"Sometimes you gotta blow on the bottom," my mother said as three year-old me vainly attempted to get the Super Mario Bros. cartridge to work. After a good few blows I popped the old NES cartridge into the tray and clicked it downward. I pressed the power button. Lo, and behold, it worked!

    Hopefully, anyone around my age and older has experienced what I experienced many years ago. I consider it a huge blessing to be born to a mother whose NES lasted for many  years after she first received it. I first got to play it in 1997 well after the last NES game was produced. The reason I consider it a blessing is very simple; history. I've always been a big history guy, therefore, the fact that I got to partake in the infancy of gaming puts me in a state of bliss from time to time. Video games have become a staple in world culture. When compared to technological advancements like the radio, television, and movies, video games are still relatively young. Its progression is very very evident when you compare a 8-bit game from 1984 to a 1080p-native game in 2014. Graphics improve, sound improves, the time to make a game greatly increases, but quality doesn't always keep up. However, that's another blog for another day.


     Anyway, back to the subject at hand. We all know cartridges are a thing of yesterday (excluding the Nintendo DS/3DS), but only recently have their been legitimate talks of video games moving away completely from any physical form similar to how books are becoming less popular as readers opt for a more convenient alterantive like a Kindle or iPad. I read one particular manga strip that put it rather eliquently. One character asks the other why he does not use a digital device instead of lugging a paper copy around. The other character's reply is simple. "It lacks character". Might I offer the same attribute to a physical copy of a video game?

     To me, a physical copy of a video game has character. It shows ownership. It's an original copy. It is a case, booklet (more like piece of paper nowadays), game art, and disk. It is tangible. In past years it said "wow, you have that game". Back then, when it did not work you had to blow on the bottom (which really does work) or gently rub down the bottom of the disk (from middle to outer although you can't really clean scratches...). Oh, the joy and satisfaction of getting one of your beloved games to work again. Dare I say, it's almost an art; an art that is slowly dying out with every passing day, week, month, and year in the ever expanding world of digital gaming. Digital games get forgotten a little more easily as well. Have you ever gone through your digital library of games only to be surprised with what you've found? I will shamefully admit that I have. Disk-based video games sitting neatly on a shelf (I assume you are as organized as I am) serve as an excellent reminder that your spent good money on them. If there is any game you have found worthy of your hard-earned dollars they MUST be played and enjoyed. Speaking of money, if you buy a digital game and you do not like it you can't return it. You are stuck with it, or worse, trick yourself into believiing it isn't all that bad. Face it. After you've spent $60 on a new game it's discouraging when you realize that your money was not well spent.

Your face when you realize the game you bought is garbage...

     Despite my obvious disdain for digital video games there are some pros that I cannot go without pointing out. Digital games are right there ready to purchase at the PlayStation Store, Nintendo eShop, Xbox Live Marketplace, and Steam. In a world where everyone is becoming more and more I-want-it-now oriented and practically everything you want or need is just a click or two away, getting the game you "need" is right there waiting for you. Furthermore, you cannot lose a digital game. If you are the messy and disorganized type who frequently finds that missing copy of Super Smash Bros. Brawl under a pile of clothes or finds your second copy of Super Smash Bros. Brawl in the case where Battlefield 4 should be then a digital library of games is right for you. Also, you do not have to worry about the game no longer working because of misuse or unavoidable wear. No having to get up and change the disk because your game of choice is just a button-press away. Now that consoles require you to install the game data to the hard drive itself there really isn't a point in owning a disk that is used as basically a confirmation key to prove that you own the game. Finally, and probably most notably, your favorite virtual shop of games (usually) have killer sales and deals. Just a few days ago I purchased Silent Hill for the PSone through the PlayStation Store because of its Best of Konami Sale. I wouldn't have had purchased that game anytime soon if it weren't for that sale. PlayStation Plus members also get a few free games each month as well. "Free" is a price tag everyone can afford!

Then, after that, you never touch it again.

     In the end, if I have an opportunity to pick up a physical copy of a game I will go for it for the reasons I have already stated above. Maybe I'm just being nostalgic or setimental, but physical copies of video games are special and must not go away anytime soon. The action of popping in and ejecting a disk or cartridge from a console is just as much a part of the experience of gaming as playing the game itself.

Hasta La Vista and game on.

Jonathan Harrison