shown would make me want to rush into next-gen gaming.  Yet, I was glued to the screen from start to finish, and was literally halfway out the door to pre-order while Titanfall was still being shown. 

How did they show me exactly what I wanted to see?  Magic?  Did my 360 release a pheromone that made me powerless to resist?  Maybe, but it's more likely they just took the aggregate data from sales, studies, and Achievements and they know what games their audience want to play.  They can seperate the casuals from the gamers who will drop $500+ on launch day and spot a pink hat a mile away.  And it seems poised to get even better in the future.

As a disclaimer: I'm not posting the link to the E3 video as some kind of advertisement for the One; I'm just not entirely sure people have watched it, as I still see alot of "Xbox cable box" comments going around.  If you can watch hordes of zombies having bombs dropped on them, Roman soldiers stabbing each other in the throat, what looks like a full featured Far Cry map editor, and mechs shooting the crap out of each other and you're thinking, "not interested", "but what about...", or "cable box"...  I certainly acknowledge your right to have an opinion, it's just your taste in video games is so far out of the sphere of what I consider to be awesome that, quite frankly, I don't care about it.    I'm actually imploring you not to buy a One, because what you want to play certainly isn't what I want to play; and I don't want your data mucking up the works.

So a service that requires you to go online to use, tracks your data, builds a database of it's users, and keeps track of what you like and dislike... Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn't it?  It must be doomed to fail.  Surely the public would never go along with such an obvious plan to plunge our society into an Orwellian nightmare...

 Whoops!

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