Just a couple of vaguely games-related thoughts today…
1. The other day, someone left a comment insinuating that we've started to approve only those comments which agree or support the opinion of the review they are connected to, while deleting those that disagree. Honestly, that couldn't be further from the truth.
Dale, our webmaster and man-about-town, replied to that person's comment and laid the fact on him that the reason critical comments weren't being published was that they were so foul, inflammatory and full of profanity that they simply couldn't be approved.
Historically over the last ten years or so, we've never filtered or deleted comments left by our readers. We are strong believers in discussion and dissenting opinions, and there have been plenty of times when people have left paragraphs worth of venom and we've let them post away to their hearts' content. Unfortunately, it's been only recently (just this year, if memory serves) that the quality of comments left has turned so bitter, insulting and completely unproductive that we've had to institute a comment approvals and filtering process. We didn't want to do it, but there was just too much hate getting through and we couldn't stand it any longer.
As an example of how things have changed, I used to pride myself on reading and responding to every comment that came in to the site as a way of showing respect to people who took the time to share their thoughts. Not anymore. These days, I avoid the message notifications and I don't bother reading anything that hasn't already been approved by one of the other critics. I just don't have time or patience for people who don't have the ability to disagree without getting nasty.
The moral of this story is that readers who disagree or have opposing viewpoints about a particular article or review at our site are absolutely welcome to chime in and let us know what they think—they just need to do it in a civil manner. If you are one of the many "readers" who's left an angry diatribe and then wondered why you don't see it posted, wonder no longer. Leaving a message on a privately-owned website isn't a right, it's a privilege, and when that privilege gets abused it goes away.
2. In the future, will anyone who's a fan of something be able to call themselves a "collector"?
I'm a collector. I love having things that I'm into… things like comic books, favorite CDs (and records!), novels that shaped my taste in reading, and of course, videogames that I've played over the years. There is a type of pleasure in the tactile sensation that comes from holding an object in your hand and examining it up close and personal. Turning it over, feeling its heft.
With the advent of electronic everything, the thought occurs to me that actually being a collector might not be a viable option in the future. Possibly the near future.
Very few people I know still buy actual CDs these days. iPods and other portable music devices that play MP3s are just too prevalent and too convenient. Books are heavy, and with the modern lifestyle on the go, many people are turning to audio books (also easily available in MP3 format) or e-versions on any number of handheld readers. Comic books are now becoming more and more available electronically while retailers slowly starve to death as their patronage disappears, and anyone who's even halfway been paying attention to the videogame realm has noticed that more and more titles are becoming available electronically, with many smaller games being download-only.
Don't get me wrong, there are certainly many advantages to going electronic. The immediacy and ease of access to certain things with just a few clicks is truly a wonder, and something that would've been unfathomable just a few years ago. As a gamer, I certainly appreciate the fact that older titles on obsolete systems are now available in a way that they never were before. Times were that when you wanted to play an obscure Tubrografx-16 shooter you actually had to have the HuCard and a system hooked up to your TV. These days, all it takes are a few points to redeem and a router. Marvelous, indeed.
That said, I can't help but feel that there's something missing… something insidious about this shift. Looking at files in a folder isn't the same thing as browsing titles on a shelf. Clicking on a screen isn't the same thing as turning a page, and books have been written about the style and design work that goes into creating a good cover, or an attractive package. Having these things actually be things is part of the experience, if you ask me—not to mention all the rights problems inherent with not actually physically owning the items in question.
I've certainly heard the other side of the argument often enough from people who seem to have no misgivings about letting go of tangible goods in exchange for fitting entire libraries of media onto devices that slip neatly into trouser pockets, but it just doesn't sit right with me. Maybe I'm a dinosaur, or maybe there is something inherent in the "collector" personality profile that derives less satisfaction from a full memory card than a full bookshelf, but I'm just not okay with letting go of all these things.
Regardless of my feelings, however, I may not really have a choice. With so many things going e-enabled, will it be much longer before my favorite pastimes are e-only? I (and those like me) may enjoy being collectors, but as I said at the beginning, the thought that being a collector may not even be an option in the traditional sense keeps looming in the back of my mind.