So, Blizzard actually went and did it. A patch went live for Overwatch on January 30th which, in a bit of sad irony, clipped Mercy's wings in every way except literally. A lot of players are rejoicing. These people are the problem.
It's that time. Let's not even futz around. Let's just do this.
Playstation Experience proper kicked off yesterday. Thankfully, the power of a media badge meant I got to spend a lot of the day hanging out in a specialized space to play a bunch of the bigger games. It did not, however, grant me the incredible superpowers necessary to get into one of the autograph sessions. Nor the panel discussions, but I managed to fanagle my way into pretty quality seats for those regardless.
So, here's my stream-of-consciousness takeaways there.
So, for the first time, I've gotten invited to Playstation Experience, and actually been able to attend, which is pretty nifty. I suppose, what with this blog just sitting here, I should probably write about the experience, huh?
Even if, of course, the one year I get to attend, the keynote sucks.
Welp, as of the time of this writing, the first preliminary plans are being drafted by Rep. Chris Lee of Hawaii to restrict the sale of loot boxes to minors, branding them as essentially gambling in all but name. And you know what, good. The whole situation of "fix the problem or we fix it for you" is bound to at least get the gears churning on getting this filthy, predatory shit away from us. Meanwhile, you still have much wailing and gnashing of teeth on how exactly to implement loot boxes in a way that does't set off any legal alarms, because clearly, this is the only way games can be profitable from here on. The oft-spoken question there is "How do we do what Overwatch did?"
Well, for posterity's sake, and because someone really needs to just lay it out straight, let me tell you all the shit Overwatch did, and why nobody's dragging Blizzard nearly the same extent as EA right now.
You might've noticed things got slow around these here parts after a pretty decent run of posts for a hot second there. Blame it on the timing: The unholy harbinger that was October 27th came in like a hurricane, and lasted all through November, swiping all my available blogtime with all the major releases, and thus major work that needed to be done. December will be much quieter on that front, and much better for website duties: Already planning GOTY stuff, revisiting 2017 games, including a long overdue post I've been meaning to write for months on Mass Effect Andromeda, as one of the what, 30 people on the planet who legitimately enjoyed that game? But, as mentioned, November wasn't exactly spent sitting on my ass doing nothing.
....okay, yes, i played a shit ton of video games, but that was for work which--fuck it, here's the stuff you missed.
If there's any film I've thought about more in the past week, besides still wondering how the hell Villaneuve pulled off that hologram threesome in Blade Runner 2049, it's Spaceballs. In particular, that one scene where Dark Helmet tries firing a warning shot, finds out his gunner's an Asshole, the guy who hired him's an Asshole, as is ¾ of the entire crew of Spaceball One. “I knew it, I'm surrounded by Assholes.”
I think about it, watching friends, colleagues, and those I respect in the game industry watch in horror as loot boxes become commonplace, AAA publishers pivot away from single player experiences (a.k.a. Fire everyone involved in them), and Valve runs off with all the fucking money in the world despite the fact that they don't really make anything anymore besides Dota and TF2 hats. That's not to exclude myself, of course. Valve is a creative tragedy of a corporation now, multiplayer becoming the standard would be my personal nightmare as a gamer, and while my feelings on loot boxes are mildly more complex (tl;dr, I don't mind cosmetic rewards at all, though Blizzard making Overwatch event costumes 3000 Gold remains an appalling middle finger to us all), tying loot boxes into the balance of power in any game instantly breaks that game into a million failing pieces. But for all the wailing and gnashing of teeth of those inextricably tied to the industry, there is a simple, overruling fact that puts two in the back of the head of every single thinkpiece and Twitter thread ever written about it all.
It wouldn't happen if it didn't work.
One of the major hurdles when it comes to gaming as an artform is that it's currently the only one that requires learning an entirely new mental, physical, even temporal skillset to actually witness the work, let alone the totality of one. Most of us acquainted with the medium would love to see it better respected in more mainstream circles, but even if GamerGate never happened, if dudebro shooters and Madden weren't the highest profile ambassadors to the public at large, if publishers marketed their more ambitious products to people who aren't teenage boys with the level of respect and prestige they deserved, and even if they weren't just so damn expensive, video games would still have to contend with the fact that most of the greatest examples of the medium are still impossible to experience for someone who has never picked up a controller. Even for those who have, there will be work that will be impossible to experience in entirety solely due to the quality of that skill, and the statistics show most people don't.
One day, I should write it out, but there's a nice, steadily growing laundry list of things that were a hell of a lot more fun prior to November 9th, 2016; meanwhile, the list of things that only got better afterward could probably fill a Post-It note. I wish to God a Wolfenstein game wasn't suddenly so relevant that it could ever belong on that Post-It, but here we are, a year later, and Wolfenstein has a whole new layer of cultural import. The folks at MachineGames sure may not have ever seen it coming, but they damn sure have had no problems leaning into it, even though “leaning into it” can comprise solely of the shocking, provocative, controversial statement that Nazis are fucking scum and nothing good should ever happen to them.