The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 13
Ever since early August, I've had my internet switched off. It's not all that uncommon of an occurrence, but this is the first time I've had my internet shut off for any extended length of time since I'd started becoming more of an avid gamer after joining GIO. And I've started noticing things, how being offline affects how I perceive the virtual worlds, the handicaps that come from not having this so common of commodities. Be it through the games themselves or interaction with friends in Halo, this changes the way we play in more ways you can imagine in the modern industry. So sit back, crack open a drink, and listen to the lament of an offline gamer.
The most immediate thought is the old school style of being unable to play with friends unless they are within shouting distance of your system and TV. It seems an obvious thought, and one I don't even need to point out, but the implications of this reach farther than one might think. So often I abandoned the game I was working on to play a round in Halo: Reach or get on Civilization V with a group of friends to crush France. You don't have this option offline. You're really constrained to finding free time with a group of local friends, which takes a lot of planning and patience. Not to mention the fact that if you have a friend out of state, it's just an impossibility. You might take this for granted or only look at it with a passing glance, but it ends up feeling a bit like part of your experience has been amputated without so much as a how-you-do. It's frustrating, and makes you feel quite a bit isolated.
Adding to the isolation factor, the social networking functions of the systems have been disabled as well, which ends up a bit depressing. No longer can you compare games or achievements with friends, send messages through your console dashboard, or even get the little pop-ups to let you know a friend is playing as well. Humanity today likes to stay connected with each other, and gamers are most certainly no exception. It becomes quite a bit more of a solemn affair when you're by yourself.
Another thing I've noticed, most glaringly on Assassins Creed, was the lack of being able to patch your game. I was subjected to quite a bit more freezes, glitches, and other assorted technical anomalies while playing than I'm used to. This has convinced me beyond a doubt that developers have started over-relying on the usage of an internet connection to make games run more stable. Even aside from games running, on Uncharted I was confused about not getting trophies until I realized I had to download functionality for the title. And on a Greatest Hits rerelease version, no less! So even on rereleases developers aren't bothering adding downloadable upgrades to the disc. Another little frustration on a pile of irritants.
Cloud saves are something that become glaringly obvious when you don't have internet. You're forced to start new games on anything saved on servers other than your own system, which can be especially vexing if you have a pet character you've spent a lot of time on in an expansive RPG or your 10th prestige character with your dream setup in COD. In a similar vein, some entire games are rendered unplayable due to online validation requirements every time you boot them up. I noticed this when I tried to start one of my Xbox Live Indie titles in a fit of boredom. So you're stuck there unable to play content you paid for just because you're not playing for a completely arbitrary bill for the title.
As digital distribution gains steam (see what I did there?) it becomes harder and harder to get certain types of content, such as DLC's or downloadable games. I've been contemplating buying Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night for a while, but now I don't have the opportunity since the Konami compilation disc isn't available at retail anymore and I can't hook up to the internet. DLC's are just the same, when you finish a game, it is over. Period. I'd never noticed how much those add-ons mattered, but then I realized I'd be lost on Oblivion if I hadn't already had Shivering Isles downloaded onto my Xbox.
Finally, in a bit more offbeat thing, the lack of access to online strategy guides and cheats surprisingly matters more than one might think. I'm not a big fan of using these, but if I'm well and truly stuck to the point where I can't move on and friends are unable to help, it's comforting to know that you can just hop onto Gamefaqs and look through the walkthroughs to find out what you need to do to progress. That safety net is gone with the internet, and you don't have the old type of help of calling the Counselors Corner or consulting the walkthroughs on your brand-spanking-new issue of Tips And Tricks. The antiquated ways of seeking help has disappeared, to be replaced by regular Joes writing out how to beat Ganondorf for the umpteenth time. It's an odd thing to reflect on, but it's another disadvantage to being offline.
I'm not using this blog to complain, I'm using it to inform. Any way you put it, being relegated to an offline player has become a serious handicap to gamers in the modern day. So much has been put to the digital jetstream with the rise of the internet generation. Be it multiplayer, additions and patches to single player, or not knowing where to go next, it makes you feel a bit like a caveman scratching his head over the first fire he’s seen. For we've all become interconnected on the information highway, and when you get unplugged from this stream of knowledge and coding, you're left in a state feeling somewhat like you did 15 years ago when you were forlornly looking at 3D graphics on your friend's PlayStation when you're still playing on your beat-up Genesis. It's something unattainable, something out of reach when you're not plugged in, but it makes all the difference after experiencing it, after knowing something more, and that's when you find out there ain't no going back. You're not in Kansas anymore.