Life, The Universe, And Gaming: Forgive But Don’t Forget
When the first Far Cry title released to the world, I was one of those thoroughly taken aback by how it came out of absolutely nowhere. As I recall, it won ‘Underdog of E3’ in 2003 and was wholly regarded as the surprise title of that year, catching the world entirely unawares under the banner of then-unknown new entrants into the world of game development, Crytek, together with publisher Ubisoft, and competing directly with the absolutely massive releases of that generation, including Doom 3 and Half-Life 2. It also had the first Call of Duty throwing its weight in there as well. And it came out of the entire thing with flying colours, a testament to what a good game can be if the developers just put in enough effort and really try to create something special.
Then Far Cry 2 released and broke my heart.
When Far Cry 3 came out, the wounds were not yet entirely healed, a few of the deeper cuts still fresh; I simply did not want to commit to the title that would be returning to the tropical island setting after, in my opinion, having failed so abysmally at sufficiently exhibiting the African savannah at its most desolate in Far Cry 2 under a new developer. And boy would I have missed out if I had stuck to my guns and passed on Far Cry 3. It was easily one of the best games of last year; a game that almost a year later, I still harbour fond memories of.
Thomas Szasz is often quoted for the following gem: “The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget…”
Sometimes it’s easy to approach a situation with old wounds and allow those to cloud our judgement. Sure, we are allowed to do that. After all, those wounds were created, weren’t they? So something definitely was at fault in the past in order for it to be that way. But sometimes we do ourselves a disservice by allowing those old wounds to come to the fore.
Someone might hurt you some day. Someone you trusted. Someone you let into your life and allowed yourself to be vulnerable around. It might take you months and years to crawl out of the hole they’ve left you in. But what happens when one day they come to you and are truly repentant for the way they hurt you? What happens if they seek repentance when all you desire is retribution? They might hurt you again in future, but what if they really mean it this time? Do you forgive? Do you forget? Or do you do neither? But I’m going off at a tangent here. We’re supposed to be talking about games. Besides, it’s never that simple with actual people. Some wounds cannot heal. Some betrayals cannot be forgiven. You’ve all heard Evanescence’s My Immortal, I trust.
Coming back to gaming, this concept of not being able to move beyond a past event has been playing in my mind for months. It started with Microsoft’s Xbox One reveal, and their whole policies saga thereafter. Now I don’t advocate all of their policies for a moment, but I was willing to see the good with the bad, and I tried my best to address Microsoft on where I felt they had erred and where I felt their strongest selling points were. That’s not to say that I am the unequivocal master of all things, of course not.
I totally am, though. I was just willing to work with Microsoft towards what I felt was a better future for everyone, with a console that actually tried to do some cool new things, rather than just update graphics and add in sharing, streaming and indie support — looking at you, Sony.
Fast forward a few months later and gamers are claiming that the damage has been done, with the response to any of Microsoft’s changes — some really, really great additions to the Xbox One’s already impressive repertoire — being met with the sort of vitriolic response that speaks of an audience already resolved to a forgone conclusion of anger and resent. Just a few weeks ago, Microsoft released an unboxing video of the Xbox One and the very first thing gamers did was pick on the console’s power brick and reliance on AA batteries over something built-in. Neither of which matter at all in the grander scheme of things. But hey, why not, right? Microdollarsignsoft (seriously, are you twelve?) are totally the devil and they must be made to pay for their sins to gamers, because how dare they try new things at the expense of gamers the world over.
Meanwhile, Activision has declared all-time profit highs while closing down more honest, hard-working development studios the likes of Radical Entertainment and High Moon Studios.
Hypocrites in the gaming world is nothing new. Nor is the concept of a few hardcore fanboys giving the rest a bad name. I realise that I’m generalising quite extensively with some of these statements, but I honestly cannot help it sometimes. In conversations with people recently, at least, those still willing to discuss the next-gen console saga, many are still firmly on the side of the PlayStation 4 and their reasoning is, “Well, MS tried to screw us over and so we can’t forgive them for that.”
But why? What’s stopping you from forgiving them for it? By all means, never forget what Microsoft tried to do the honest consumer, but what’s wrong with forgiving them?
Are they not actively trying to earn your forgiveness?
At this point, I’ve begun to wonder just what more Microsoft needs to do to win gamers the fuck over.
They’ve already reversed all of their shitty policies — which they got even more shit for, because how dare they listen, right? How dare any company ever listen, right? Who asked them to even reverse their policies in the first place? They were obviously just afraid of losing a shitload of money, obviously — while introducing some solidly impressive features, the likes of the Family Sharing system, console-wide subscription and DLC sharing, hotswapping profiles with Kinect and that new Indie initiative which I won’t discuss in detail because I still don’t quite understand it, and don’t want to either. That’s mostly because I feel like indie development is the cause of too much focus and stress in the next-gen console war and it’s an exercise in pointlessness. I dare call it overrated. (Comments section if you will, angry gamers; go tell the world, in an irate fashion, what a thoroughly egregious dick I am.) Hell, they even removed the console’s reliance on Kinect and now you can simply keep it off and unplugged if you don’t want it.
Yes, you do still need to buy the console with the Kinect module, that’s not going to change while they’ve invested millions into R&D for that motion sensing technology, but that’s a small smidgeon of a blip on what has been one of the greatest turnarounds in the history of home entertainment; but we cannot get around something that happened months ago, something that is costing Microsoft millions if not more to undo.
Who the hell are you, really, that Microsoft must bend over backwards for you and still suffer for their past transgressions? That old adage of ‘the customer is always right’ is not true, and you would know it if you worked a day in any form of employment that involves dealing with consumers. So don’t even think of saying that you are the one who gives them money, and therefore they owe you.
I had planned on talking about the Call of Duty series, which I feel is equally victimised by this concept of future games suffering because of shitty past games, but I think I’ve spoken enough to get my point across for one column. Can we please, please, stop allowing past treatment to dictate how we move forward in the future? I’m not saying forget. Do not ever forget when Microsoft tries to introduce a console with always-on, or when Capcom charges separately for content already on a disc, or when Visceral holds back the ending to their game because they know you’ll pay for it later. Don’t ever forget these things.
But as humans who err, who are we to be above forgiveness?