All right, so it's Eric K. from Vancouver, BC, Canada. Yeah, so 32 years old, and I would say I noticed maybe around 2004, 2006, just, like, reading a lot of the gaming sites and in the new releases that were coming out, something about the fact that how, like, the kind of genre, maybe, or the emphasis that was put into games at that time, it was -- I think around that time, it was starting to shift more towards multiplayer emphasis. So I think at that time is kind of -- I had lost a little bit of interest in that.
You mean, like, online multiplayer?
Yeah, online multiplayer.
What turned you off about that? Or what made you less interested?
I've always enjoyed a really good single-player experience. Like a deep single-player game. I'm not too much of an online player. So the fact -- it seemed to me that as if media, the devs, maybe as early as back then, I can't remember, but it seemed like they were starting to push that trend of, like, "Oh, this is the next big thing, and we're just going to push it and we're gonna focus all of our efforts into this."
And you kind of see that now, maybe the last five years or whatever -- they talk about Call of Duty, I don't play Call of Duty, but they're talking about cutting down the single player so much that it's not even a point of emphasis in their development.
So you know, you -- I was watching something, it might've been from Game Trailers or something, but they're talking about how they're shrinking down the hours in that game, for the single player? So it's like, why waste time -- development time, money -- on the single player, so they just cut it down to, like, really short, and then just really focused everything on the multiplayer aspect of it.
What about the players that aren't really interested in it, but really like that? How the presentation style and, you know, and the mechanics of that game -- what about those players, right? So I feel like they're not -- they're kind of ignoring that side of it and just focusing on more where the money is, because for them, it's with DLC, right? It's the ongoing process of how to continue making more money off the game, right? So that -- I feel like their focus is on that instead of just the single-player experience.
And so you said that's something you feel like the media started focusing on?
Ahh… Maybe both? Like, media and developers, because media's just pushing out whatever's the next best thing, right? And obviously, they want to paint it in a good light, right? Like, "Yeah, this is good for you." Because if it helps out the developers, right, if everyone is onboard with that.
What are you saying the relationship between game sites and developers is? I'm not talking about GamerGate stuff, I'm just talking about, like, what do you mean about the way that they work together?
Well, it's kind of hard not to talk about the GamerGate stuff now, right?
I mean, I brought it up.
Yeah, it's the big thing in the media right now, so -- but I mean, you could kind of see it, even back in the Nintendo Power days, like, "Oh, 10 out of 10 game, this game's awesome." But it's like, "Is it, really? Can you trust it?" You have to take it with a grain of salt, right? Whatever you read.
But like, but nowadays, if I see a game, I'll just do what most people do, I'm thinking, and that's just go on YouTube, and then just -- or just watch a stream and just see how it is actually. And then decide from that whether it's something interesting or not. As opposed to, like, looking at Metacritic, whatever other review scores -- I don't know about everybody else, but for me, I don't put any weight into those anymore, because it all looks the same, and it's all 10 out of 10, so, like, what's the point.
You know? It makes no sense -- like, why bother reading a review when a game is meant to be played, right? So YouTube and Twitch are like the best things now for videogame reviews. Coming from just, like, normal people, or people who are, you know, popular streamers.
Probably it was around the beginning of the Xbox 360-era, because I think that's when the really big money started coming in? You know, the big AAA developers, the big -- they made a lot of money and it became popular, it became mainstream at that time. Everybody wanted a 360, everybody wanted the next big thing, right? So I think maybe around that time, you had that feeling of everything's a 10 out of 10 game, everything's a big blockbuster movie kind of thing. Like, they can't all be like that. And I mean, there's some doubt, right? As a skeptic, I didn't really keep up with that generation. I bought a system, 360 also, way later, so I didn't really care, but I kind of noticed it because I still read all the sites -- I've been reading a lot of the games sites ever since 2000, so...I'm keeping up with what's going on, even though if I'm not playing the latest releases. I know what people are talking about, I read the forums and everything.
Yeah. Well, I can tell you this, too: I'm someone who's reviewed a lot of games over the years and there is a practice where game publicists or PR agencies will try to send to writers who have given harsh reviews to games -- they will or can try to delay sending that stuff out as long as possible, in my experience. I don't think I've ever [Laughs.] really talked about that publicly. But I'm curious, you know, ostensibly, all that stuff is about someone like you -- like, someone who wants to buy and play games and have them for fun. What's your reaction to hearing about a practice such as that?
Disappointment, but at the same time it's almost --
-- when you think about it, it makes sense. Then you're kind of, not upset, well, I am upset, but at the same time, I understand why it's done. I understand it's business. You have to make money.
It's a business.
It's a business. So I understand that, but at the same time, it's like, well, I know what's going on now, so obviously now I don't trust anything I read from any big site.
Like I said before, I'll just watch a YouTube video, I'll watch a stream, and I'll be like, "Is this something that looks interesting? What are people saying online? Are they bitching about it? Are they praising it?"
That's what I trust more, the kind of -- the community, group consensus, "Is this a good game or not?"
Yeah. I mean, it -- there's just fewer ways stuff can hide, or be hidden in that way. Or be delayed.
But I feel like what they do is, the pre-release, everything is all controlled what they release, so I never buy into anything until it's out. So I don't understand the whole preorder thing. I never got it. I never understood what the big deal was with preordering. The game is not gonna be not there a day later, or five hours later from the store opening. What's the big deal? You can't wait, like, a day? I don't understand. It just doesn't make any sense to me.
Well, we're both adults. You're an adult, I'll call myself technically an adult --
I don't feel like one, though.
[Laughs.] OK, so I think you understand where I'm coming from, but I think, what -- maybe you don't age out of playing games, but what you age out of is that all-consuming anticipation for a game. So, because you're my age, do you remember being 11 or 12 and Mortal Kombat coming out on Super Nintendo and Sega? Do you remember all of the hype for it?
Mmhmm. But you know what, though? I never -- I never owned it at that time.
Like, I went to a friend's house, and even -- I don't even remember, I only got games on -- like most people, Christmas and birthdays. I had to wait, right? I wanted this game, I waited. I waited til Christmas or a birthday or something. So, everyone can't wait now? I don't understand. Then again, it's a different era, right? Back then, my collection is only -- at that time, was only, like, five to six games. People nowadays have collections of way more than that.
I mean, I probably have, on my Steam, close to 300, but that's a result of being sent a lot of codes for things, being media, and I've probably bought, like… 5 percent of that? But I think there's something -- what happens in the aging process is you get less hyped about things? It's like you lose that childlike quality of extreme anticipation for a thing. I don't know, did you ever feel that for games?
I can't remember. Can't say. Thinking back, anticipation was great for Christmas presents, but I already knew what game I was going to get because I had told my mom what to buy. It wasn’t exactly hype as in I’m going to tell everyone about it, but just anticipation.
I mean, have you ever felt that for anything? [Laughs.] Like something coming out, or something being released, whether it's a movie, or a TV show, or a comic book, or anything like that?
Yeah, a little, but I'm not gonna line up in the -- you know, 2 o'clock in the morning to get it.
[Laughs.] Me neither.
Yeah, I anticipate stuff, sure. I look forward to things, but I don't know...
You catch it when you catch it.
Yeah! Like, even new releases, in movies? No way I'm lining up first day. It's not that important. You know what I mean? I don't know.
No, I got you.
Maybe I'm just being an old man now, but...
[Laughs.] I feel like it's my influence on you, but maybe it's just being a 32-year-old --
No, I never lined up for any new release game. I look at those pictures, I'm like, "those guys are crazy." Have you seen those pictures in Japan where they line up in Akihabara? It's crazy, right?
Yeah! Or they'll give the day off when a new Dragon Quest comes out because it was causing loss of productivity. I think eventually they just started releasing Dragon Quest games on Sundays because of this.
It's like, you don't really have -- I don't know, maybe we do have that culture in North America.
For the iPhone, yeah?
Yeah, that's true.
But I mean, I would never line up for an iPhone. It's gonna be there later. So what, you don't get it the first week? I don't know, I just don't get it. You know those people who post on Facebook, like, "Oh, I got it the first day!" So what? There's a million of them.
But one thing I want to mention about the preorder thing is I really don't like this practice of the retailer-specific DLC. We can talk about DLC.
Yeah, I really don't like that because maybe I'm just an old school, retro gamer, but I want the complete game. I don't like -- have you seen that meme where there's Mona Lisa and it's like "gaming in the ‘80s" and it's like one complete picture, and then as you get further and further along to a present date, it's cut up into many million different pieces. Have you seen that picture?
Yeah, I have.
That's what, like -- that just really frustrates me. I'm pretty sure a lot of gamers are also a little bit OCD. I'm not OCD, but, like...they want to have everything. They want to just feel like they got the complete experience. And this kind of thing, it really...it just fragments the whole experience -- even if it's something stupid like horse armor or whatever, right, but for some people, it matters. They want to feel like they have the complete game and then the fact that they have to pay extra just to get all these different pieces. It bugs me a bit. That's kind of why I don't really want to invest in some of these things where it's like, "Well, there's this thing and then five other pieces are over here, and I'll have to spend extra… eh, whatever, I just won't bother."
You know, I'm pretty similar? I don't care -- I don't think I've ever been excited about a piece of DLC. I don't think I've ever bought a piece of DLC. Maybe Arkham City? I understand that some people might, but seriously, if you just wait a while, you can go on Steam, or you can go somewhere else, you can get the game 25 percent of the cost and it comes with all that extra stuff and you really don't even know the difference, you don't even know what you weren't getting. Then again, maybe I only behave this way because I’m spoiled, but even as a civilian I didn’t care about that stuff.
I mean, you said you were talking to indies and other developers, right?
Yeah. I'm also talking to folks in AAA.
Well, I mean, if you tell them -- just mention this, that most normal consumers are really ticked off and annoyed that it's all over the place. Sometimes if you look in the menus of some of those stores, and I’m talking about online stores here, like PSN and Xbox store, some items are not laid out sequentially and you don’t even know -- it’s not even labeled properly.
What's -- is this the first one? Is this the second one? Does this one include all of them? The pricing's all messed up. It's a hassle. You paid once, you should have the complete product. Imagine you bought a book and then, "Oh, we're gonna take out chapter two, it costs an extra dollar." What the hell, right? That -- that's just aggravating for a consumer.
Well, so this just comes back to what we were saying before, which is, like, this is a business. I think what's a little bit disappointing is that -- I think they'd honestly just be better off just charging more at the outset. Like, just tack an extra 20 bucks on, because I think there's also an erosion of trust, where you can't trust the initial purchase you're making, but also there isn't a guarantee that the game will work properly, and so, like --
Yeah, look at all those -- all the patches. A lot of people are complaining when games get released first day, first week, everyone's bitching about it online, like, "Oh it doesn't work. It crashes. This happens, this happens," and then a month later, it's all fixed, so why would you preorder? Why would you buy it the first month, now? There's no incentive any more. Why not wait until all the bugs are worked out and then get it? For me, it just removes the incentive of why should I buy it early, it's better to buy it later. It's cheaper, price comes down, and all the patches are out.
What do you feel like makes games today not as interesting for you as maybe some of those older games? And just brush aside nostalgia, what types of things do you feel are missing?
I don't know. It's really hard to say. I think one thing is that also in the media, I feel like there's a big emphasis on storytelling, trying to compete with movies and visuals and storytelling, and I think that's -- that's not a good way to go. Games are games because of the interactive medium. I think that's just fool's gold to try and chase that. Why try to compete with movies on that scale? It just doesn't make any sense to me. Look at some of these games that we played that are hailed as classics from the NES era. They look like crap, right? And then people still play them. So what does that tell you?
Movies come up a lot, and I think that's something that the industry puts forth, but to talk about it in a different context, what's just coming to mind right now is, think of vegan cooking or seitan or tofu. Maybe you're a vegetarian or a vegan, I don't mean to be --
No, I hate vegans.
[Laughs.] So I'd be curious to set you loose on this now, where it's almost like you talk about tofu and tofurkey, but that's not really what tofu is. Tofu isn't supposed to be emulating other things. You can try really hard to package it as turkey or as something else, but we all know it's something different. And that’s fine: We already have turkey. I feel like something similar is going on in games, where to their detriment, they're being treated as something else, instead of being explored of all the things that they uniquely can do.
Yeah, maybe that's a good way of putting it. It's not this, it's not that, it's its own thing and they should embrace it.
Do you think there was more of an embrace at some point?
Hard to say. All those discussions online, people were talking about the fact that in the NES/SNES era, there was way more Japanese developers and that may have something to do with what we're seeing now, whereas the Japanese developers haven't kept up with the HD era. In that sense we're seeing more Western games, and that's maybe some of the quality issues or not focusing on gameplay thing that the Western developers, they wanna chase movies so they're kind of putting the gameplay thing on the backbone, so it might be that.
It's a Japanese thing that they just haven't figured out what the secret sauce is for their -- what makes these games so replayable and what makes other games kind of boring after a while if you've just seen what happens at the end and you don't feel like playing any more, for modern gaming anyway.
It's interesting too, talking about that divide of when games used to be much more Japanese-influenced. It sounds like what we're saying is, as the West took a greater hold, it seemed like there's a greater emphasis on trying to emulate movies. Before that happened, when Japan was more prevalent or prominent in games, what do you feel games were trying to do then, if you understand?
I don't really know. They were just trying to make something entertaining? I don't know. It's hard to say.
Do you think it was just something simpler, maybe? Or less -- not less ambitious, but it certainly seemed like there was a different aim.
Yeah, it may have been. Maybe also something to do with the gaming culture, the arcade culture, there. It's still strong. So, you know, people write off arcade games as money-suckers, but if you see high level of Street Fighter or shooting game players, you can stretch out your money if you get good at it. And that's kind of back to the gameplay thing, whereas if you make a good game that's deep, the better you get, the more rewarded you are for your play. Whereas on the other extreme, you have freemium games, which are all about how much money you spent on the game, or another example would be RPGs like World of Warcraft. It's not about your personal skill, it's about how much time you invested in your character to level up your character. So it's like you have this stat that has nothing to do with your individual skill level.
That's one thing I appreciate about skill-based games is that it doesn't matter what your stats say, it's just that you as a person put enough time in this game and you've become more skilled and therefore the game rewards you because you are more skilled, and it's more fulfilling that way, and you can play longer because of that. Whereas I feel like the freemium influence on the other side is kind of taking hold and they're just trying to suck your money. "Oh, level you up and just pay a little bit more and you can level up faster or do this, do that, so..."
I feel like those are two kind of -- two different ends on the spectrum of rewarding players for time invested and things like that.
Yeah. So you had mentioned propensity for OCD behavior a little bit in people who play games. What do you feel like we don't hear discussed as much publicly about the types of people who play games or what it means to play a videogame? I think it's something that people say, but they don't say, is there is a tendency to be a little OCD, or there can be. What else do you feel like you don't hear people say much about?
I haven't really thought about that.
One thing that's kind of related to OCD is this whole achievement thing. Now my age is showing, but I never really understood achievements. Do you?
They -- I understand them. Do I like them is a different thing. They're basically -- they're like a Pavlovian approach to encouraging people to play games in a very specific way to try to add more runtime to the experience.
Yeah, to me, I just feel like that's just filler.
[Laughs.] I would agree.
You can't -- you can't think of anything better to do than to have everyone run around and go to every little nook and cranny of your game to find something that doesn't even do anything except put a little notification on your profile? Imagine if you really did have OCD, and you saw that list, and you had to -- you felt like you had to do it. What a waste of time.
It doesn't do anything! It's so stupid! There's this, it's called Reviews on the Run here in Canada and then this one guy was like, he loves achievements, and I just don't get it. "How can you just waste your time doing all these little things that don't do anything?" There's no effect on the game, it doesn't give you anything, it's just a stupid little thing on your profile. I just don't understand it. That's not even playing the game any more.
I'm gonna guess you probably didn't care about setting the high score in games, then, right?
Yeah, I didn't really care for that.
It's kind of the same thing, it's just been re-interpreted or reincarnated.
I mean, if the achievement actually, you know, like in Grand Theft Auto, for instance. If you clicked all those things, something happens, right? Like you get weapons at your house or whatever. That -- that actually makes sense, if you wanted to do that. But otherwise it just doesn't make any sense.
Can we go back to DLC for a second?
Yeah, go ahead!
One more thing about -- you know about Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3?
They lost the license to it. Capcom lost the Marvel license. And so it's pulled from the store, so you can't buy it any more. This is one of those digital distribution things, but getting to that, there's also the DLC issue with two of the characters. So the whole roster is there when you buy the game, but there's two characters that are DLC-only. And because they lost the license, those characters are gone.
So let's say you bought the game used, you have no way to get those DLC characters. So from a collector's point of view or just from someone that wanted to play the game, that's kind of just really stupid. I just don't understand, everyone's saying digital distribution, it's the best thing ever, but except for this, what about this, then? You know what I mean? You can't ever get those characters. Only those people that bought it, that have that -- it's on their account or whatever, other than that, you have to resort to piracy. Pirates are the only people that are gonna be collecting all these things and are gonna have the full experience now. Is that right? Is that what they want?
There's a similar thing, too, with achievements where there are some you can only get online. And when the server is shut down, it probably causes a similar twitch in people's brains who have that completionist bug. You know, it --
But then, this is -- these are characters. In a fighting game, the game is the characters. So you're essentially removing part of the game because it's behind a paywall and licensing issues. That just makes… I don't know, it's just really annoying for the next people that want to play. Maybe this is us being old, but we could buy any old NES, Super NES game, PS2 game: It's all there. We don't have to worry about, "Oh no, half the game is missing because it was online back then." You know what I mean?
Don't have to worry about patches --
Yeah, patches, DLC, the complete game is there. It's on the cartridge, it's on the DVD, whatever. Now it's not. That's just really frustrating for an average consumer.
You sound just like me. [Laughs.]
But we were talking about games media, and I'm curious to hear: Do you pay attention to games media, still?
I don't go to Kotaku any more.
[Laughs.] Just Kotaku?
Or Polygon, or...
How long ago did that stop?
Ever since feminism invaded Kotaku with Leigh Alexander. Her articles are really, like, you read them, and you just want to, like -- it's hard to say. It's just very annoying people pushing ideology in, in, in an article, like in gaming. So I noticed it, and I was just like, "This doesn't make any sense, why is this on the site?" I was really confused at first.
I was like, "What is this doing here? I thought this was a gaming site?" And then it just -- I saw her name more and more and then I was just like, "You know what? This is stupid. I'm not coming back here." And that was -- I don't know when that was, 2008? 2007? I don't know when she started.
I mean… to Kotaku's credit, I do think of many of the sites out there, they seem to understand what they want to do, which is sort of covering "lifestyle" around games. But I think it's such an odd phrase in and of itself, because there may be analogues to music and books with -- you know, there probably are. Are there websites where it's like, "This is all about the lifestyle of being a person who reads?"
But it sounds sort of laughable, right?
I don't know, maybe not to them. I don't know. I don't really read magazines that much.
[Laughs.] Probably, but I mean, that's kind of my point, which is that the notion of reading in general is so broad that how can a site really claim to adequately cover "this is everything it means to be a person who reads books. This is everything it means to be a person who rides hot air balloons," or does any activity. It makes sense, and I've always thought at least they have a niche for --
Okay, okay, but in that instance, though, if you read some of those articles, are they supposed to piss you off?
If you read a lifestyle magazine about running or jogging, is it supposed to make you angry? That's the difference, see? I was like, "What the heck is this? Why is this written in the way to incite anger in people? I'm just not coming back here any more. This is too weird." So now I only -- the only source of information would be Twitter and NeoGAF. So I know what they're talking about, but like I said, I don't play in anything that new anymore,but I just like to know what people are still saying.
So while you were paying attention to games media, though, what trends did you notice in the things that they did cover or tended not to cover?
Well, obviously they covered all the big games. Some indie games, here and there. But I don't know, it's been a while, so I can't really remember what they were covering.
You said, basically, that you stopped gaming seriously after the Super Nintendo, but have also mentioned getting an Xbox. So what happened after the SNES?
High school happened, I guess? Going out more. Things like that. I don’t know, I guess I really loved platformers, and they didn’t make them after that era in that way.
In what way?
Like, the 2D experience. They’re focusing on the 3D. And at that time, 3D really was not very good, so --
[Laughs.] I mean, Super Mario 64 came out and I remember that being incredible when it was new. Same with Wii Sports. Maybe we’re talking about a diminishing returns on new gimmicks, perhaps?
It’s hard to say. I don’t know, just the visceral feeling of spot-on controls, controlling your characters. I don’t know, that’s a really good question. It’s hard to say. There’s just something about it that you keep coming back to them. They’re just -- they’re fun.
Something I like to explore with this, too, is creativity in games. But maybe you don't really pay as much attention is what I’m hearing. You're pretty much firmly just sticking to older games?
At the moment, yeah. Pretty much.
But you still also play way less than you used to?
Yeah, I don't have much time right now, so...time is an issue, but, yeah.
How much do you think you played at your height of playing, I guess before high school? Or maybe that wasn't your height of playing, I don't know.
Yeah, I think during high school was probably -- yeah.
Like, how many hours a week, do you think?
All day. Every day. Something like that. I don't know.
What is it like now?
Hardly ever. Very rarely. I'm back in school now, so I try to stay away from it.
Is there anything that would make games coming out now more worthwhile for you to pay attention or to try to make time for them?
Eh, not really. That's another weird thing: I was never really into the indie game scene. Just something about it, the way they tried to -- maybe it was the art style? I don't know. It just never appealed to me. It sounds kind of bad, because everyone's like, "Oh, you should try indie games, they're like the next coming of the revival of the retro gaming scene."
But I don't know, something about it, it just never really clicked with me. I'll watch videos of a lot of them, and I was like, "Meh, it's all right."
[Laughs.] I mean, my guess would be, it's very hard to find stuff, and there also isn't tons more creativity, necessarily, going on. That would just be my guess for why you feel the way you do.
Yeah, it seems like they’re just they're trying to copy the popular older games, and just trying to take their spin on it, so...
So why do you think this happens, why do you think games become important to people, and then they lose that importance?
They find a game that they love and then they want to know everything about it, and they just -- it's hard to say. Just something clicks with you. And as far as losing, I don't know. Other priorities come in, life takes -- life takes over. So, I guess if that balance is life becomes more important than the game. It's different for everybody. Some people never stop, some people give up. Hard to say.
Well, maybe if the industry could cut back on some of their practices like we were talking about earlier, about DLC, the whole freemium model kind of thing. Maybe if someone were to tell them, or if enough consumers stopped doing it, maybe something will change? I don't know.
Do you think it will?
It's hard to say.
There's a lot of...people are, people are doing it, people are buying all this crap. They're making money off it. Why would they stop?
That's kind of my attitude.
You heard of this thing, games as a service? [Games Analyst] Michael Pachter said this, games are a service, they're trying to make games as a service. Philosophically, that doesn't really make sense, because -- you know, unless you're talking about multiplayer. But then multiplayer is, is the service -- is the part of the service, you know what I mean? Like, the game itself is the game. I don't think you should try to make the whole game a service, where you don't own anything.
But then again, that's -- there are like those MMOs -- but they're trying to do that with every genre of games.
Trying to do what?
Make everything DLC, everything is -- you don't own anything. If they had their way, I'm pretty sure that's what big companies would be doing. You want to be able to own as less as possible, so they can just take it away from you, or charge you more for something. You heard about the Steam -- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on Steam version?
You heard about the licensing issue with the music and all that?
Yeah, I know all about that. I've tried to pitch some stories around about that.
Yeah, that's just another example of what happens when everything is so interconnected with Internet and the service thing and licensing and more licensing. More copyright just means less control for the consumer. People should really think about that if they're trying to push always-on, online, always connected, DLC, games on demand. That's the whole other thing about that -- remember the whole Microsoft thing, the announcement with the Xbox One?
Yeah, they said initially it would have to always be online?
Yeah, and people were like, "What the heck? Why would that matter for a single-player game? That just makes no sense." But they're like, "Yeah, it's good for you, don't worry about it, it's good."
[Laughs.] "Don't worry about it."
Yeah! That's -- that's pretty much the message that if you read the tweets and the press releases, that's pretty much what they're saying, they're like, "Don't worry, this is good for you, it's good for you." And everyone's like, "This is stupid, no it's not. What happens if something -- no internet, you go out of business? It's gonna be useless."
I'm just thinking further down the road. Are these services going to be there in the future? What happens if the company goes out of business, get bought out, something happens, what's gonna happen to your game? Are you gonna be missing part of it because of it's reliance on the internet and on those servers? People aren't really thinking into the future, they just want to think now, "I just want to play now, I don't care about the future."
Gotta catch 'em all.
Yeah, that's the thing. I mean, but for us, we have our old systems. They still work, didn't rely on the internet, so we'll see what happens for the future generation of these people.