Being a retro video gamer, the history of video games has often crept up to where we learn how the beauty of video gaming came to be. (Heck, Billy Joel ought to remake his hit song "We Didn't Start the Fire," but instead of current events, it should be brands and events related to video gaming.) Consumer-generated interest in a particular area means opportunities for businesses, big and small, to grab a piece of the pie making their official stamp on the world's official video game history book. Popular areas of business aren't complete without drama, conflicts and broken partnerships; It's Life, we live and we grow.
As the Internet slowly became available to the masses, the term "streaming video," famously used by RealPlayer back in the nineties, was a convenient way to watch small video clips on your computer. Nowadays, without purchasing a physical/digital copy of a movie/show, you can stream and carry on to the next. This digital simplicity carried over to video gaming: You can own the physical and/or digital copies of games. How about streaming a video game? Google is banking in on such concept.
Let's say 'hello' to the Google Stadia (pronounced "sta • dee'ah"): A video game streaming cloud service allowing video gamers to stream games. The service promises gaming up to 4K at 60 frames, which is enough to rival other video gaming platforms, networks, and computer gaming overall. Stadia's controller almost resembles Microsoft's Xbox, but nevertheless, is cross-platform compatible as well as being able to stream games from mobile devices.
Already, the video gaming community's reactions were less optimistic about the idea of the Stadia. Roughly ten years ago, video game collectors chimed in on their thoughts about games going digital, not able to resell after purchase, and "collecting" digital games. Alongside that issue is the quiet world of video gaming emulation, which video gamers, have shared praises, respects and even sent donations to the developers of emulators—most which include features that otherwise require hundreds and thousands of dollars on hardware alone. Because video game emulation is still an on-going debate, there's something to be said about playing video games digitally...and streaming it.
Possible reasons for Stadia's low praise:
• Video Game Ownership
Being a retro video gamer, having a full ownership of a cartridge or disk is a satisfying realization—a physical copy of a game can be loaded in and booting up under one's convenient, leisure expense. While we slowly are venturing into the world of digital, the same protocol is done: Whenever at whatever time, one can boot up the console, or computer, load up the game(s) from the console's/computer's hard drive and the game runs all ready to play. Simple, right?
While high frame rates, motion lag and possible glitches are issues in it of itself, the concern comes from the requirement of a higher speed internet in order to stream games without slowdowns. If that isn't enough to turn off the hardcore video gamer, the games are being streamed nullifying the chance to own the game being streamed. Some retro gamers looking to slowly advance in the modern era may find this quite difficult to adapt to.
Perhaps it's very much like store employees giving you permission to stay in their store to play a game on the kiosk, then allowing you to come back again when you're done to continue playing next time. That may be the most likely perception of video gaming on the Stadia.
Some may argue that games requiring online access is "streaming." That may be so but requiring access to the game is only open to those who purchase the game or key to the game(s). Yes, access, not ownership.
• "Netflix"-style Streams
According to a report, Netflix set plans to release new episodic content on a weekly basis, rubbing off the binge-fest marathons from their viewers. We feel this may carry on to the video gaming platform, releasing parts of a full game day by day, or by week. Releasing parts of a game, be it console or mobile, is agitating enough, but this only creates more headache to the video gamer knowing they may not continue playing the rest of the game without the sequential part being released at another time.
What we feel about such possibility is not only generating more profit from these games, but getting video gamers to skip work/school to create an undivided focus on the next release of games. This suspense may trigger symptoms of addiction and/or other psychological effects getting one "glued" to their entertainment systems, affecting one's personal lives and those around them (such addiction could be compared to those addicted to watching sports).
Spreading advice on taking frequent breaks and partaking to other errands and activities, as common as the case of video gaming addiction may be, we feel that creating this "obssession," be it on purpose or not by Google, should be met with other precautions. Then again, people think binge-watching ten seasons of a TV show is permissible but playing ten hours of video games is frowned upon.
• Video Games Are Not Movies
Modern-day video games feature voiceovers, realistic graphics, high quality animations and fantastic gameplay overall. What the video game industry doesn't understand, or they do but don't care, is that video games are NOT movies. Here:
Pulled right out of our hats, our philosophy of video gaming is defined as a human interactive experience that gives the user (player) to partake in a story or action, be it fantasy, virtual reality, augmented reality or sports, that require little to no physical effort to dive into an immersive world that may otherwise never exist. This gives the player an "emulation" of being in such an imaginative universe—the opportunity to become and play as someone whom you cannot be, wish you can be, or being in a "what if" environment that the average person might find stimulating (think horror games). Another definition of ours would be a visual represention of a novel/story, and being the (anti-)hero, allowing the player to interact and follow the story, creating a psychological illusion that when the game has been beaten/completed, the player becomes the hero despite their efforts. In sports, ever wonder why sports fans celebrate by saying "we won" whenever their favorite team wins? It's a similar effect to the video gamer, with the only difference being the player can prove their "heroism" by playing the game themselves, having the proof provided by recording their gameplay (sports fans don't have that power when watching a game).
Compare all that to movies: A high- or mid-range scripted production where the interaction is just as immersive but minimal. A *good* movie involves a solid plot and razor-sharp acting, along with a fluid, consistent story presented in two hours or less. Movies can be streamed, paused and continued at any time the viewer chooses. Assuming they don't read reviews or spoilers prior to watching, the movie fan is in for a treat under the presumption that they will know something will follow/happen within the next two hours. In other words, if it's a huge fight among superheroes, someone will lose; If drama happens, it may or may not be resolved by the characters involved; If it's horror or suspense, dark, bloody and eerie images and jumpscares are sure to happen in the most unsuspecting time.
What we're strictly saying is that the scripted, fixed flow of a movie doesn't have the same effect as video gaming. Being immersed into a movie is as likely as delving into a video game, but the fact that the results or the ending of a movie may or may not satisfy the viewer isn't as emotional as a video gamer working to complete and acquire the ending of a game. Playing a sport is not the same as watching a sport, and the excitement and heroic feeling of winning a sport you play is very different from watching sports, getting excited for one's favorite team winning.
Video gaming gives the player a fantasy universe to dive into where they feel they can conquer and interact with others hoping to achieve/reach a particular goal. Even though watching other people play video games is a huge thing now, movies are more in tune with performance and visual storytelling. Viewers rarely want to interact, picking and choosing their own plots, climaxes and endings to a show/movie because of what we call the "performance factor": The talents have composed an act according to the script and are about to act out what they want to show/tell us, as we lay back with our drinks and popcorn. If it's a video game, it requires work, strategizing, careful planning as well as the uncertainty of an adventurous roller coaster ready for its twists and turns.
What does this all mean for streaming video games? The interaction and aesthetics of video gaming shouldn't be perceived as "similar" to a movie. Movie fans want little to do with work when watching films, but video gamers know that there's work to be done and are ready to take on the challenge.
Besides the requirement of a fast internet and the chances of lag, glitches and streaming servers crashing because of heavy load/usage, the Google Stadia still has yet to see a chunkful of interested video gamers thinking this is the mark we're making in modern video gaming technology. However, even though the Sony PSP Go flopped, we've gotten comfortable with games going digital. There just may be a hair of light inside the tunnel to where the big companies, Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft may be missing out on and Google may have just struck where no one has struck before. Streaming games may also reduce piracy and emulation, but however, like everything else available for subscription or purchase, there are always ways around things. We just hope adding a burn-in ("watermark" on games) won't be taken in consideration, if that were the case.
What do you think? Will you purchase the Google Stadia? Let's talk in the comments below!
Speaking of which Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire is available! Play now: