Have I Gone All-Digital Already?

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In these past couple weeks it finally hit me how far I’ve gone down the all-digital path with video games.

Not to be specific, but I’ve been in a situation where I had to re-stack all my games into a closet where I couldn’t immediately access them… and it didn’t affect my daily life at all because everything I’m playing at the moment is on Steam. I never thought of myself as having gone all-digital with video games until now, and I’ve probably been this way for around six or seven years.

I had all my games neatly grouped together, and while re-stacking them I started thinking about which ones I might want to be at the front so I could access them more easily. It was then I realized how seldom I actually do reach for my console game discs and cartridges. The only exception to any of this has been the Super Smash Bros. card already inside my 3DS and the small case carrying a few other 3DS and DS games. There’s a surreal futurism in looking at a room containing only a display device and the hardware, and knowing that contains all I need in order to play my games.

The idea of buying a game at a store, taking the disc out of the box, and putting that disc in a machine every time I want to play it has become quite foreign to me, like it was from a different age. These days I think of video games as software you boot up on a menu.

I guess you could say this is really more a sign of how completely I’ve slipped into PC gaming. I’ve already gone over this before, but I’m not quite ready to go all-digital on consoles because I don’t quite trust Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo yet when it comes to the permanence of digital games on their platforms. I’ll buy digital-only console games and take advantage of deals but that’s it.

Buying a digital console game basically means giving up the last bit of control you have over your product in that environment. A PC game is data running on an open operating system which means you can run it on any machine you want (and Steam restricts this as little as securely possible), you can modify it, and in certain circumstances you can copy it to your heart’s content. You can’t do any of that on closed consoles, so being able to borrow, lend, sell, or trade the disc is pretty much the only bit of freedom console gamers have.

Console manufacturers would have to really loosen up what users can do with digital purchases for me to feel okay about them. Nintendo would have to give me the power to log into my account on any 3DS (Sony and Microsoft already handle this well with the PS4 and Xbox One I understand), and the other two would probably have to adopt backwards compatibility going forward. The object here would be a system resembling Apple and Android where upgrades run the same OS and all your software carries over. Each company needs to create a family of devices that are all seen as one “platform,” in which digital content can run free. If and when I get a Wii U I guess that would transport me back to physical/console gaming periodically for aforementioned reasons.

For as long as I can remember, the physical medium in PC gaming has always meant less than in console gaming. You put a console disc or cartridge in the machine every time you want to play it — the disc is the game. The PC game disc is just what you use to get the data onto your hard drive, and has been for decades. Even disc checks — what the PS4 and Xbox One disc basically is after you install it, could be circumvented on PC back in the day. This probably let PC gamers let go of the disc much more readily.

You know those people who keep books on shelves less for reading and more for decoration? That’s what my game collection is starting to feel like. I still enjoy going back to a lot of them, and some are actually games I haven’t played yet, they just don’t take up my primary gaming time anymore.

BULLETS:

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