Self-Help Questions for Gamers

I’ve been reading Walker Percy’s 1983 ruminations on the human condition “Lost in the Cosmos; The Last Self-Help Book,” which is structured as a series of questions and thought experiments. Here are few topical ones for gamers.

Thought Experiment 1

In the wake of a huge financial success, a publisher increases competition by opening a digital storefront; they will not require a subscription, but yes, will require a password to a service and to run a service connected to the Internet on your PC when you are playing games you purchased through them (though it is likely for competitive reasons this latter requirement will at some point be dropped). To establish themselves, they have sought limited-time exclusive arrangements with several high profile upcoming games. Do you

(a) intend to support the new storefront, realizing that monopolies, even de facto ones, are bad for both consumers and developers? Healthy competition tends to drive prices down for consumers, and in this case, developers may be able to get a healthier percentage of sales revenue owing to competition for their audiences, and those better numbers for developers lead to more games from those developers. Further, do you reflect that competition may similarly improve services for consumers in the innovation of store features, such as better curation or even features not yet imagined?

(b) feel uncomfortable with the decision, since you prefer the digital storefront with whom you’ve done business for so long, and therefore intend to wait out the exclusivity periods in favor of keeping all your goods in one place? After all, a six month window will allow you to catch up on other games you’ve bought but not finished, and its availability on that storefront will come long after reviews and other critical works inform you about whether that purchase would be a good fit for you. A good game is a good game forever, and under this scenario might even be cheaper for you, thus allowing you to purchase more games.

(c) log into your preferred digital storefront and write scathing negative reviews of games made by any developer associating a single game with that new storefront in an effort to discredit the developer, show your extreme dissatisfaction that although the game will be available to you at launch, it will not be in the precise location of your choosing? Realize, in choice c, that doing so may hurt the developer’s ability to continue to fund the making of games in the future.

(d) shrug and continue with your day.

Thought Experiment 2

A difficult game has come out to critical acclaim. As happens in such cases, an op-ed has appeared defending the choice not to present easier modes for players who are unable for whatever reason to make significant progress in that game owing to its difficulty. Do you

(a) privately disagree with the editorial, feeling that difficulty modes exclude a wider audience over what is in effect a matter of taste? Some players will prefer to play easier modes first to train up to playing the more difficult mode; some players will prefer the difficult mode only; some players will only play the easiest mode. In the end, you would make the choice that is best for you, wouldn’t you? Or do you fear that you wouldn’t?

(b) privately agree with the editorial, on the grounds of the developer’s freedom of speech through their art? Even though their approach might make for a smaller audience, and therefore make it more difficult for them to make such games in the future as development costs continue to rise, it is after all their product.

(c) publicly take to the Internet to excoriate those who do not agree with the editorial in the hopes of preserving only the one style of game that is to your taste?

(d) shrug and continue with your day.

Experiment Variant: Retake the experiment, but this time, an op-ed has appearing criticizing the developer for the lack of easier modes of interacting with the game. Make appropriate adjustments to the choices given, typically by recasting as agreement rather than disagreement or vice versa.

Thought Experiment 3

A game comes out that offers customization options, whether through models or text changes (e.g. pronouns), that admit the existence of varieties of skin color, gender presentation, and human sexual preferences. Are you

(a) as a person looking forward to playing the game, glad that there more people who will be able to see themselves in the game and therefore feel pleased that there will be a wider audience for the game and that this will likely mean more games of types that you enjoy in the future?

(b) as a person not looking forward to the game, still glad that there are games for everyone, even if not every game is for you? After all, there are literally dozens of games released each day on a wide variety of platforms.

(c) as a person either looking forward or not looking forward to the game, angry that such options exist and are therefore ready to use whatever tools of anonymity you have via the Internet to make threats, review-bomb, or otherwise make life as living a hell as you can for the developer of this game or appreciators of these moves to grow both the breadth of the medium and the size of its audience?

(d) even now shrugging and continuing your day?

Thought Experiment 4

If you answered (c) to any of these questions, look to your personal history. At what point did you become so broken that these seemed like rational responses?

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