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Press Start to Play?

There are varying levels of anticipation on the ride home with a new game in tow. Be it the ending to a big trilogy or great new IP, I am guilty of opening the packaging at a red light so I can throw the disc in my console and play it immediately. Controllers are charged, the television is at the proper setting, and I sit comfortably on my couch as the disc spins away. Before the developer name even pops up...I am usually met with this:

"But...but the game came out today..."

It seems like console games these days require much more setup than usual to get the intended experience. Gone is the time when you can simply throw a game in and hit the ground running. Roadblock after roadblock will bar your passage as you attempt to access each feature, hampering your ability to get to the content you have waited so patiently to play.

The ever so common "Update Required" screen is a result of a pressure to meet release dates and will be the first obstacle in your path upon firing up a new title. For the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 this usually only takes a minute of your time, and anything that can improve the experience will be worth it in the end. While the updates are in place to fix bugs, add features, or prep a game for incoming content; this obstacle shaves off a few precious minutes of game time.

So our update is installed, but we have a nice pre-order code that came with our game to get us access to an exclusive weapon or level that we do not want to miss out on. This leads to the biggest inconvenience of them all - entering the codes. In an age where DLC is king, codes can pop out of the woodwork to add more content to the core of the game. Pre-order codes adorning your receipt, collector edition codes littered in your tin box, or exclusive social networking codes all compile into a big 12-16 digit mess that you must punch in with a joystick and a button. Sitting there and entering letter after letter only to find it did not work because the zero was actually the letter "O" can become tedious. After entering one code for a costume, one code for an additional level, and one code to unlock the multiplayer portion of the game I have already wasted more time than I would have liked. With most content ranging from kilobytes to megabytes to length of time to download the content can vary from one minute, to several minutes, or even longer.

It's Just Like Myspace!

So the update is done, the DLC is downloaded for the optimum experience, and we are ready to go, right? Wrong. This is the perfect opportunity for you to make an account for a new developer's social networking feature! The recently implemented U-Play system or separate EA account are a few examples of developer social networking features that track achievements, stats, and unlocks that carry over through that specific developer's lineup. While the additional features are meant to improve the game, logging into an account within an account feels very Inception-esque. I already have a slew of accounts and passwords to keep up with, and after popping in Max Payne 3 I had to go through the process of resetting my password for the Rockstar Social Club, completely forgetting what I used when creating the account for L.A. Noire. Once completed you are allowed to auto-sign in, but that initial setup can further hamper your game time.

It is an inconvenience that carries beyond initial purchase, often emerging when you go back to revisit a game from your personal library. A friend of mine hopped into Mass Effect 3 after a month or two of leaving it alone, planning on tackling the multiplayer with me for a few rounds. We started firing up our consoles at about 8:00...and did not start playing until 9:15. Updates and a few DLC downloads took their sweet time for my friend as I walked around the house doing chores, glancing at the empty lobby on my screen in hopes of seeing his name appear.

Most of these are minor inconveniences, and for the common console player this is not that big of an issue. Some of the social features can be ignored all together, updates do not take long at all, and DLC is an additive to be downloaded at your convenience. Yet, when I come home from a midnight launch and go through the motions of setting the game up so I have all the content I paid for, it is just a bit of a letdown as each prompt appears on screen to inhibit my ability to hop into an anticipated sequel.

The Zoidberg cry accommodates my disappointment

It makes me wonder what steps could be taken to alleviate this issue. Maybe the Kinect sensor could simply scan a bar code instead of requiring me to punch it in manually. Downloading DLC already occurs in the background, but often pauses when other media is being played simultaneously. Could the next generation of consoles handle the multitasking?  How many more steps will be required before I can play a game as intended? Will I soon have to calibrate my controller for optimum performance?

Console gaming used to be about simplicity, and while I find myself enjoying some of the additional content as each generation has evolved, I cannot help but notice all these hurdles that prevent me from jumping into the game. The Internet is suppose to compliment games, but with each new barrier and prompt it seems to be evolving into a hindrance. Looking at the list below, I cannot help but wonder if the future console generations will improve or worsen this process. At the end of the day...I just want to press start.

Older Generation
Power On ---> Insert Disc/Cartridge ---> Press Start ---> Play

Current Console Generation
Power On ---> Insert Disc ---> Update Required ---> DLC ---> Developer Account ---> Press Start ---> Play

Current Console Generation for Parents
Power On ---> Insert Disc ---> Kid Ejects Disc ---> Put Disc Back In ---> Update Required ---> Remember it's Thursday. Take trash to the curb ---> DLC ---> Spouse Aggro ---> 15 minutes of Cuddling --> Developer Account ---> Reset Password. Sidetracked by Paying Bills and Article About Celebrity Breakup  ---> Press Start ---> Play for 10 minutes ---> Sleep

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