The Ungift, Part One
I was in a guild with the guy who started FigurePrints, and when he extended coupons to the old crew I snapped them up and gave them as Christmas presents. None of my characters ever reached the highest echelons of Azerothian Fashion, so it seemed like they were better invested in Gabriel and Keek, who poured night after night into Battlegrounds and Active Volcanoes fighting dragons and whatnot. The coupons I have described are difficult to secure, only available in random drawings at random intervals, or if by some twist of fate you happen to have been guildmates with a cunning entrepreneur. It’s really a way to ennoble the lost years you plowed into that game. It’s the sort of thing you’d think a person would appreciate.
It wasn’t, exactly. What it did in real terms was to get both Gabe and Kara back into Warcraft after full year off of the stuff, whch is actually quite grim. I didn’t realize until afterward that what I had done - and now it’s really quite clear - was to give a recovering drug addict an assortment of needles and spoons for Christmas. There were other concerns, as well: Gabriel’s animal rage was sufficient to generate two comics on the subject. You may expect the next one according to the ancient calendar.
I spent most of my weekend reaquainting myself with the Personal Computer. This is a process that has been a long time coming.
As I have described previously, most of my friends these days get their Vitamin G from the console side of the spectrum. When the multiplayer options on those primitive machines were anemic, nasty little things, I would always nod knowingly, secure in the knowledge that they would be back (oh yes, they would be back). There’s really no reason for them to come back, now. The transfer of PC gaming’s richest, most vital blood to the console is almost complete. Where our best hopes have not died out completely, they’ve directed their vigor at a platform that has rewarded them with riches beyond imagining. If you told me that Pandemic, Irrational, Bioware, Raven, and Infinity Ward would be devoted to creating console entertainment years ago, I’d have pressed a button that sent you down to a kind of subterranean foyer where you could better acquaint yourself with my Rancor.
It was Hellgate: London that hauled me back in, and let’s be clear - it probably had little to do with Hellgate: London. It’s a perfectly acceptable (if finicky) dungeon crawler that most people expected to be more than it was. It’s much easier to enjoy if you aren’t a subscriber. What the game did, though, was remind me that like many other PC gamers I have developed a knack for transporting myself specifically through this machine. Years of experience coupled with the proximity of the monitor and the fluid, richly analog pointing device returned to me my heritage. It probably seems ridiculous to you, and it should, because of how ridiculous it is. But I’ve been wracked with guilt for weeks.
More than anything else, I think it was installing Vista that made me hate PC gaming. The constant, system-level interruptions, the impaired compatibility, and most of all the savage kick to my framerate’s exposed groin made me wonder what precisely in the fucking fuck I was doing screwing around with this onyx monolith. I knew I was just going to have to upgrade eventually (no), and I wanted to see if there was anything to this DirectX 10 thing (no), and I wanted to see what the Windows version of Live was like (a warcrime) so I bit the bullet. I shouldn’t have. It was a bullet! That should have been my first clue.
For mainstream games, I don’t think you can beat today’s consoles - and I’m prepared to call assertions to the contrary elitism. Seriously, I would know. The price of the system compared to the amount of enjoyment can’t really be measured, and you don’t need to give up as much as you once did. Where the PC gleams is in its diversity as an ecosystem, which is something you don’t need a tremendous machine to experience. Indeed, most developers can’t afford - either in terms of lost sales, or in terms of resources - to create a game like Crysis that most computers can’t run. I spent the weekend playing the weirdest shit: IGF winners, crazy card games, impenetrable strategy sims, and community darlings, remembering what made the platform so delicious in its danger and its daring.