More Things I Can Do Without

"Jimmy Hoffa isn't missing. He's in an oil drum in New Jersey!"

“Jimmy Hoffa isn’t missing. He’s in an oil drum in New Jersey!”

As promised (or threatened) a couple of weeks ago, I have found additional gaming-related concepts that I’d like to see do a full Jimmy Hoffa. These are things that rear their malformed craniums far more often than is necessary or desired, things without which the gaming world — indeed, the world at large — would be much better off. For the sake of propriety I’ve limited this list to ideas, practices, and abstractions, even though there are a few people in the industry to whom I would not mind waving a pert buh-bye from the dock as they sailed forlornly into the sunset on a tramp steamer bound for parts elsewhere. I’m perfectly comfortable criticizing faulty concepts, but I’ve not sunk to a level that requires me to keep a scratching post on hand just to sling 1200 words into the great electronic ether. So all proper names — whether of games or game designers — shall remain safely anonymous, unless effusive praise is in order. Or they piss me off beyond my ability to resist.

Without further whatchamacallit, and in no particular sequence:

Shit That’s Gotta Go

Updates for brand-new games — This has been going on for a few years now, so it shouldn’t surprise me to be greeted by the notification that an update is required whenever I slip a new disc into the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3. It never fails; as soon as that notice pops up on the screen and tells me to update or GTFO, I feel like six different kinds of boob. See, I thought I’d just wade right into the action, but no; first a little surprise. And not a happy, puppy-under-the-Christmas-tree kind of surprise, either. More like an unsettling, Mommy-why-isn’t-Scraps-moving kind of surprise. The kind of surprise that you hope no one notices before you can hide it in the garage and hit it with a shovel while everyone’s asleep.

An update. For a game that was released a day ago. Why?!

I don’t pretend to know everything about how cloud saves work, but I do know that I’m damned tired of all three console makers putting a layer of wait between me and my games. I don’t know for sure that all these update shenanigans have anything to do with cloud saves (the Wii U doesn’t offer cloud saves, so who knows what’s up with that?), but I do know that it all began around the same time that Microsoft and Sony launched their cloud-based save systems for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. So there’s correlation, but I can’t offer proof for cause.

Oh, and fuck the cloud, too. I’m fed up to the tits of hearing about the cloud. Does anyone even know what the cloud is? Why is it called the cloud? Who made that shit up? Picture the customer service calls that led to this particular bit of insipid nomenclature:

Cloud saves. Espo puts in the rebound.

Cloud saves. Espo puts in the rebound.

Call Number One

Pain-in-the-Ass Belligerent C: “Hel-lo! Where are my pictures?!”

Knowledgeable CS Rep: “Why, they’re saved for your convenience on our server here at MultiMajorMegaSoft! You can access them anywhere, at any time, just by signing in with your…”

Pain-in-the-Ass Belligerent C: “WHAT?! I don’t want…who…I’m gonna sue! What’s a server?!”

Call Number Two

Pain-in-the-Ass Obnoxious C: “Where are my pictures?”

Bored-to-the-Gills CS Rep: “They’re in the cloud.”

Pain-in-the-Ass Obnoxious C: “Oooh, pretty.”

So, Sony? Microsoft? Get off the cloud and get your feet back on the fuckin’ ground where they belong. That’s where the action is. Along with my money.

Ecosystem — Attention all Internet game and tech writers! This word means something, and it has absolutely nothing to do with technology. Here’s a few handy links so that one might peruse said meaning at one’s leisure and delight. Come on back when you’re logy with knowledge.

No leaves, no eco. Know leaves, know eco.

No leaves, no eco. Know leaves, know eco.

I know that the word ecosystem has gained a new usage in the last couple of years, as people are reluctant to use any existing word when they can just make up a new one or use an old word improperly. I also know that most people don’t give half a runny shit about words qua words — that is, words as they relate to the concepts, objects, and actions to which they objectively refer. People write, they speak, they go on about their lives without ever really thinking about these things, some words bud, some fall away, and languages evolve. That’s how it works, but that doesn’t mean that I have to like it.

The word these people are looking for when they use “ecosystem” to describe any company’s broad collection of products, operating systems, stores, and user base is “system.” Slapping the “eco-” prefix (which comes from “ecology” or “ecological”) on there doesn’t make these people more sophisticated, it doesn’t make them seem smarter (neither do those ridiculous glasses), and it doesn’t change the meaning of the word that already exists to denote the concept that they’re attempting to describe. It’s just a system. Get over it, lest a new word be coined to indicate a specific kind of meek, imitative, inside-the-bubble journalist whose respect for language can be measured by the quality of his tweets. I’m thinking…ecotwat.

720p — Isn’t it time that this shit just went away? Why are so many developers still making games for the PlayStation 3 in this resolution? I know that many people don’t have 1080p televisions, but that shouldn’t influence the decision one way or another; resolutions are scalable, so people whose TVs don’t output in 1080p are perfectly capable of viewing things in 720p. Full HD TVs are cheaper now than they’ve ever been before, which means that more of them are being sold than ever before, so what gives? Hopefully this will change with the release of the PlayStation 4; any company that makes a game without full HD support for any next-gen system should be collectively flogged for eternity with unused PS Vita marketing materials.

I can see clearly now...

I can see clearly now…

Composite Video — I was in my local Video Game Retail Establishment a few days ago, where I inquired of the manager regarding the price of the brand-new, thrice-designed Xbox 360 gaming contraption. He trotted one of the infernal machines out of the back room, as much to satisfy his own curiosity as my own, and upon inspection of the box I noticed that this brand-new, thrice-designed bit of hardware still comes with the same kind of cheap-ass, standard-definition composite video cable that came with the Super Nintendo in 1991, all while setting potential adopters back to the rather disharmonious tune of $299. The same is true for the PlayStation 3; there’s 35 different models, all in the area of $269-$349, and not a single one of them comes with a cable that can output in either 1080p or 720p. In 2007, the Xbox 360 Elite came with an HDMI cable; I don’t know when they discontinued that practice, but it clearly didn’t happen a moment too soon, since the Universe As We Know It did not fucking implode from their misdirected magnanimity. Thanks, assholes.

A hearty and much-appreciated thanks goes to Nintendo for including an HDMI cable in both retail versions of the Wii U. The Wii U might be in some seriously dire straits, and I’m still absolutely convinced that it won’t survive without a significant price drop before the holidays, but at least Nintendo didn’t merely dig up some surplus original PlayStation and Xbox cables, cram them into the box, and call it a solar cycle.

As it turns out, I’ve still got one more item on my list. It’s a pretty big one — big enough that I think it can support a whole article by itself, so I’ll save it for next week. In the meantime, comments about your own gaming irritations, annoyances, and rage-inducing frustrations are always welcome — I enjoy hearing from people who are almost as unbalanced as I am.

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