This week, and much to my wife’s dismay, I’m on a tear about video games. Now—before you get the wrong idea: this isn’t going to be some psychological or sociological diatribe about how video games ruin children’s brains or disassociate us from reality or undermine the fabric of family or any of that nonsense. Pshah. Let me say right up front that I love video games. I don’t play them as much as I used to, and I’m hopelessly stuck in the 80s and 90s when it comes to video game eras, but I do not reject video games on principle. In fact, I may have it in me to write an entirely separate article on the psychological, sociological, and educational benefits of video games, but that’s not this article. This article is about why video games suck.
Recently, I spent $60 purchasing an external storage device to connect to my WiiU. This is because the WiiU—a video gaming console—has an extremely limited amount of memory for storing data for the very video games it is designed to play. Having downloaded fewer than a dozen old school, 8-bit games from the Nintendo e-shop, combined with the handful of games the kids like to play from the WiiU discs, we have already reached a point where every time the kids want to play a game that isn’t the last game they played, I need to go into “data storage management” and delete files in order to create space for the current game to run. This is to say nothing of when the good people at Nintendo decide it’s time for an update, at which point the kids can’t play until the update is complete, and the update cannot be completed until I delete files to create space for the update.
The fun doesn’t stop there. Thanks to a recent “update,” there is now some sort of glitch in the WiiU, such that users like me can’t even access data storage management anymore. Instead, when we try, a loading window appears, reading “PREPARING,” which it will thus read until Kingdom Come, or until you forcibly cut power to the console, whichever happens first. This means that, as of this point, the $60 I spent on the external storage drive has been a complete waste, since I can’t even access the data in order to move it to the external drive. Granted: there have been some “workarounds” posted on the internet, but none of them has worked for me so far. If you have any suggestions that might solve this problem, please leave them in the comments section below. More to the point: I shouldn’t have to scavenge the internet for workarounds to fix problems created by mandatory “updates” to my video game console.
I should simply be able to insert my video game media into my video game console and PLAY the damned video game.
Neither WiiU nor Nintendo in general is the only culprit here. All of us who had the Nintendo Entertainment System back in the day can preach about the “special techniques” we invented to get the faulty software to work: blowing into the cartridge; repeatedly flickering the power button; pressing the spring down—just so—and so on. We believed in these methods religiously, and they were equally true, but the fact remains that the tech was simply shoddy. Precisely the reason that, whenever you turned on The Legend of Zelda each time, you were filled with dread, as you had no guarantee that your hundreds of logged hours would still be “saved” when you returned. In related news, I have recently had to completely re-format my Microsoft laptop, because MS immunity is the digital equivalent of HIV. My wife went through three Samsung Galaxy phones in under six months because they kept fatally malfunctioning, until she ultimately went back to IOS. Meanwhile, I have a Roll Through the Ages app on my iPhone that now crashes every time I play thanks to a recent, so-called “update.” By contrast, let’s look at tabletop games:
When I put the game on the table, it works.
I suppose I could end this rant right there, but indulge me a little longer. Let me count the ways:
- My closet offers plenty of “storage space” for my tabletop games; I do not need to buy an additional closet, sold separately. Of course, hobbyists like myself could probably use an additional closet or two, but that’s because our collection is vast, not because the house was ill-equipped in the first place.
- When “updates” are released (called “expansions” or “new editions”), I am not forced to buy them or find room in my closet for them just so I can play the original game. And, if I do play them, and I decide they actually make the game worse (as many “updates” do), then I can easily remove them and can still play the game I want to play. (An exception here is “collectible” or “trading” card games, which is why I typically hate these kinds of tabletop games.)
- If I “save the game” for later, leaving it on the table until tomorrow, I can have reasonable certainty that it will still be there when I return, unless there has been some clearly identifiable cause of the deletion.
- If I’m missing any pieces essential to the game’s functionality, I can typically replace them with virtually anything: a coin, a button, a scrap of paper, whatever. Besides that, if I am missing pieces, that’s probably my fault for not taking care of the game, or the result of some accident or another, not an unforeseen side-effect of some mandatory “update.” (The dice in my physical copy of Roll Through the Ages still seem to roll just fine since the IOS “update,” and my table doesn’t inexplicably collapse.)
In short, video games suck because they are computers, and computers suck. They are faulty, unreliable, annoyingly invasive, and totally pervasive. The digital revolution is a kind of oppression built upon pleasure and convenience. Worst of all, and contrary to popular argument, it isn’t dis-associative in the slightest. Quite the contrary. At the end of the day, we welcome it, together. Perhaps this is why I’m so pissed off. I’m just mad at myself. And to underscore that even further, let me close by saying: thank you for reading my blog.
Do you have a workaround for the data storage problem I described above? Please help me! If not, let’s chat anyway. What “magical” techniques did you use for your own NES? Are you annoyed by “technical difficulties” as much as I am? Which do you prefer and why: tabletops or video games?