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PlayStation Network: The Future Is Now!

View Nelson Schneider's Profile

By Nelson Schneider - 04/30/11 at 02:32 PM CT

As of this writing, the PlayStation Network (PSN) has been down for over a week, with no forewarning, and will presumably be down for nearly another week. This has, unsurprisingly, caused an incredible amount of ‘BAWW’-ing among those gamers who were born after the Internet had come into full-bloom. What’s incredible is that these gamers are whining more about the loss of connectivity caused by hackers breaching PSN than the potential for identity theft and credit card fraud. Even more insane is that some of these same gamers expect Sony to compensate them for the outage. Compensation… for a FREE service?

For some reason, these young gamers think that the Internet is something that is always ‘just there’ and always ‘just works.’ They never had to put up with dial-up or become fluent in Modem Shriek. And now they are completely shocked an unable to function without online connectivity in a game console. They don’t realize that they are getting a sneak-peak of what PSN will be like in 10 years, when nostalgia kicks-in for them and they desire to relive the joyful days of their youth by playing some of their favorite games.

Sorry if this is surprising news, young gamers, but PSN won’t be there in 10 years. And if through some confluence of fate it IS still there in 10 years, you can rest assured that it will not still support the ‘legacy’ hardware of the PlayStation 3. Your precious online FPS deathmatches won’t work. Your voice-chat and Trophy-whoring won’t work. Your DLC won’t be available outside of pirate websites distributing DLC-patched game ISOs. Your zero-day-bug-fixing patches won’t be available (except, of course, from those same pirates).

In short: You’re screwed.

Those of us who play offline, single-player games will be more-or-less unfazed (except for the accursed DLC and patches), and those of us who own Nintendo’s Wii will be free to relive the ‘good old days of 2010’ all we want. So why do so many young gamers obsess over titles like “Call of Doody,” which they willingly admit has a boring and short single-player campaign? Online gaming is purely ephemeral and has no lasting value. Yet people will pay $60 (plus an additional yearly fee for Xbox Live members) for the privilege of killing other random people over the Internet… Baffling!

Games, like any other form of media, should have a lasting impact. I can read a book now that I had previously read 10 years ago and get the exact same experience. The same goes for movies and TV shows. Who authorized the transition of videogames from something with lasting entertainment and cultural value to something akin to an instant messaging application with headshots?

Of course, it’s entirely possible that the young gamers who require Internet connectivity to play videogames won’t care about replaying old favorites. Maybe their loose attachment to gaming as an online experience means they don’t care about lasting value and will simply move-on to the next big online FPS deathmatch or drop out of gaming altogether. Whatever the case may be, I only hope that this prolonged PSN outage has opened some eyes and dislodged some thoughts about where we, as gamers, want to drive the future of our hobby.

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Jonzor

Wrote on05/03/11 at 11:09 PM CT

Yep.

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Nelson Schneider

Wrote on05/03/11 at 09:50 PM CT

You seem to be in the minority, Jon, in that you actually play online with a very select group of real-life friends.

The impression I get from gaming message boards is that most people who like online multiplayer are only in it for a constant stream of fragging and working their way up leaderboards so they can waggle their e-peens at those below them.

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Jonzor

Wrote on05/03/11 at 03:00 AM CT

I agree that too many people ignore single player gaming and that if the trend keeps growing it means bad things for my beloved hobby. But I'm not willing to go quite as gung-ho against multiplayer as you were in the blog post.

Online gaming facilitates playing games with my friends when you get to choose who you play with. Used to be, you played with whoever you could most easily pack into a single house. Like I said before, if someone you played with moved, then you and he don't play games anymore. It's true that your PS3 needs Sony to keep the network up. It's a problem online multiplayer is going to have to learn to deal with and I have a feeling that the industry is going to cope with the issue by just cranking out another game that makes everyone forget that last one. The next Madden game, the next Call of Duty game, etc... it's true.

I moved to Omaha last summer after 5 years of playing video games with Dave as my roommate. Now, living in Omaha, I can keep playing with Dave. It works great, because Dave and I have very similar attitudes towards gaming, and know how the other thinks and plays. He's a wing man not easily replaced. Take a look at my list of favorite co-op games. 90% of those games were beaten with Dave holding another controller next to me.

Now, he and I can play games on a Tuesday night till 11:00 and no one has to drive an hour back to Omaha/Lincoln and then get up for work the next day. I get to play games with ANYONE I want, still, provided we both have the system, which is usually the case with our demographic anyway.

The problem with the "If I have to call someone, something isn't working" mentality is that you ALWAYS have to call people for EVERYTHING to do something together. You don't go to a movie hoping Chris or Nick will be there, you plan it ahead of time. You don't sit down in your living room hoping Chris will walk in the door for some local Smash Bros, you have to invite people over. I've never walked into a restaurant hoping I'll see someone there to sit and eat dinner with.

This is no different. I have a standing appointment every Wednesday to play Borderlands on the PC with a couple friends. I've put together playthroughs of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 with a full four man team of only close friends that have all known each other for years, but we had to clear one night a week for it.

Trying the old "I'll see who's online and maybe play a few rounds" routine only works when you've got a BIG list of people you play with that frequently play online. When I was "in to" Counter Strike for a few months, I had ONE server that I went to, and eventually got to know the people there fairly well. You'd have met 12-15 people playing on that server, and at any time you could bet that 3-4 of them would be online while the rest of the server was random scrubs. If I had two dozen friends on my Xbox Live friend list that were really into the same 2-3 online games that I was, I could probably get away with just logging in and seeing what happens. But alas, I've got like 5 people on any of my various lists, so it NEVER happens.

The point here is that if you're willing to make a few compromises on who you play with or how you know them, you can do the random gaming sessions by just "seeing who's on tonight." That's one way to use online gaming.

I use online gaming for the exact opposite reason. I REFUSE to compromise who I play with or how I know them. The list of people I honestly want to play with is extremely short, and online makes playing with them easier by an order of magnitude.

In a perfect world, I wouldn't have to find ways to play with who I want, but I don't live in a perfect world. Online gaming makes it possible to fill the single most important criteria of my multiplayer gaming with the best success rate. And it's been worth making a few phone calls. And in 10 years we won't be able to do it again, but that doesn't mean it wasn't worth doing, that's why you can't let yourself be a gamer that's just about ONE game. When the World of Warcraft servers go down and your night elf goes away or when the Halo 3 servers finally go dark people are going to look around wondering what the 500-1000 hours they've dumped into that game were for. But I'm not going to feel the same way about the 20 hours spent playing through a good game once with a few close friends.

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Nelson Schneider

Wrote on05/02/11 at 10:26 PM CT

Damn, Jon, I can't tell if you agree or disagree!

I enjoy fun local multiplayer just as much as you do, I think. But they key is that those local multiplayer games will still work exactly the same way in the future. (I can only imagine the flood of error messages that online-centric games will cough-up once their proprietary network goes offline.)

What I do NOT see is how online multiplayer facilitates playing games with my friends.

Here's an anecdote:

Two years ago for Christmas, I bought two people on my friends list each a copy of "The Orange Box," thinking that we might have a chance to play some "Team Fortress 2" (and I could finally see what all the hype is about). Since then, none of us has even touched "TF2," and we usually aren't even online at the same time. When we ARE online at the same time, we already have different things in mind to play (frequently one of us is watching Netflix with his wife).

Even for other games that we all like, such as "LittleBigPlanet" or "ModNation Racers," there has never been a spontaneous moment when we could play together online.

If you have to call your friends and arrange a meeting in an online game, something isn't working.

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Jonzor

Wrote on05/02/11 at 12:28 AM CT

This reminds me of something I read on Penny Arcade last week:

-------------
The thing to say on your web is that since PSN is free you can’t really complain about it, and that’s pretty dumb. Maybe you could have said that if you couldn’t play Ratchet and Clank online with your Playstation 2, but that era is fucking over. By “that era,” I’m referring to the one where chains of appliance “islands” exist in millions of discrete universes across the globe. The store, your friends list, these aren’t perks. By 2011, they’re bedrock assertions of the medium. The deal they made with users - one which, for years, was the justification for a gruesome price disparity - was “free Xbox Live,” not “shit happens.”
-------------

I would say just that it's insane to demand a price for your "troubles" as if the PSN going down somehow stresses your life in a way that needs compensation. Aw, you can't play MLB '11 and now have to play with sticks or dirt or something? I don't care.

But you know what is a load of crap? Losing personal information because of a lack of network security. There's your hassle. Minute as it may be... let's act like when you run a service like PSN that even if there's no charge to you, there at still some industry standards.

And lastly, PSN needs some good PR in the worst way. Even if no one had said anything, it would be a good move on their part to offer up some free downloads or something. The outage has been a nightmare for them to deal with, and this is an easy way to get some karma back. I honestly don't care, I'm not much of a Live or PSN junkie. If Sony gave me $5 in points on their network, I don't even know what I'd do with it. At this point, for Sony it's not about "need" or "deserve", it's about anything being in the news about you that isn't your crappy network.

Online gaming has, multiple times over, smashed any purpose single-player content may have had in some genres/franchises. Call of Duty and Madden are two that immediately spring to mind. I honestly have a hard time finding people that have played the story mode in Call of Duty, despite their wives protests that all they do is "play that fucking game." Which is shocking, to me... why wouldn't you play the single player? And you're close to the truth about picking up the next big thing to play online with people, just look at the Madden franchise. The value there is being where the crowd is, because that's where you get the most matches. You don't wanna be the loser sittin' there... waitin' for a match on Madden '09 while everyone else is playing cool games. As if anyone needed proof... look at the sell-back value at Gamers for old sports games. Next to nothing.

But, to act as if single player is the only mode with any lasting merit ignores the full potential of video games as elements of our social lives or as an art form. Plenty of art is an animal all it's own on a day-to-day basis. A jazz performance may never be the same two times in a row... is listening to a CD that sounds the same every time the only music worth hearing?

Now... maybe this is a bit dramatic, so let's refocus on video games. Playing multiplayer has been a part of video games as long as the medium as existed. What the internet has done is taken us out off of the same couch and let us keep playing with our friends AFTER they move away so we don't need to find someone else to play Mario Kart with. And just because I can't recreate a Smash Bros match doesn't mean it's not worth playing with the fellas.

The difference there is that those local games of Smash Bros don't require an online infrastructure that'll have long forgotten me 10 years from now. There's a lesson there in being a well-rounded gamer, because if not, you miss out on things some games can do well like story, music, characters, and so on. And likewise, while the internet has done a lot to enhance video games, it's also admittedly starting to cost gaming its soul in a few ways.

I guess my point is let's not sacrifice all the goats just on the altar of single player.

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Nelson Schneider

Wrote on04/30/11 at 03:14 PM CT

So, Chris, you think Sony owes you compensation because you are unable to synch your virtual accolades to their server... which is a 'value added' free service in the first place?

Really??

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Chris

Wrote on04/30/11 at 03:08 PM CT

I still want some compensation - look at all my un-synched trophies just sitting there! Now no one knows I've been playing the Fallout 3 DLC for the past week! Actually, I am more concerned about my credit card information - I guess they're doing some big PR thing Sunday so if my data was hacked or even if there was a chance it was, then I will be owed something. I hardly ever play games online, so I'm not concerned about the future - having no access to patches or DLC would suck though.

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