Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice
Global Growing Pains

Blake Ellison | 9 Sep 2008 13:14
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Hi, my name's Blake, and I'm hardcore.

In fact, I'm so hardcore I decided my college major - Japanese - based on the work of Shigeru Miyamoto and Hideo Kojima. Kojima is the auteur of the Metal Gear series, and Miyamoto is famously responsible for Mario, Zelda, and the Wiimote. These two legendary game designers have served as inspiration to generations of great designers around the world.

I'm no great game designer, but those two inspired me, too. Imagine a film buff who happens to have a thing for the classic Italian director Federico Fellini. At some point, someone's going to get tired of the subtitles and go pick up some Italian, right? Same with me and Japanese.

Hello from Japan, by the way. I wasn't kidding about being hardcore.

For over a decade it was my dream to come over here and play games from Miyamoto, Kojima, and the other Japanese greats as they were "meant" to be played: without meddling translators.

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Now that I'm here, it's made for some great moments in my own gaming history. The Katamari Damacy series is full of little references to Japanese life. Getting Gran Turismo 5 Prologue ahead of all my car-fanatic buds made me the coolest kid on the block. Playing Super Mario Galaxy in Japanese was like scoring an Achievement in life. I had made it. I had accomplished my dream.

Better yet, my gaming habits didn't even get homesick in a land where Wii Fit and Nintendo DS trivia software outsells everything. Steam allowed me to play Team Fortress 2 on launch day. Halo 3 launched in Japan less than a week after the U.S. My gaming life was peachy.

Then I hit a stumbling block: Grand Theft Auto IV.

The game launched in April. It's now the peak of summer as I write, and I still don't have my copy.

Well, that's not really true.

Truth be told, I actually got my copy of GTA4 a few weeks ago. Many months of pre-release anticipation over, I inserted the disc and let out a huge sigh of relaxation. Then my blood pressure shot straight back up. My disc was in the wrong region. I went into work the next morning still stressed, lacking the catharsis of carjacking some fools for the first time in a few years.

My night's plans were ruined by region locking: the restriction of game consoles and their games to only cooperate with each other inside certain geographic boundaries. For example, Japanese Wii games won't play on American or European Wiis, and vice versa. This also applies to every major home console, every movie on disc and even online stores like iTunes and Steam.

Why do we still have region locking in an era of global gaming?

Go look at the boxes your consoles came in. All of them shamelessly plug the ability to get online and play with friends around the world, but evidently I can't actually be the player that's around the world.

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