Video games are just another example of our overreliance on the Internet


By David Thomas

I believe video games have become too reliant on the Internet.

Don’t get me wrong; I love what Al Gore has invented, and what it has done for video games. Between online matchmaking, downloadable content (DLC) packs, chatting with friends and using online services like Facebook and Netflix, the current generation of video games has been all about “owning the room.”

What this means is that each system is trying to become the essential system; everything you need for your entertainment needs is in one sleek package.

But as recent events have shown, the current generation of video games may be a little too dependent on the Internet.

Since Wednesday, PlayStation 3 owners have racked their brains over the fact that the PlayStation Network has been down. On the PlayStation blog, Patrick Seybold of Sony wrote that “an external intrusion on our system has affected our PlayStation Network and Qriocity services. In order to conduct a thorough investigation and to verify the smooth and secure operation of our network services going forward, we turned off our PlayStation Network & Qriocity services on the evening of Wednesday, April 20th.”

That was Friday. On Monday, Seybold posted that he had nothing to share, other than “they’re working on it [sic].” Without PSN, PS3 users have been unable to access online services.

IGN has done a really good job in criticizing Sony on the lack of communication in regards to the details of the breach. IGN Editor Colin Moriarty raised some good questions in “PSN Blackout: We Want Answers,” like what will happen to independent developers who released a game to download that week, or whether gamers’ credit card information is secure.

For a long time now, I believe video games have become a little too reliant on the Internet to extend the game’s disc life. My concerns can be broken into three main areas.

The first concerns multiplayer. I love the multiplayer in “old games” like Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. These games, however, came out in 2007; not many people play them anymore. But what if I do? Why should my desire to play on Halo 3‘s Last Resort map with 15 other characters be determined by puny humans?

The answer to this is bots, or computer AI. Give gamers the option to play games offline on multiplayer maps with computer AI. The life of the game will be extended greatly, and it ensures that I can enjoy old-school multiplayer without having to worry if I will be able to get enough players for a game online.

My next concern is in regards to downloadable content. Even if you have downloaded the latest title update, some games will not let you play the DLC (or the whole game) without an Internet connection. Cases in point: Assassin’s Creed II and Borderlands. I have the DLC packs for both of these fantastic games. But without an Internet connection, the Borderlands game does not recognize me having any of the DLC packs. I can only play the original game.

Assassin’s Creed II is worse. Because of how the DLC is integrated into the original game, I cannot play my saved file at all, even though I am at a part in the game that is on the disc. I am infuriated that I cannot play the content I purchased unless I have a constant Internet connection.

But video games are only a small part of the picture. Society more and more has become reliant on the Internet.

Remember last semester, when there seemed to be a string of Internet outages on campus? That was frustrating, right? Well, imagine if that campus-wide outage lasted several days. In terms of class, what could you do and not do? Here at the Northern Star, we could still publish; it would just be infinitely harder than we’re used to.

Getting off of my soapbox, I will end on this note. I think there is a lot that the Internet can do for video games. But if the PSN outage is indicative of anything, it’s that cyberspace can be a very finite thing. So why base your whole game around it?

Make computer AI an option in multiplayer games, and make the whole aspect of the game accessible offline.

Update: Sony announced Monday that PSN will remain shutdown indefinitely. Wall Street Journal article about it here.