I grew up, like many, blowing cartridges and spending hours reading through game manuals. Then came the boxy jewel cases and CDs. The more I loved a game, the more scratches and nicks the back of a game would suffer.
I'd show these off like happy scars on my knees gained from letting loose on a playground—the natural outcome of having fun. The games eventually become unplayable, but I didn't care. I liked the games so much that I destroyed them. If that's not love, well, I don't know what is.
The jewel cases then became slim DVD boxes and the manuals gradually thinned and eventually even the CDs themselves became a thing of history. Nowadays, more and more, my games reside entirely within the memory banks of a console, a handheld, or a computer.
But this isn't about how I miss the good old days when I longingly held a new game in my hand, breathless at the idea of what was encoded within. This isn't about how I miss the anchor to nostalgia that physicality provides.
I actually like the way so much of gaming is moving into the cloud.
Don't get me wrong, I have many reasons to like physically owning a game. I can lend them. I can sell them. Usually, they're not as expensive as digital games—have you seen the prices on old games on the Xbox marketplace? Cripes. They're ridiculous. And it's nice to not have to need an internet connection to do every little thing.
But overall? The benefits of the cloud outweigh the drawbacks for me.
Everything feels more convenient with the cloud. I can buy the games from my home, without having to go anywhere. I don't have to worry about space, which tends to be sparse for me. And even if it wasn't, if you've played games as long as I have, then you've accrued a sizable collection. Turns out, there's such a thing as too many games! With the cloud, I don't have to worry about weight—that's huge for someone who travels and moves around a lot like I do.
I never have to worry about a game not working—there's no CD to scratch or cartridge to muck up. If something becomes corrupted, welp, I can just redownload the game and hey—my save files are online, too! Great.
This might sound like a sad case of pragmatism and practicality winning over sentimentality. Not quite, though. The biggest reason I look forward to a gaming future that has no physical media is actually a romantic one.
To remove the cartridge, to get rid of the disc is like erasing the physical proof that something exists as a game. It helps remove the acknowledgement that the worlds I lose myself in have very acute boundaries, and denies the idea that, say, the Mushroom Kingdom can be reduced to something as ordinary as a disc. That's not the future I want to live in. My ideal, super sci-fi future has the most minimal physical interface possible.
The worlds games allow me to frequent are vast and fantastical. I don't want to say they're contained within a CD, or hell, even a console. I want to say I dive right into my games one day.
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