If given a choice between going back and living in the year 1982 and sitting in a chair made of living dicks, most of us would choose the dicks. After all, back then you had almost zero control over your entertainment -- you watched shows and movies when they wanted you to. (This was even before everybody had VCRs -- if you missed it live, you missed it forever.) All technological progress since then has been devoted to letting us watch shows or movies when we want. Video games, however, are going the opposite direction.
For a prime example, let's take the just-released Diablo III.
I haven't been excited about a video game in a long, long time. It's not because I've hit some magical stage of adulthood that makes me hate fun things, or that I'm so busy that I can't find time for simple entertainment. Give me a good enough game, and I'll make time for it. Give me something spectacular, and I'll call in sick for it. Give me something I've waited 12 years for, and I'll burn down my grandma's house for a copy.
The smoldering charcoal on my grandma's scorched lawn means that Diablo III came out two days ago. Unfortunately for her, I didn't realize until later that arson in no way affects the game's availability. Especially since you can just download it directly from their website instead of camping out in front of the store on opening day. So I did:
I just bought something in my underwear and didn't have to go to court afterward!
I filled out the information and downloaded their installer. Then I moved it to the upper right hand corner of my screen so it would look like my desktop wallpaper was licking it out of pure joy.
"Mmmmm, that's some good installation, John. Thank you for letting me lick it with my giant cow tongue," I voiced as I watched the progression bar slowly tick to the right.
"I know, Mrs. Cow. I love you. You're always so nice to me."
"You know what, John? You're a good guy. It doesn't matter what the rest of the world thinks of you. Just know that I love you, and that's all that matters."
I did this for about an hour, pausing every couple of minutes to weep softly into my hands, until the game was fully downloaded and installed. So far, so good ...
#5. "Ready to Play Your Single-Player Game Alone? Please Log In."
When that bar turned green and the "Play" button lit up, my dong rose like 20 tiny Amish guys were pulling on it with ropes. I clicked "play" and then "I agree" on not one, but three "User Agreement" screens. That's when the first smoke alarm went off in my head.
It boils down to "We can do whatever we want, and you can't sue us."
Wait, I have to sign a contract to play the game that I just paid for? Do I need to get a lawyer? Can I do something in the game that could get me into legal trouble? I mean, I don't plan on playing public games or anything -- just me in my computer room, killing evil and screaming curse words until I lose my voice.
But I convinced myself it was nothing to get worked up about. It's just there to save their asses in case some random jackoff finds a way to make money off of them via lawsuit. Fine. I got through them all and was immediately taken to a screen that pulled the alarms from the back of my mind directly to the front, and cranked up the volume to "nuclear attack" levels.
No. No, no, no, no, no ... No.
For the six of you who just discovered the Internet today, that's a login screen. It's commonly associated with multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft and ... whatever other multiplayer games exist. Except there's a problem: Diablo III isn't a traditional MMO. You don't sign in to the game and immediately find yourself surrounded by a hundred other players shouting racial and homophobic slurs. You are in your own world. By yourself. Single player.
It is a single-player game with multiplayer options, just like all the other Diablo games. If you choose to play with your friends, you can. If you choose to join public games, you can. Otherwise, you're on your own -- and contrary to what MMO fanatics believe, this is the way millions of gamers prefer it.
But for the second time, I had to take a breath and remind myself that it's nothing to get worked up about. We've been fucking the gaming industry since the very first video game was invented. They put up with piracy for decades, and so far nothing has worked to stop it. This is just what they've come to, and if signing in to their servers helps prevent theft, then I'm all for it. The more money they make, the more resources they have to put back into expansions and content. Fine.
#4. "Now Customize Your Single-Player Character as You Please ... Wait, Not Like That."
I logged in and created my first character: a monk named Fuckhole.
Oh, come on! Really? You can't give me the option to name them whatever I want and then just ban me from entering public games? You can't give me the freedom to make a mage named Assfuck Cockthrob on the game that I never plan on playing with other people as long as I live?
OK, it's not the end of the world, but making computers utter profanities against their will is the reason I got into video games in the first place. In the Reagan era I played arcade games purely so I could get the high score and enter my initials on the leaderboard as "ASS." I replayed an entire RPG because I knew that there was one specific point where the female love interest would have to say the line, "Father, I want you to meet my new boyfriend, CUNTBLASTER." How have the decades resulted in less freedom to be childish?
But fine, this time I'll resort to stupid puns.
Get it? Because "monk" sounds like "punk." And CM Punk is a wrestler who -- aw, fuck it.
OK, so I decided that I wasn't going to bitch about it. They're clearly trying to prevent piracy while masking it with a "social" setting that's barely there in the first place. I've been giving this game a liberal amount of leeway, and if it's as good as they say, then it's a necessary evil that I'm willing to live with. Even though I have so few friends, I never have to worry about accidentally exposing my perverted, juvenile name to the guys who absolutely expect that sort of thing from me ... and who do it themselves.
I wish you could play video games, Mrs. Cow. You'd make a wicked barbarian.
I wasn't disappointed. I signed in and decided that my character had a personality flaw that made him think that death was hilarious. Which became even funnier to me when a friend came online and immediately appeared in my game, catching me in mid role-play -- with myself.
That's when I found out that there's an option enabled by default that allows anyone you are friends with through your Battle.net account to join your game at any point without asking. And not just through this specific game. The friend who showed up was someone I added back when I played World of Warcraft. And since both games are made by Blizzard, and both utilize the Battle.net account system, he's automatically on my friends list on my single-player game. So we killed some stuff for a while, and I kind of felt bad about getting mad over that whole "Fuckhole" incident. Hell, I'm friends with my oldest son through that system. Not that he'd be shocked about my stupid anal sex name, but I'm sure it would cause an unwanted conversation with my ex-wife. You get the point.
The more I played, the more I realized that my cynicism was for nothing. I was just being a whiny child, complaining about change. The game is impossibly fun, and if all I had to do was succumb to a simple social network, then I was --
#3. "Sorry, You Can't Play Your Single-Player Game Because Our Computer Is Broken."
Wait, what? Why is my screen going black? Is it some surprise cut scene? Maybe some Easter egg that triggers when you laugh at gravestones? I tensed in anticipation.
Nope, I got booted back to the start menu. Well, shit. No biggie -- that happens from time to time when you're playing something that's hosted on a remote server. I'll just sign back in and pick up where I left off.
I sighed, clicked the "OK" button and attempted to sign in six more times. This is also common with disconnects, and I tried to cool my slowly heating blood by reminding myself that when you get booted, your character is still active on their servers until their software recognizes that you're no longer connected and kicks you out on their end. A mousy voice in the back of my head started whispering a soft chant of "Single-player game." I signed in for the seventh time.
Oh. Well, that's ... really? I mean, I understand why it's happening. It's launch day for a game that's being hosted on a set of servers designed to handle a certain load of players. After the initial rush of people settles down, there won't be nearly as many people playing the game at the same time. So it's not smart to buy enough servers to handle the entire player base all at once because you'd only need those for the first week. You set up enough to handle your average load so that when things do settle into a rhythm, you don't have a bunch of useless, idle machines sitting around, collecting dust and wasting money.
"For your single-player game that has no offline option." No, stupid voice! Stop that! Let's just exit the game and go in from scratch. Sometimes, it's just a simple bug that's fixed by going in fresh.
MOTHERFUCKER! This is bullshit! I just paid 64 goddamn dollars for a game that- No. You can't let the game turn you into that screaming sack of shit type of personality that permeates the Internet. You hate that person, and you won't become it.
From behind me, my fiance sighed and said, "Motherfucker! This is bullshit!"