Electron Dance
30Dec/1513

Discussion: This Is How Santa Dies

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Dear subscribers, if you feel like chatting about anything at all from the December edition of the newsletter, please speak your mind in the comments here.

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  1. I believe the word for a brand-assisted version of fandom is “fandom.”

  2. Maybe we should just replace fandom with brandom. Every F2P consultant talks about “fans” rather than consumers. You don’t “exploit” you “monetize”.

  3. I like ‘brandom’ even if I’m not a fan of Frankenwords or whatever you call them!

    I laughed a few times through your email Joel and nodded throughout. For the last, oh, 6 years or so I’ve been trying to pluck up the courage to just proclaim to all friends and family that I’m done with Christmas (at least the exchanging of gifts, you’ll have to pry turkey roasts from my cold dead hands) but I still haven’t done it and I’m not entirely sure I can, short of becoming a Jehovah’s Witness. It’s weird enough being unmarried without kids and not watching TV.

    It’s funny you mention digital purchases over physical ones. Only yesterday I took my £20 GAME voucher into GAME and spent a couple of minutes trying to find the PC section only to pluck a £20 Steam voucher from the shelf. It’s not the first time I’ve done this. So I now have £33 in my Steam wallet, there’s a Steam sale on and I’ve no idea when I’ll find time to play anything I could potentially buy. Time is the big problem here and New Vegas isn’t helping.

    Actually, my brother gifted me a game through Steam as your newsletter landed in my inbox and that was exciting not knowing exactly what he’d got me. It was hardly physical unwrapping but the uncertainty was still there, however short-lived!

    I still regard Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge as my favourite childhood Christmas present because a) I’d been wanting it for ages and b) there’s just something about a big ol’ box to unwrap followed by the exquisite artwork of Steve Purcell adorning every side of it. Not to mention, the piracy wheel was pretty sweet too:

    http://tinyurl.com/ocohzu8
    http://tinyurl.com/jkskc7r
    http://tinyurl.com/zet5gd6

    So… are the kids enjoying Minecraft: Story Mode? What are you making of it?

    Hope you all had a great Christmas and are enjoying the break.

  4. Hi Gregg.

    Yeah I think the buying of gifts is pretty ingrained and it seems really weird to me to walk into a [hysical shop just to be handed a digital voucher! I guess you can probably still get some PC games from places like Amazon but is there such a thing as PC games section any more? I suppose places like WHSmiths still have those “multimedia experiences you would never ever buy even if blind drunk” section.

    The kids are liking Story Mode but I’d easily give it a pass. It’s just not interesting enough. I don’t know what Telltale is usually like but it seems the emphasis is all on character interaction and how people feel about each other. In Story Mode it’s seems more aimed at children so the character stuff is on the level of a children’s TV drama. Like do you want to give your last cookie to someone else. In episode one, the game seems largely uninterested in the overarcing adventure (it takes FOR-EVER to get going) and more about setting up characters.

    The other downside is of Story Mode is, I guess, Telltale’s dialogue system which is timed. It gives me no time to discuss with everyone what we should choose: I just have to bark the options and hope someone answers quickly. Then the mouse gets a bit sluggish on the laptop and often I can’t make the option in time.

    *shrug*

    And omfg quick time events

    Enjoying break but want to get on with things now – been back at work since Monday (yep, on the bank holiday!).

  5. Physical shops still have a place for me, because as I also consolegame I like to peruse the pre-owned shelves in search of interesting bargains, but I certainly do that less than I used to. I spend more time in shops like CEX or our local Replay looking for interesting old/retro titles, if I’m honest. The digital age means anything fairly recent can be more easily acquired.

    What does this mean for consumer culture-oriented recent Christmas traditions? Oh, I’m sure they’ll survive for as long as late capitalism does. And if you really want to dive down a ghastly rabbithole of gift physicality, well, there are always those very reasonably priced ‘limited edition’ sets. You too could own a tacky resin bust assembled by Chinese sweatshop workers! Each item in this limited run of 50,000 comes inlaid with broken dreams!

  6. I played a little of Story Mode over our break helping out a nephew who isn’t a strong reader yet. This game is not super if the kids are not yet reading both well and fast, since, as Joel mentions, you only have a limited amount of time to choose dialog options, which isn’t really enough time to read it aloud to a kid and have them think it through in a reasoned way. I wish that this was slower in this particular game since it’s obviously geared toward kids otherwise.

    I’d recommend Story Mode Minecraft mostly for kids who are into Minecraft and already reading. Tales from the Borderlands is good though if you want to see what Telltale is like when it’s for grownups.

  7. Shaun – surely consolegames are headed the same way? I can’t help thinking that OnLive was ahead of it’s time and will become the norm at some point. This also means those with poor broadband connections will simply be ignored.

    Amanda – Yeah my oldest is on the tipping point where he could manage it himself. My youngest feels just like a bystander. That sense that the whole game is a “rush” makes it feel less enjoyable in a family setting. Maybe it is time to get everyone into text adventures :)

  8. Joel – I agree, but I think we’re a long way off that point. For one, console storage space is still priced at a premium and since consoles are mostly about AAA titles with 20-40gb install impressions (I gather installs are often necessary on Sony and MS current gen consoles) I can see running out of storage being a perennial problem. For two, reselling games is really common among console gamers – once a game is done with, why keep it? I’ve known console gamers to turn around games as quickly as they can to maximise resale value and get onto the next big thing in order to repeat the process. Non-anecdotally, there is no PC games resale market to speak of – it’s all console. Dunno the size of the market but it was big enough for publishers to vocally complain about it a few years ago; I don’t see that many contributing factors have changed since?

    But yeah, I do suspect subscription-based models are where we could end up (with bandwidth and storage ultimately deciding whether it involves streaming or local installs). And that is exclusionary of those with shitty broadband, which is… a hell of a lot of people, I’m sure. But then, people will get second jobs to buy a PS3, so that’s the context in which we’re talking.

  9. I realise we’re talking at cross-purposes and not actually disagreeing. I do wonder if seeing what has happened at the mobile/digital space whether console manufacturers (and AAA studios) are actually fighting to keep a physical product. The same money pheromone that got everyone else in is still there though, going pure digital will reduce costs, but prices will eventually follow.

    I never used to resell my games! I felt like I was curating experiences and I’d already gone through this pain in my Atari VCS years. My parents sold all of our VCS cartridges to fund the purchase of our 32K Atari 800 – but over a decade later I went on a mission to recover my childhood, searching bargain bins for cartridges that no one wanted. Having gone through that, I just can’t sell on games. I still have everything from my Sega MegaDrive period.

    If a significant proportion of people are happy with a broadband game service and pay enough to fund it, no one gives two shits about the people who don’t have the broadband to pay for it. One throwaway point in my book is the anger at regional variation in prices in other countries which translates as a demand that we deny developing countries access to games (because they must pay the same price). It’s an example showing consumers as “the weapons of progress”, a trap of internalized capitalist thinking.

  10. Re. consoles and physical copies, a recent thing that springs to mind is the release of Yakuza 5 localised into English. It took Sega quite a while to commit to this – I think previous Yakuza games did not sell well – but once it was announced as a digital only release, there was a little uproar from a vocal minority agitating for a physical release, even people saying they’d “boycott” the digital release. Stupid and self-defeating as some of this behaviour may be, I think it does give a flavour of how keen on physical objects people still are.

    Yeah, I don’t really resell any more… I have had clearouts in the not-too-distant past but I generally find myself regretting flogging stuff down the line, and most of the stuff I sell is of so little value that it seems hardly worth it anyway. Truth be, living in pricey Brighton the biggest problem is usually storage space / clutter.

    Yeah, I think what you’re saying about corporate thinking vis-a-vis broadband as requirement for service was pretty much borne out by that Xbone gaffe a few years back. And interesting what you’re saying about anger regarding regional variation. I’ve not delved deep into that subject so I look forward to reading your take on it!

  11. Oh that’s interesting about the Yakuza 5 release. Let me note that one down!

    What was the Xbone gaffe you’re referring to? I can’t quite remember.

  12. I can see the timed responses being a problem for kids. That’s a shame. I grew up playing adventure games with my parents and most of the fun was discussing possible solutions to problems and what to say in conversations. And coming back to Monkey Island (one of the first we played), the fighting through dialogue was absolutely brilliant and hilarious. I know a lot of people hate adventure games but they were the only things we could all play together. My mum was never any good at Golden Axe or Mario Kart, bless her.

    @Shaun: I love rummaging through the games sections in charity shops. You never know what you’ll find. The PC shelf/shelves in CEX stores can be surprisingly good at times. My greatest find was a mint condition copy of The Operative: No One Lives Forever, complete with soundtrack CD. £1.50! Blade Runner by Westwood and Irrational’s SWAT 4 would be nice now.

    If I was a more dedicated console gamer I’d probably subscribe to something like Boomerang (Lovefilm for gamers, essentially) because there are very few games I return to to warrant keeping them on my shelf.

  13. @Joel – here’s a piece on El Reg about said gaffe: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/04/05/microsoft_twitter_cloud_gaffe/

    @Gregg – woof, okay, maybe I should give them the occasional glance if you found a copy of NOLF. Still never played it! I have a… digitally acquired copy of SWAT4 somewhere, and I think my old DVD of Blade Runner is long lost but I would also like to play that again.

    I did rent games from Lovefilm back in 2006 or so, but very quickly stopped bothering as the discs were usually much too scuffed for my poor 360 to cope with.


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