The announcement of the Retro Video Game System, a cartridge-based console, is the latest case study in the debate of whether gaming should continue evolving beyond its roots.
Do Disks Have a Place in the Future of Gaming?
As more and more rumors surface about the Xbox 720 and the Playstation 4, one of the biggest questions, at least in my mind, is whether or not these consoles will require disks. Digital distribution has been around for several years by now, and many PC gamers get most of their games digitally now thanks to services like Steam. What’s to say that consoles aren’t the next platform to lose disks forever?
Now, is abandoning disks a good thing? This is certainly a polarizing issue, and for me the answer is yes and no. Yes, because digital distribution is more convenient, assuming your internet connection can handle downloading these giant files (and if you play a lot of video games and spend a lot of time online, chances are yours can). The reason that websites like Amazon are so successful is convenience; people can order things in pajamas and never have to go out to the store. The same principle should apply to people buying games. Imagine never having to wait in line for a midnight launch, and instead being able to automatically download the game the second it comes out. This technology would appeal to our lazy side, and at risk of reinforcing a stereotype, I would say that most gamers (and most people in general, for that matter) have a lazy side.
At the same time, I have a special place in my heart for games on a disk. Several of the games I store above my TV aren’t even mine. Borrowing and sharing games is an important part of my gaming childhood, and with digital distribution, this would be impossible. Gaming is already an expensive hobby, and I would not have been able to play half as many games as I did when I was a kid if I did not borrow a few. If you follow my writing at all, you know that I love the communal aspect of gaming, and I want to preserve it as much as possible. By preventing the borrowing and sharing process that most kids experience with their games, the industry is preventing many people from playing games, and the potential for some of the interpersonal interactions that make playing games so much fun is gone.
Truthfully, against my better judgement, I started writing this piece without really knowing where I stood on this issue. But now that you, the reader, has indulged me as I exposed my thought process, it will perhaps make more sense when I reveal my stance. Personally, and this could just be nostalgia talking, but I think that disks need a place in the gaming community. They are tangible examples of gaming memories, more so than a save file on a screen or an icon for a game on a menu. Most importantly, disks give people an excuse to borrow games, share games, and generally interact with fellow gamers in a community that these days does this far too little.