Written by Ryan Johnson (RyanDJ) Wednesday, 09 May 2012 10:00
Due to spyware, viruses, and whatever have you, my PC has lost internet connectivity. I have realized just how much our world is connected to the 'net these days. Without the internet, it's off to the library to pay bills, or drop a personal email at lunch or the end of the work day. Articles get submitted when I can. The biggest difference though has been with my gaming consoles. My PC is the only way my systems gets online. I have to hard-wire the computer to get a decent enough signal to play online.
I'm not even a huge online game player. I've been known to get on Red Dead Redemption from time to time, but that's with my next door neighbor, and we often get in the same room and simply hardwire our consoles. My Xbox Live is used a lot for Netflix and downloading new games. Yet with my 'net down, my console is constantly aching to get online. Upon sign-in, the first thing it does is alert me that I'm not online. I proceed to gaming, having to swap multiple tabs just to get to the gaming module. Microsoft makes me feel like they are making gaming the back burner, trying to push the non-gaming side of the Xbox too hard. My lack of internet is really showing that.
My new PS3 is a lot more subtle about it. In a constant state of "signing in," I can't turn off my machine without it asking if I want to wait until the downloads I started before the 'net went down finish downloading.
Perhaps the worst is the constant nagging from the games themselves. SSX will remind me over and over that it can't find online contacts. And if the PS3 thinks it sniffs a wi-fi signal, I have to stare at the little loading screen for a couple minutes while it decides whether it can get online or not! Then there's also the new cloud save feature the Xbox touts. While I haven't implemented it yet, I could only imagine if my 20+ hours into a Final Fantasy was suddenly inaccessible. If I was offline forever, that would turn into a complete restart.
On the other hand, my Wii doesn't care if it gets online or not unless I specifically ask it to, while my PS3/Xbox are clamoring for another chance to get some sweet data from the WebStream.
What does this mean for the future? No offense to the current tech generation, but I remember having the internet be a special at school/library thing, and I know there are still parts of the civilized world where broadband is not a regular thing. One day, when the Magic Towers are created, we will have access to the internet everywhere, but right now I'm thinking of that free Kinect patch for Skyrim I can't try right now. The SSX Mt. Eddie I was so excited about that I can't download. Sure, I can go to Amazon on my phone and pick up some point cards, but that's still not gonna get Minecraft over on my 360. And if patches are just a regular thing in the future, there may be games that are forever broken to me (let alone how I talked in a previous article about what will happen when the consoles move on and shut down Live services, permanently nixing all patches for future retro collectors). The next gaming generation will come before that magic time, and if we went to download only or relied even more on patches, a whole corner of the market may be forever lost. Sure, GameStop could start offering download kiosks in-store to bring in your system to physically download new games or updates, but that's not really going to give them any advantage in the sales department.
Right now, the buzz our systems get from the online experience is a slight annoyance. Microsoft primarily pushing the future of online gaming to where "gaming" on a gaming console takes multiple clicks to access shows the reliance on connectivity modern systems have, yet my 8-bit NES sitting right beside my 360 loads up like a charm with a few puffs of air on a dirty cartridge. What will happen with the PS4/X720/WiiU? With consoles getting internet browsers, we are a few steps from them being PCs in their own right. If the next generation is so online crazy it's more like a PC, will we eventually have to fight viruses and the like on our consoles?
My stint without internet connectivity has been a double edged sword: I have seen the reliance we have on them combined with the fear of too much reliance, and the joy of having so much knowledge at your fingertips. I see the amazing power of instant access, yet wonder if my kids will be hindered when they take their game systems on a trip, like when I took my Atari to Grandma's for the weekend back in the day. Game companies need to strike a balance between embracing the awesome power of the internet and remembering that games are for fun, and should remain 100% fun, online or not.