With this post’s obligatory dick joke now being over and done with, I should start by mentioning that last weekend I spent a very long and very hard time in front of my TV screen doing absolutely nothing.
You see, to my delight the Xbox digital marketplace was teeming with some rather tasty deals and I managed to nab both Titanfall 2 and The Bioshock Collection for half the usual asking prices, and seeing as it is now only days until I assume the mantle of ‘University Student’, I thought it best that I exercise the last few impulse purchases I am allowed to make before I’m eating instant noodles every day for 3 years. So, with fingers trembling in anticipation, I clicked to buy and then, soul flowing with excitement and mind racing with ludic possibility, sat in front of my television and stared at the installation screen for about forty hours.
The process of purchase, for me, was profoundly anticlimactic, the pathos of the long, drawn out waiting period no doubt compounded by the circumstances: parents? Away for the weekend. House? To myself! Girlfriend? Away until September. Friends? On holiday or busy. All of them? All of them…
That two day period must have been, for me, the first time in my life where I have experienced pure, utter isolation from the life and civilisation I am so used to. My actions for that two day period included: waiting, waiting, waiting. Sleeping, washing up, waiting. Going to the shops, and then waiting. Waiting. Are you free this weekend? Waiting. Sorry bud, I’m in a completely different country. Waiting. Waiting. What is my purpose in this life? Waiting. Rock back. Rock forth. Waiting. Twitching. Waiting…
I had to wait for the entire time I was alone to myself to finally play that mammoth videogame, and the experience therein I think was more edifying than the game itself was afterwards. The sheer man-hours I put into maintaining my patience throughout that time, the mental labour I endured, it all caused a kind of reflective sadness that ultimately made me mourn the loss of the readily available videogame.
I know that mine was an irksome experience that will not apply to the majority of the people reading this seeing as both Titanfall 2 is an arguably unreasonably large game and my WiFi is certainly unreasonably slow, atop the fact that I downloaded it entirely from the internet where it’s also available as a blu-ray disc okay okay OKAY…
But it would be remiss of me not to talk of the decidedly consumer-unfriendly direction that modern games are taking when it comes to just being able to play the product you buy. I can only think of how simple it was not a few years ago when blu-ray discs and laser disc DVDs could achieve content parity across consoles, rendering the blu-ray disc the optimal format of a videogame disc rather than the necessary one.
Nowadays, however, with AAA games being more graphically sophisticated and generally more expansive, Microsoft’s Xbox One has had to switch the format of their disc to keep up with the demands of AAA content and remain a solid competitor against Sony’s hardware. In principle this just sounds like the standard evolutionary trend of a company that vies to stay on the electronic world stage, but there remains a problem in that, while over the past few years the hardwares, softwares and general industry of console gaming has become more sophisticated, the average internet speeds of the people playing these games hasn’t, even between console generations.
The size of Titanfall 2 ended up being over 60 gigabytes, contested only on my external hard drive by Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V which, between updates and updates and updates how now reached 70. Amongst local installations off of blu-ray discs and downloading of day 1 patches and updates that have launched since a game’s initial release, it might take someone hours of waiting time just before they’re able to see if they enjoy the game they’ve bought or not.
And I’m not even talking about my own experience here… as someone who plans to go into making videogames I understand that this is something I’ll naturally have to deal with, but for the guy who has a job and a wife and kids and just wants to play some Battlefield with his coworkers after a hard day, he will have to endure the experience of walking into GameStop, purchasing a game so that it exists in his hand but then also knowing that he does not yet fully own the item in that hand and maybe won’t for a number of hours.
The age of bliss in which I could, happy as a little lamb on methamphetamines, wake up on Christmas day, open each of the Modern Warfare PS3 franchise titles placed under the tree by Jingo-Santa and just play away the campaigns into the night, is well and truly over. Now, in truth, a large part of my Christmas day is just spent staring at an installation screen waiting for the latest FIFA to update, and as my eyes wander over to the section of the TV shelf where those Modern Warfare titles used to be, I wonder what I’ll be waiting to receive next year, once the presents are already unwrapped.