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We’re turning that frown upside down by telling you why you should really love those things you hate.

This week, we’ve been examining those aspects of the gaming world that really set your teeth on edge, but we’d like to end on a more upbeat note by pointing out the upside of some controversial issues. Sometimes it’s hard to see the silver lining in all of those stormclouds, but we’re doing our best to give you another way of looking at those things that so badly get on your nerves. Whether we win you over or not, we hope to at least give you a brief respite of positivity – or in some cases a chuckle – before you return once more to the seething pool of hatred that is the internet.

Smiles, everyone! Smiles!

DRM

I’m still not entirely sure why I even need to say this, but Digital Restriction … ahem … Digital Rights Management is an unqualified benefit to this industry. Anyone who opposes that view is a dirty software pirate who only wants to steal the ivory door knockers off the servant quarters of John Riccitiello’s guest yacht. You know who you are and, luckily for the health of the industry, DRM is on to you.

Thanks to technologies like DRM, it is now virtually impossible for software criminals to crack a game, which means zero dollars are lost to piracy. This increases consumer value by ensuring that struggling mom-and-pop publishers like EA and Ubisoft are able to earn enough money to keep the lights on. The benefits of these considerable savings are more than enough to offset the costs of adding in DRM technology, which, thanks to its seamless performance and thoughtful implementation (not to mention the forbearance of good-hearted gamers), amounts to roughly zero dollars per year. The people who do call in to support lines or post on forums with DRM problems are obviously crooks who are just looking to exploit the system, so most companies have wisely ignored those so-called “complaints,” making DRM even more profitable.

The mild disrespect shown by assuming every legitimate user is a criminal and then asking them to prove they’re not is far outweighed by the potential for catching the insignificant number of hackers who aren’t smart enough to find cracked versions of the software that the respectable gamers are buying. If you’re offended by that, you must be a criminal.

Moving past the legal and financial issues, DRM also serves as a handy benchmark of quality; if a game isn’t good enough to protect with DRM, after all, why should I even bother to play it? It’s why iTunes is so successful. Who wants to pay ten cents to buy unprotected MP3s off of a Russian website when he or she could spend ten times as much and have fewer player options when buying better versions of exactly the same songs off of iTunes? It’s just the cost of virtue.

— Steve Butts

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EA’s Project Ten Dollar

Everybody hates spending money. That much I understand. But the videogame industry needs to do something about the sales that it loses from the used games sales market. The money that you spend on games that you buy used from GameStop or Amazon doesn’t make its way back to the people who slaved away making them. For big market games like Mass Effect 2 or GTA4, that $55 lines GameStop’s pockets, not the creators’. The money lost through the piracy of console games can’t be ignored either.

EA famously tried to kill two birds with one stone through its “Project Ten Dollar” initiative. Every new game box for games like Mass Effect 2 and Battlefield Bad Company 2 held a code which, when entered, unlocked content available from an online storefront. And it wasn’t shabby content either: Mass Effect 2‘s Cerberus Network provided gamers with a new party member Zaeed and BBC2‘s VIP content included over 10 multiplayer maps released over a month or two.

If you bought the game used or had a pirated copy of the game, you could still access this content, but you had to drop a cold $10 – $15 for it. Did it break the bank? No. Is the game broken for people buying it used? No. Does it make the videogame proactive in valuing games that were purchased new? Hell, yes.

And that’s a good thing. The more money that goes back to the people who actually create the games that you love instead of the retail middleman, the better. You should love Project Ten Dollar.

— Greg Tito

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Cosplay

Cosplayers. They are the geeks that gamers love to hate. They’re roleplayers that even LARPers make fun of. As a whole, I can’t think of any other segment of the gaming populace that gets more vitriol thrown their way – except maybe furries. But this isn’t about hatred. I’m going to tell you why we should not only love the cosplayers – but thank them, too.

First of all – they make waiting in line at conventions fun. We disparage their names, but really – who wouldn’t be disappointed if cosplayers didn’t show up in droves at conventions? Who doesn’t love seeing the latest incarnation of Final Fantasy babes, rounding up stormtroopers for a group shot, or even running into a character from one of your favorite videogames? Cosplayers make waiting in line magical. You see Darth Maul, you want a picture, your friends want pictures, you strike up a convo about how they made their costume, and before you know it – bam – you finally get your hands on that 3DS. If there weren’t cosplay babes and hunks to ogle at, that line would move even slower. You remember that the next time you’re stuck in line for two hours, waiting to attend a panel with The Guild stars.

Secondly, can we all just take a moment to step back and admire the time, energy and overwhelming amount of skill that went into the creation of some of these costumes? Sure, anybody can throw on a bikini and call themselves Catwoman, but what about Big Daddy? The props for that costume alone entail some serious skills. Cosplayers are the renaissance men and women of our times – they knit, they sew, they weld, they forge. Do you know anybody else who could easily recreate an authentic 14th century 1 into 6 chain mail hauberk? I sure don’t. I also don’t know when I would need an authentic 14th century 1 into 6 chain mail hauberk, but that’s not the point. I’m sure it would make a fine conversation piece.

Lastly, you will always remember the day you meet a really good cosplayer. Just from 2010’s San Diego Comic Con, we were treated to a reconstruction of Colonel Sanders, complete with KFC bucket and a “Chef Vader,” with a spatula and Jar Jar’s head on a plate. Those moments make conventions, folks. Heck, I still remember the time I tracked down Robot Unicorn at WonderCon, and I can barely remember anything else that happened that weekend (except for Spike, of course).

— Lauren Admire

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PC vs Console Arguments

I love PC vs. console flame wars.

Now, don’t get me wrong. They’re horrible to read, they make my head hurt when they get too over-the-top (and they get too over-the-top more often than not), and many of the participants involved could use a good smack upside the head. Delving into one too deeply is like walking through a burning ring of fire except you don’t have the awesome voice of Johnny Cash.

But I still love them because of the place they come from. When you think about it, every PC vs. console flame war – or hell, every console vs. console argument – boils down to this: Our chosen platform is the best way to play videogames. No, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to cling so fiercely to a specific company or piece of hardware like it’s a childhood stuffed animal, but the very fact that these games inspire such passionate debate should be heartening. No matter what irrational rhetoric is actually coming out, the root argument is the same: “I love games, and this is the best way to play them. Why can’t you agree and see my side of the story so you can start playing the games in the best way, too?”

For that matter, there’s much to be said that we even have this diversity. PC gamers crow of the versatility and the customization – the sheer, boggling complexity – that their platform has to offer. Console gamers praise the plug-and-play experience designed to be shared with others from the comfort of your couch – games that you can play together with a parent, a loved one, or a child. We have both of those, and the fact that PC/Console debates still ring strong on message boards to this day is just proof positive that neither is going away, and that there is a gaming platform out there for everyone, no matter what they’re looking for.

What could possibly be wrong with that?

— John Funk

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Quick-Time Events

Most aspects of videogame design are open to debate – escort missions, turn-based vs. real time, the merits of linear levels – but few produce such ire as the quick-time event. The mere mention that a game has quick-time events is enough to drive some players to write it off as unplayable, while others will suffer through, if only so they can speak intelligently about just how bad the QTEs in question are. But quick-time events, when done properly, can create opportunities for immersive gameplay, highly dramatic scenes and replay.

Key phrase being “when done properly,” of course. Most of the time, QTEs are gamestopping killjoys because they force you to pay so much attention to them that you can’t see what actions they’re representing and, more often than not, they reward the smallest error with complete failure (Resident Evil 4, I’m looking squarely at you). That’s a fault of execution, not of concept. As Shamus Young pointed out, QTEs can grant you access to abilities that your character wouldn’t normally have. Shamus calls this a “crutch,” but it can also enhance a game by fleshing out the world your character inhabits. You’ll put most of your time in Fable 2 into swinging a sword or shooting off spells, but thanks to a quick-time event, you can also chop wood, tend bar, or work in the smithy, should you want. It may just involve one button, but make no mistake – those amusing little minigames are just well-crafted QTEs. Having more to do in Albion than just kill whatever monster is next on your checklist makes the world feel more like an actual place and less like set dressing for your next adventure.

It has many flaws, but when Heavy Rain succeeds, it’s because it’s managed to pull you into its world and connect you with its characters – a feat made far easier by the inclusion of quick time events. By tying your character’s actions to QTEs you can drive at breakneck speed, perform impromptu surgery, even get in a brawl or two – creating control schemes for all of those individual activities would be overkill at best, clunky at worst. Heavy Rain and games like it aren’t defined by their controls, but rather by the way their characters interact with each other and the world around them; the wider variety of things they can do, the more compelling and realistic the experience is. Forcing the player to learn control combinations for so many activities would be unwieldy and – worse – unfun. Quick-time events not only can solve the problem efficiently, but also can make the player feel connected to the action – tapping X to kick a guy in the shins feels very organic when the icon is actually on the guy’s shins.

I get why people spew bile and vitriol at quick time events, but it’s not the mechanic itself that should be the target of derision, but rather how it’s being misused. The potential of quick time events has yet to truly be tapped.

— Susan Arendt

Question of the Day, August 6, 2010

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