Welcome to the Powet Top 5, where we explore the top (and bottom) 5 items we think are relevant to any of a variety of topics that span the imagination. Sit back, read, and respond

Aiight, gather around folks, we need to talk.

Lets be clear now. Video Games aren’t dead or dying. They aren’t on life support or in the intensive care unit either. They aren’t even out with a broken arm, pulled hamstring, or 3-day flu. Nope, video games are just fine. Yeah I know how everyone loves the classics, but now is a good time to be involved with this hobby. We got high quality games like Mass Effect, Assassin’s Creed, and Deus EX being released on a regular basis, a thriving independent scene, and developers stretching the limits of what’s possible in video games. With that said, there are at least 5 big issues that video gaming could use less of. Some of these are on the part of publishers, others on the part of developers, and still others are even on the gaming community itself. Many of you will agree, many of you will not.

1. Downloadable Content (the wrong kind)
Worst Offenders: Street Fighter X Tekken, King of Fighters XIII, Rumble Roses XX
Don’t get me wrong, I love DLC. I don’t even mind paying for it if it contributes something to my game. I don’t even have issues with day-one DLC, including Mass Effect 3. What I do have a problem with are publishers charging me for things that used to be unlockables less than 5 years ago. What I am talking about is KOF XIII and Mortal Kombat charging me $5 each for a single extra character. As bad as they are however, at least they are downloading new coding onto the hard disk instead of insulting my intelligence like Capcom is doing. Capcom’s MvC 3 required users to pay to download a 100KB file that unlocked characters Shuma Gorath and Jill Valentine. You heard that right, you didn’t download the two characters, you paid to download a file that UNLOCKED the two extra characters. This fall, gamers will have to pony up $20 to have access to 12 additional characters for Street Fighter X Tekken (a game that I have currently purchased and enjoy mind you). This wouldn’t seem like such a bad thing, and it even seems like a value, except once again, the characters ARE ALREADY ON THE DISC AND CAN BE ACCESSED FOR FREE VIA CONSOLE HACKS! This practice is akin to having consumers purchase a dvd, then charging them to unlock the special features that are on the disc. Yes, you have the choice of buying it, and there are some gamers who have a sense of entitlement (see number 3), but there is a thin line between giving players extra content and milking fans for their dollars. However, this is dirty and underhanded. It’s one thing to have some of the assets to reduce download time and testing purposes (such as with Javik in ME3 in which I still had to download over half a gig of data), but to have the content already on the disc and readily available is almost a rip off. One has to be careful when it comes to adding fees for a game that gamers already paid for.

Coming this Fall - Unlock these Characters for only $20!

2. Draconian DRM (Digital Rights Management)
Worst Offenders: UbiSoft, Games For Windows Live
One of the biggest issues in PC gaming is software piracy. Thus, copy protection methods are necessary to protect a publisher’s product from being illegally distributed. Back in the days, there were product keys that players entered to verify that the game they owned belonged to them. When the internet became increasingly prevalent, players needed to connect online to validate their copies. However, things have gotten increasingly out of hand since then. Ever try using Microsoft’s Games For Windows Live service? It’s designed to link your windows account to your Xbox Live account, but the numerous bugs that are present make things tedious, and with Red Faction Guerrilla, they almost render games practically unplayable unless one finds a workaround. And if GFLW has trouble connecting, then I can’t save or resume my saved games such as with Batman: Arkham Asylum. It gets even worse. Games such as Command and Conquer 4 and Might and Magic 6 utilize persistent online connection, meaning that you have to be connected to their servers as you play the game, even if you’re playing the game’s single player component. Obviously you can see the problems with this. Number one, if the servers go offline for whatever reason (such as when UbiSoft’s servers were hit by a distributed denial of service attack back in 2001), you can’t play the game that you paid for. Number two, it’s ludicrous to require a player to constantly be connected when playing single player. Other types of DRM only grant a limited number of installs, which is problematic if you upgrade your hard drive or change computers. Ironically, hackers manage to find ways to circumvent the DRM, and have posted ‘ware’ versions of the games, freely available for download on torrent websites. For instance, EA’s Spore became one of the biggest pirated titles after its 2008 release in spite of its DRM (which only allowed one user account per computer for starters). Thus, while these DRM schemes have been designed to keep players from pirating games, they instead managed to push players into doing just that.

There are forms of copy protection that are far more creative and practical. For instance, Bohemia Interactive’s Arma series has utilized a form of copy protection called DEGRADE in which players who played a pirated version of the game would be suspected to numerous ‘bugs’. Thus when players take to the internet to complain about said bugs, they end up snitching on themselves. People who played pirated copies of Croteam’s Serious Sam 3 had to deal with enemies that were invincible and killed the players within seconds. When people bootlegged Dark Souls before its release date, the game developers themselves would invade their games as high-level phantoms that were next to impossible to defeat. Even digital distribution clients such as Steam, ImpulseDriven, and even EA Origin aren’t so bad, because the title is already validated, and users can access their games just by logging on to the client. Not only that, they frequently have sales on their top titles. GOG.com sells DRM-free games at cheap prices and includes several extras such as gaming soundtracks and posters as incentive to purchasing them. Bootlegging and piracy will unfortuanately always be an unfortunate part of any electronic media. No one wants to see their work stolen. However, security protocols that restrict a consumer’s access to it can make things worse.

Ezio and his brotherhood oppose the templars, but they really should be on guard for a denial of service attack on UBISoft's servers.

These next two entries are centered around us, the gaming community. We constantly get a bad rap in the ‘outside’ world. People look at us and envision overweight socially challenged nerds who live in their mom’s basements and have no idea of the existence of a ‘real’ world. Many of us know this isn’t true. However, if you take a look at the message forums and comments sections on gaming sites, then it’s easy to see where this misconception comes from.

3. Internet Fanboysim and Whining
Worst Offenders: Select users who post on Kotaku.com, ign.com, or gamefaqs.com.
It’s impossible to please all of the people all of the time. Weather you publish, develop, or even review video games, no one will ever be satisfied with your work. If you give a game that fanboys love a low review score such as anything 7.5 or below (Ninja Gaiden 3), you messed up because you don’t appreciate Japanese gaming. If you give a game that fanboys hate a high review score(Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3), you messed up because you were paid off by Activision, EA, Microsoft (oh I’m sorry, that should be M$), or who ever is this week’s villainous company. If past installments of your game were system exclusives, and the latest installment of your franchise goes multiplatform (Final Fantasy XIII or Devil May Cry 4), you messed up because your franchise somehow ‘belongs’ to the manufacturer of whatever platform the previous games were on. Not only that, but by developing an Xbox 360 (or any console version period if this is a PC game), the game somehow went down in quality despite the fact that the all versions of the game were most likely developed from the ground up for each platform.

This is a travesty and a slap in the face to Sony gamers everywhere. At least it was to those who were too young to remember that Final Fantasy used to be a NINTENDO exclusive franchise.

Oh, and the game in question shouldn’t be released on Xbox 360 anyway, because all Xbox 360 owners play are ‘dudebro’ FPS shooters (ignoring the fact that many of those same FPS games are released on PS3 as well). The game shouldn’t be released on PS3 because all they play are Japanese games and Uncharted, and it shouldn’t be released on Wii because it’s a system for grandma and the kids. Of course it shouldn’t be release on consoled period because consoles will never be a powerful as a $4000 PC rig. Any kind of DLC, be it day one, day 2, or day 2137809641 will also inspire a chorus of complaints and whining about how ‘this company doesn’t care about its consumers’ or ‘M$ is ripping us off’. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the Mass Effect 3 controversy. What ME3 controversy you say? Well pick one:

  • a.) the homosexual lifestyle is being forced upon our children!!!
  • b.) WAAAAHHH!!! I have to pay $10 for Javik DLC!!!!!
  • c.) The ending sucks!!!!! (you have to watch yourself if you have yet to beat the game, because this one is usually followed by spoilers)
  • d.) Tali’s real face is a STOCK PHOTO!!!!! (and to think someone actually took the time to look for the stock photo which was used as reference)

You can save the council, save the galaxy 3 times, squash the turian/krogan beef, hook up with hot blue alien chicks, and rock badass space armor, but people will still chew you out about your DLC and your ending. Commander Shepard just can't win can he?

You wanna know how bad things have gotten? EA was voted the WORST COMPANY IN AMERICA in The Consumerist’s annual pool. They were voted over Bank of America and Walmart. Yes, a game company is somehow worse than a bank that forecloses mortgages causing people to lose their house and a retailer suspected of bad labor practices. Do I really need to say more? Imagine if we put all this energy toward REAL PROBLEMS.

Who cares about Mortgage Foreclosures and shitty labor practices? At least Bank of America and Wal Mart don't charge you for day one DLC.

4. Online Sexual Harassment, Racism, Homophobia, and Bullying
Worst Offenders: Any jerk with access to the internet, a keyboard, and/or a headpiece, particularly if they play World of Warcraft or play on Xbox Live
If you think about it, internet fanboysim is no different than the Sega vs Nintendo fanboy wars of the mid 90s. Of course the real difference here is now people have the benefit of anonymity. While all things considered, we all like to think of gamers as one big happy community online gaming, that brings out the worst in everybody. Seriously, go into a round of Call of Duty, and you’ll be subjected to a bunch of screaming children (or at least adults with the voice mask) yelling gout racist, sexist, and homophobic slurs. While most online services thankfully have functions where you can report abusive players, no one wants to hear things like that when all they want to do is unwind after work or school and play some games. Lord forbid we give players the choice of being gay (see Mass Effect 3 complaints from above) or even put gay characters in video games, because then the ‘gay lifestyle’ would be ‘shoved down our throats’. It doesn’t matter if it is a choice that has little to do with the game itself, because all games should apparently cater to straight white males. Women gamers tend to have it even worse. Not only do they gotta deal with the negative stigma of being a gamer, they gotta deal with lewd comments from idiots who probably never interacted with a female in real life. Such a thing happened a few month’s ago on IGN’s Cross Assault reality show, except this time it was in real life and dealt with the competitive fighting community. Making matters worse, rather than speaking out against this behavior, many gamers choose to make excuses for it. When someone does speak on the issue, they immediately get ostracized and denounced as being ‘politically correct’. Lord forbid that we treat people who are different from us with respect in this post 9/11 [so-called] Christian nation, otherwise, we’re being PC. Much of the justification for offensiveness towards others revolves around the first amendment and ‘freedom of speech’. I hate to burst your bubble, but the first amendment only means that you can say what you want, and as long as you aren’t making threats, committing slander, sexually harassing someone, preaching violent overthrow of the government, or inciting panic, you can’t be arrested or sued for it. It does not exempt you from taking responsibility for what you say, dealing with the repercussions of what you say, and it does not justify being an asshole.

5. Misconceptions of Gamers
Worst Offenders: The Media and Pop Culture at Large.

What Law & Order and jocks think we are.

Gamers have a bad reputation. We’re socially awkward losers with no jobs, no girlfriends, and we still live at home with mom. If you tell someone you’re a gamer, you might as well be telling them that you’re gay. While its true that there are those of us who give our culture a black eye (just as I have outlined above), there are plenty of other subcultures and interest groups that have their share of douchebags (of course I hold gamers to a higher standard). One has to wonder if there are any other hobbies that are subjected the kind of scrutiny we go through. I’m not just talking about the self-righteous sadiddies who view gamers as losers. I’m talking about how our hobby is portrayed as the same satanic evil that Rock and Roll, Gangsta Rap, and Comic Books have been at some point. Any time there is a violent shooting, including one as recent as the mass murder down in Norway, violent video games are frequently singled out as the culprit. I could go into a long discussion on the other factors that contribute to such horrors such as psychology, education, parental influence, but since this article is already long enough, I’ll simply pose this question. If video games influence people to commit violent acts, and millions of people buy them, shouldn’t there be millions MORE mass murderers in society? Yet so many of them actually turned out….normal.

What the media thinks we are

Which brings me to my next point. Where there undoubted some people who let video games consume their lives to the point where it overtakes basic responsibilities, there are millions more who balance gaming with real jobs, families, and social lives. For instance Powet.TV overlords SeanOrange and Zac Shipley are married fathers while I myself carry a bachelor in computer science and work full time as a web developer for a transportation software company in East Cleveland, where I rent my own apartment. I have also worked with the developmental disabled for several years, worked with non-profit groups, and served on my high school’s national honors society and student council. All this, even though a fan of Mortal Kombat and Doom since I was 12 years old.

Gaming has also done good as well, as organizations such as Penny Arcade’s Child’s Play and OneBigGame have raised millions of dollars for charity. Games such as “The Cat and the Coup” have used the medium as a way to teach historical and social issues while games such as Foldit have actually gone ways to helped with disease research. Games have even helped saved lives, such as this instance when an America’s Army player helped save a car accident victim from bleeding to death with skills he learned in the game. So just because we like to play some Halo and Final Fantasy once in a while doesn’t mean we don’t know what the ‘real world’ is like. Many of us got real jobs, real families, and deal with real responsibilities. There are many shades of us too, which is why I haven’t included a “what we’re really like” picture. Hell, at least we’re not busy sitting on the couch getting wasted watching sports for hours on end so give us some credit ya’ll.

And there you have it. There are a lot of issues that our culture needs to deal with if we are going to continue progressing as a form of entertainment. Some of them are out of our hands, while others we can do something about. Anyone agree? Disagree? Anything else that should be mentioned? Sound off below.