9 November 2008





Part 2: The Daily Grind

The modern gaming PC is an amazing piece of hardware. With much more raw power than any console, capable of far superior graphics and glorious surround sound, equipped with near-infinite versatility of control and able to access data with lightning speed from massive hard drives, the PC is the greatest games machine in the world. Or at least, it would be if it wasn’t for YOU.

Work is a pain in the arse, isn’t it? Getting up on cold winter mornings when it’s still dark, and going home when it’s dark again so you never see daylight. Doing what some clueless idiot tells you to while he sits back in a much nicer chair than you get with his feet up on the desk, and making him rich while you can barely cover your rent. Being expected to work extra hours for free because management “streamlined” the workforce for extra profitability, and unable to complain about it because you’ve got no employment rights any more and even if you did they’d just up sticks and move your job to Delhi. Getting one day a week off (two if you’re really lucky), which you can’t enjoy because you’re too knackered from working the rest of the week, and anyway you can’t enjoy yourself too much because you’ve got to get up early for work tomorrow. Man, work SUCKS.

Now, fortunately as a videogame journalist I don’t have many of those problems (except the “barely being able to cover the rent” one). I can sleep in as long as I like every single day, and the only time I had anything like a proper job was 20 years ago, when I used to have to phone huge burly builders and unconvincingly threaten them (including, on one memorable occasion, the winner of Scotland’s Strongest Man) because they hadn’t paid for their Portakabin hire, the monotony only broken by watching the occasional escapee from the abattoir across the road make a brief, lumbering bid for freedom and life. But as far as I can gather from my non-videogame-journalist friends, work is for about 95% of people a miserable necessity, and breaks from it are the only things that make life worthwhile.

So how in the name of Hairy Unicycling Jesus can it be that, in our precious few hours of leisure time, so many of us – and especially so many of you, PC owners - are so determined to replicate the experience of working, without even getting paid for it at the end? I can think of nothing more incomprehensible than actually spending money in order to be allowed to be pretend to be a shoemaker in an MMORPG, and then having to put in hours and hours of labour just to “level up” and be allowed to inhabit the game world at some kind of tolerable state of existence where you don’t get killed by every passing rat. Yet PC gamers tolerate – nay, almost DEMAND – that their games be padded out by endless hours of “grinding” before they’ll take them seriously.

It’s certainly great news for the publishers, who get you to pay for the game and then pay for several months of subscriptions before you have any hope of accessing the good bits, and great news for the gold scalpers, who’ve somehow made a business out of getting gullible chumps to pay real money for pretend money. But aren’t games supposed to be an escape from work? Are you really so bereft of imagination, so programmed for your drone-like existence that you can’t even enjoy your rare and precious leisure time unless someone structures it like a job and doles out the rewards equally stingily?  For Heaven’s sake, go and have a game of Puzzle Bobble or something, before you completely ruin videogames for everyone.

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