Assisted Suicide for [PC] Gaming

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I ran across this article a couple of days ago, which is essentially musings on the state of PC gaming, lending a bit of a skeptical eye towards the claims that PC gaming is dying off in the face of consoles.

This is a topic of relevance to me, since I do pretty much all my gaming via the computer, and I don’t have a heck of a lot of interest in consoles. In particular, I’m a bit concerned because one of the games I’m big on at the moment, Unreal Tournament 3, hasn’t been doing quite so well on the PC side of things. And naturally, people like Mark Rein or the bean-counters at Epic can say that PC gaming is dying, and that it’s piracy, and this and that, but looking at Unreal Tournament 3 — The menus in that game are clearly designed to be used on the console. Literally thousands of complaints have been made about the menus of the game, and I can’t say that I’m particularly surprised. You only have one chance to make a first impression, and when that first impression is horrible, then you’re going to turn people off.

Even though I think the game itself is excellent, and overall the best Unreal Tournament to date, there’s absolutely no excuse for shipping a computer game with a user interface that bad. In many ways, this experience sort of confirms the skepticism of the article’s author — He suggests that game developers are pushing for the death of gaming on the PC, because gaming on the PC is freedom compared to the locked-down force-fed consumeristic model that modern gaming consoles have become. Yes, you’ll probably have hardware problems at some point, but at least you can usually do something about it.

But it’s not PCs that will have died, and it’s not consoles that will have won. Consoles are just the tool most convenient for the purpose – locked down systems that can prevent outside innovation without significant initial investment. It’s gaming that will have died, and a single corporate monolith that won. The same rehashed game sold eight different ways – that will be consumer “choice.”

Now that is a scary vision. And it’s one that we can glimpse on the horizon too if things don’t change. With ever-increasing budgets for games to support ever-more crazy graphics, putting A-list titles above the reach of indie developers, a relative lack of improvement in development tools, and movement towards these locked-in console systems, or ridiculous garbage like Microsoft Live… It’s hard to see where else things can go except towards more centralization, which in turn means more ability to exert influence to encourage people to give up their gaming freedoms, starting a snowball effect right to hell.

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