the artistry and psychology of gaming


The Evolution of Bad Ideas: Introduction

The Evolution of Bad Ideas: Introduction

A few weeks ago I was planning to write a long-winded commentary about digital rights in response to Microsoft’s announcements surrounding the Xbox One, focusing on what it really means to “own a video game,” and how foolish we had been to erroneously equate ownership with something so trivial as a purchase of the game at hand. Really it was quite the revelation to me to find out that after all these years of purchasing games I was not actually purchasing the game itself, merely a buy-in to a licensed agreement that would allow me  access to the game, and anything physical (ie, disks and cartridges) that went along with said purchase was merely a technological workaround due to insufficient data delivery capabilities  that would allow me access to my actual purchase! But hey, thank goodness this clarification was brought to light, and with our modern technology, we can have a way to enforce this clarification by acting as an intermediary for your purchase… provided you were online… and the servers were up… and you didn’t just have facial reconstruction surgery…

In case you can’t tell, I thought this was a bad idea.

I got about two paragraphs in on my rant (words like “draconian” were thrown around), but then decided to step back and think about exactly what was going on. This was an issue bigger than a bad idea for the Xbox One, this was an idea so bad it could negatively impact every corner of the industry. It was an idea so unapologetically anti-consumer, so anti-retail, so anti-“untested IP,” and so anti-middle and working class, that there was simply no conceivable way it should be accepted. I decided to hold off.

Within days (and because the internet is f***ing Batman when it comes to justice being served), the bad idea quickly went from “the plan,” to “a plan,” to “who told you this was the plan?” to “I can neither confirm, nor deny, that we are a company in the habit of making plans,” and with the promise of more information to come at E3, it was clear that Microsoft was already on damage control.


Microsoft has since agreed they had a bad idea. Used games will still function just as they always have without any sort of double-dipping in revenues from publishers. Games can still be played offline without a 24-hour connection. Bad idea finished… for now, at least.

Of course, slapping additional used game fees on consumers and changing the rules for purchasing content is far from the only bad idea in the industry, and it had to come from somewhere. Really, online requirements and user fees are just the most recent attempts of Digital Rights Management; a perpetual leech on the consumer that dates back even to gaming’s fledgling years (if anyone recalls Infocom’s “Feelies” you’ll know what I mean). It’s a bad idea that has only given birth to more bad ideas, and yet has still managed to evolve over time, with hope from the industry that they may eventually turn straw into gold.

Unfortunately, only fairy tales are guaranteed happy endings, and sometimes a bad idea is just that; a bad idea – though not for lack of trying. Some bad ideas have proven quite difficult to let go of, especially the ones born of the best intentions. Sizeable budgets and considerable time and effort can go towards the evaluation and reevaluation of bad ideas in hopes to fit a glass slipper on the ugly stepsister’s foot while good ideas are locked away with a bunch of bird crap and talking rodents.


There are a lot of bad ideas out there that share similar stories. This feature will cover a variety of bad ideas found in the gaming industry; the ones that no matter how much they change and how frequently they occur, they never end up fitting just right, while developers can’t shake their pixie dust mentality thinking their magic feather is anything but a poison apple. I’m mixing up my metaphors here… Pocahontas.

The Evolution of Bad Ideas will look at history, key developmental milestones (and perhaps a few unique tangents), and outcomes of these bad ideas that manage to keep returning, along with a few rationalizations for why there’s been such a maintained interest in “getting it right,” and why no amount of hand clapping will likely make it so. We’ll look at bad ideas on the industry side, bad ideas in mechanics and design, and maybe even a bad idea or two in the games community (hey, we’re not perfect).

Although this may seem negative, a lot of bad ideas are ultimately good in spirit, as they are often in place for a reason. It’s with this feature that I hope we can all come to terms with what these bad ideas are for, where they’ve been in the past, and how they may still appear in the future… and how despite any advances in technology, they simply just won’t work.

Evolution of Bad Ideas: Archives




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