Video Games are supposed to be fun... so why can they be such a pain


If you didn't already hear, Star Wars Battlefront II (2017) is getting its last major content update soon. While there will still be people that play it, myself included, the game will eventually fall into a state of obscurity as player numbers dwindle and new, shinier games come out.

This is no surprise. It is how games have been since the beginning, and that is the problem. Video games are such a disposable medium, unlike any other form of art, and there is no reason for that to be. There are however, a few reasons why video games have a hard time staying around.

Unfortunately, video games are designed with, and only with, running on the most popular hardware at the time of release. The only way to play "Super Mario Bros." as the developers intended, would be to buy an original NES with an original copy of the game. Something like that could cost you $200 on Ebay with limited supply. Video games are not the only medium plagued with obsolescence. Language barriers exist in all forms of art with written or sounded speech, and the only way to enjoy a painting as the original painter intended, would be to see the original work, which could be in a crowded museum on the other end of the world, after the paint has already faded from one thousand years of wear. Video games, however, are the only form of media with deliberate obsolescence.

The vast majority of video games today are distributed digitally, on platforms with always-online requirements, digital rights managements, and more. Some of these problems come in the games themselves too. Multi-player video games come out with no support for self-hosting matches at all. When EA shuts down the servers for Battlefront (2015) and Battlefront II (2017), there will be no way to play those games as they were intended without illegally modifying them.

Regardless of how they were meant to be played, emulating with shared ROMs is illegal as well. In order to play the game legally, even with an emulator, you require a physical copy of the game (which is in limited supply), and the means to load the content of your disc or, even worse, proprietary cartridge, to your PC.

To read the complete works of William Shakespeare, one need only purchase the copies of his plays, or download the public-domain plays for free. There is no way to play the complete works of Hideo Kojima legitimately. The Silent Hills playable trailer, "P.T.", cannot be played anymore. The rest of his works require at least six game consoles and a PC and the purchase of 17 games.

Some solutions include requiring the source code on every game ~10 years old being released to the public domain. The developers would lose hardly any sales, and the game could be patched to work on modern hardware. The games' code could be made open source originally, with only the map files or voice lines being required to be purchased. Since these are required for the complete game, the developer would not lose out on sales, and the game could be ported to work for more people.

Playing a video game, no matter how old it is or what system it was designed for, shouldn't be such a chore. And it shouldn't be such a pain to get any game working the way we want it. Maybe this is a sign that I should start reading more. lol.