I only briefly mentioned before anything regarding Steam’s potential change of policy which would open Steam up to be much more of a democracy than it currently is. Not everyone agrees with me… but my personal stance on the issue is that I like that there is a bit of a curation process that helps to promote good games. But then, the ideals are always different from the reality. What exactly makes a game worthy of being put in front of an audience?
I think that Nintendo’s Seal of Quality was a pretty damned important piece of propaganda with the development of gamer elitism. That seal made me, and countless others believe that with that purchase, we were guaranteed to get a high quality product… one that would not let us down. It would be bug free, it would be fun, and it would be beautiful. Of course some interpretations of what the seal actually meant may differ… but (hang on while I jump into my flame retardant suit for a moment here) I think that a huge thing that was driven into us console gamers’ heads back in the day was this: Console Games Are Better.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that console games are better (they are), I’m saying that the propaganda that we bought into said that they were. I mean… you could buy a game on the NES… the SNES… Genesis… and if you did this you were being assured that you’d have a quality game. If you bought it on Windows or DOS (everyone knows there were no games for Mac) you were simply buying some crappy game that wasn’t good enough to be put on a console. And besides that you’d have to fuss with configuration settings, and buy all the latest technology… upgrade your ram every other month, and if you were lucky then you’d have a game that could play part of the time without crashing.
The point is, I’ve carried that attitude for a long time. And my eventual return to PC gaming was largely facilitated by the illusion that on Steam, I would be getting a curated library just as I had always been used to on consoles. If a game was worth owning, it was on Steam. The shitty games? Take your chance buying them the traditional way. At the very least, having attempted to play with cheaters in Battlefield 1942, the VAC system helped to lend credence to the notion that Steam was worth using as a platform. The openness is actually a large part of the reason I’m turned off of Ouya. I think that having no process of exclusion is one way to create an overwhelming problem with shovelware. Shovelware of course is the garlic that keeps me from being able to sink my teeth into treating iOS or Android as a gaming platform. I mean… they are. I know they are. Zeus knows I’ve allowed Super Hexagon to consume consecutive hours of my life… but browsing through icons looking for apps is a process that I do not at all enjoy.
I think that we’re in a cycle in gaming right now where when Steam opens up it’s gates, and Oyua opens up its gates we’re going to have to spend a little bit of time learning how to sift for gold again. I liked this article about the PS4. It’s an interesting approach that Sony is taking in it’s attempt to sell it as a game console, especially since consoles have become more and more like pc’s that it’s getting hard to distinguish the difference. The Ouya is essentially a way of playing your mobile games on a tv, and for me the PS3 was largely a way to play games on my blu-ray player. But it kind of feels like in a way consoles still survive off of that disingenuous notion that games are only good if they’re on a console; that releasing a game on a console somehow means it will be a less buggy, more fun experience. It’s kind of hard to keep this illusion up though when you have launch titles announced that are ports of games that will be a year and a half old on pc on release date.
Are consoles still relevant? Is Steam making a wise decision in opening up it’s submission process? Only time will tell.