Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mine Not Yours

Okay, so I came across an article yesterday. Reading it and thinking about what it says made me sad. Granted, this is a rumor provided by an anonymous tipster and so should be taken with appropriate grains of salt, but it is worrisome that the article's contents are this close from becoming actuality.

It seems that Sony and Microsoft have it in their heads that, come the next generation of consoles, used or shared games are to be a thing of the past. Every purchased game will have its own individual string of code which will be synched to a particular console, and the game will function only on that console. To ensure this, they'll be requiring a full-time hook-up to the internet even when playing in a single-player mode or what would traditionally have been offline multiplayer. This sort of thing is already in place with, picking on the most well-known offender, Blizzard/Activision's BattleNet 2.0 with Starcraft 2 and the upcoming Diablo III.

The sad fact is that this sort of shift is inevitable. Companies are moving increasingly towards purely digital distribution methods and are actively working to phase out physical media. Since the companies in question do not (usually) relinquish their ownership of the intellectual property associated with a game and the series of 0s and 1s which comprises a game is considered intellectual property, "purchases" could quickly find themselves to be more akin to "rentals," or more accurately a limited "licensing," of the intellectual property in question.

The "creators" (or more accurately owners) of these properties love that idea. They've been trying to kill off the used game market since the mid-80s, when Nintendo went on a crusade against stores reselling games and equated it with piracy, mainly because Nintendo wasn't seeing a portion of the proceeds of that exchange flow into their own coffers (it's ironic that Nintendo is the only one of the Big Three not to have come out stating they wish to enact these protections on the of now).

If you'll allow me to hunker down on my rocker and take a deep pull from my glass of lemonade, back in the days of my youth my friends and I would swap games all the time. $60 a pop for a new NES or SNES title was a lot of money for someone subsisting on a pittance of an allowance. I could afford maybe one or two new games a year, not counting birthday or Christmas gifts. So I'd swap titles with others and experience and enjoy games that way. I owned Mega Mans 2, 3, and 6, but I'd played the other three of the NES era because my friends owned the original and parts 4 and 5. No TMNT 2, but I had 1 and 3. I didn't have Final Fantasy, but did have Dragon Warrior and the two Zelda games.

Under this proposed system-game lockdown, I couldn't do that. I couldn't hypothetically lend a friend CoD: Mission to Callisto in exchange for Final Fantasy XVI. Hell, I couldn't even rent Final Fantasy XVI and give it a playthrough that way (though some form of demo system will be put in place, it'll require people to pay to unlock the full game).

There's only one way I can really see this working, and that's if the prices on games were lowered dramatically. Take a look at Steam, which handles digital distribution with aplomb. I like it and while I still chafe a little at not having a thing to call my own (which I recognize as an outdated carryover from my youth), I'm okay with paying $5-$10 for a game. Hell, I'd pay up to $25 or $30 if it was a super hot new release and I had a computer that wasn't an outdated piece of crap and therefore able to run it without melting down.

The problem is that most people are not me (many would view that as a spectacular thing). They will continue to shell out $60 for the newest Madden and companies like EA will smirk with glee and continue to price things at that level. Heck, I'm of the old generation now. Many of today's gamers are ignorant of a time when there wasn't DLC available (or in some cases necessary!) for just about every game out there, when your $50 or $60 got you a finished product and you had the option to shell out another $20 or so for expansion packs that were more than just two or three missions or stages and some skins for your characters for $4.99, but contained another game's worth of content.

Part of me hopes this decision will usher in another video game crash like the great one of 1983, that people will get so fed up with the way companies are doing things that they'll refuse to give them any business and that things will return to a bit of sanity. It looks like I'll be sitting yet another generation of consoles out, but that's okay. I can huggle and enjoy splendid offerings like Dungeons of Dredmor or Avadon: The Black Fortress while the rest of the world wallows in madness.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


One of Fernando's regular customers who always smells strongly of cigarettes and stale beer comes in on a Friday in late March. “Hey, do you have The Hunger Games?”

Uh, no. No, that just came out in theaters today, actually.”

What, really?”

Yes. It won't be out on DVD until probably August at the earliest.”

Oohhh.” Then, after a pause, “Can you hold a copy for me when it comes out?”

Everybody, this is why you should moderate your alcohol intake.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Go Kippers!

Fernando is at work when his cell phone rings. The number is one which he does not recognize so he ignores it and instead goes to fetch coffee. Upon his return, he notices that he has a voicemail. He checks it and this is what he hears:

Hi Fern, this is Latvia with Eagle 107: The Heart of the Bay! I'm giving you a call to let you know that you can give a shout out to your winning team, the Zail-Kanzin (except she mispronounced it as something phonetically resembling “Koozle”) Kippers, as they head off to the playoffs. So if you'd like to get a ten-second spot, give me a call at -insert random numerals- and remember, go Kippers!”

Many thoughts formed in Fernando's mind after hearing this: How did this lady get my cell phone number? Why would she call my cell phone if it was the Dominion she was trying to contact? Doesn't the Dominion reside in Saladolsa? Has it relocated since last I checked? Does this mean Latvia is cold-calling cell phones at random? If she's randomly punching in digits, could she happen to call herself calling herself? Would Xzibit then create a singularity which swallows the entirety of the universe swallowing the entirety of the universe? I should google “colliding black holes” because that's pretty dang badass and--

If you would like to delete this voice message, press seven.”

Fernando did.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Those People

A lady and her daughter or granddaughter are in the store one day haggling over which movies to rent. The daughter selects the case for J. Edgar off the rack and says, “I've heard this is a really good one.”

Mom turns to see what Daughter has chosen and goes into apoplexy. “Absolutely not. I won't have that.” Mom is one of those kinds of people who throws her weight around and insists pretty heavily that her way is the way.

“It's a biopic. I like them and you wouldn't have to watch it.”

At this Mom pulls Daughter in close and starts whispering things to her. The only words Fernando can make out with certainty are “those people” and “dresses,” but despite this he has a pretty good idea as to what sort of content could have set Mom off, considering the (possibly unfounded) rumors involving Mr. Hoover's personal and social life.

In the end Daughter (who's sixteen or seventeen or thereabouts) decides on Super 8, and Mother has no objections to that one. They pay and depart.

Despite the fact that he does not share Mom's opinion about “those people” and “dresses,” Fernando did not interject into the conversation between Mother and Daughter because it's none of his business; as has been said many times before, he's Keeper of the Dominion and not Morality Police of the External World. Nevertheless, he thinks Mom is a close-minded silly billy because Daughter had the right of it: she didn't have to watch the damn movie. The kid's sixteenish. She's adult enough to commandeer a machine capable of murder and while she's probably not particularly wise (we all did absolutely stupid things at sixteen), she's smart enough to form her own opinions.

So what if Mom doesn't like “those people” in the media she consumes? I don't like cheese. I don't go on dumb crusades trying to prevent people who like cheese from having their cheese. If I had, Baldr forbid, a child and that child loved cheese more than anything in the world, I'd let him or her have the damn cheese. I loathe baseball, but if the kid wanted to do little league then little league would be had.

No, it's not a false equivalency between cheese/baseball and the myriad forms of human sexuality and gender identity (let's cut the bullshit surrounding the “those people” euphemism). Can't have it both ways; to the people who believe it's a choice, restricting people's ability to choose with whom they fool around or what style of clothing they wear is just as repugnant as forbidding someone who really really wants to have a pink-on-the-inside steak from having the damn steak. You're not wearing the dress or eating the steak, and fuck whatever moral superiority bullshit you use to justify restricting others from enjoying the things they enjoy. On the flipside, neural physiology is neural physiology whether it's in regards to cheese or sex. People don't choose their likes and dislikes. They simply are, all because our brains send whatever mix of electrical impulses and chemicals rushing through our system when the situation warrants.

So stop it. Just stop. Let people do what they want to do in peace. It's none of my business, none of your business. Rant and rave all you like about the things that people do. Go on a PETA crusade to free all the cute animals if that's what you think is best. But don't impede anyone from visiting KFC. Don't stop someone from seeing a movie which nobody is forcing you to see! That crosses the line from opinionated bullshit ranting (-cough-) into being an asshole.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


A man and his girlfriend enter the store one afternoon. They come up to the counter looking somewhat awkward. “Hi, we just moved into the area and you guys are like the only store around. How does it work to rent from you guys? Do I need to set up an account or something?”

Fernando says, “Yeah, but that process is quick and painless. Let me grab an application for you guys.” He does so and the new man looks it over.

Uh, we can come back some other time then to fill this all out because I don't have the address memorized or anything.”

Well, if you guys can fill in everything else then it's really no problem. Except the credit card info, there. I don't need that from you. Really, if you've got your license on you, we can fill in whatever we have and go from there. It's no problem.”

Really? That's cool of you.” He sets to work while his girlfriend browses. As he writes, the stranger makes small talk, “So do you work here, or...?”

Actually, I'm the Keeper of this Dominion. Fernando H. Stevens.” Fernando hands over one of his business cards and extends his hand. The gent's handshake is a weak one, but oh well.

They have since rented a number of movies and proved to be quite trustworthy customers. Hooray!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Time, Interest, These Things Matter Not

A lady comes into the store one evening. “Hey, what's a good movie that you've seen?”

Um. I really liked Burke and Hare but that one came out end of December.”

Wait, so you haven't seen these?” She points at the new release rack and nebulously targets titles like Breaking Dawn: Part 1 and All Things Fall Apart.

Not really. Puss In Boots, yes. The other newer ones not so much.”

Why not? Don't you work here?”

I do. 'Work' is kind of the operative word. I don't really find myself immersed in a film if I have to pause it or stop watching it every few minutes to help a customer.”

Take them home and watch them there.”

That would require me to have the free time and inclination to watch those movies after hours. I lack both on most days. Not to mention the movies would need to be in at the end of the night and if that's the case I did something terribly wrong.”

Well, I'm just going to take this one if you can't help,” she says, plucking the tag for Breaking Dawn.

Works for me. I'm not exactly the target demographic for that movie anyway.”

Fernando fills out the slip, she pays, and she leaves.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Movie of the Movie

One of Fernando's customers says to Fernando one evening, “So, Girl With the Dragon Tattoo's coming out this month, huh? That the Swedish version?”

No, that's the American adaptation.”

Says a lot about us when we have to remake every foreign movie but throw pissy-fits when some country like France wants to remake one of ours.”

Fernando never expected that sort of depth or insight from this individual. “Yeah, it does. But all they're really concerned with is how much money they can make off it. They released the Swedish version a couple years back and it didn't do so well, probably because people are too lazy to deal with subtitles, but people still stayed berserk over the book, and here we are.”

Yeah. As long as they can sniff out a way to make money off something, they'll do it.”

Amen to that.” He leaves, and Fernando's opinion of this customer was changed on that day.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Fernando speaks with Ronaldo one Saturday at the Dominion about topics great and small. The current subject was how Ronaldo knows a man named Sean Connery who plays on the sports teams at a nearby school and how his parents are certified awesome for giving their son that name. Then a vehicle pulls up and a child aged eight or ten clambers out of the passenger's side door. "Clambered" because his shape somewhat resembles a panda bear if panda bears were pasty and rust-colored instead of white and black. That boy will have diabetes issues down the road. He holds in his hands a paper cup bearing the Coca-Cola brand.

God, I hope he doesn't bring that in here,” says Fernando.

Ronaldo is confused for a moment, since this statement is quite unrelated to the current conversational thread. He turns and notices the lad, who stands in the parking lot and leans into the minivan to speak with his parental unit. “Doesn't look like it. I think he was just holding it--”

The boy then turns and pitches the cup out into the snow next to Fernando's building. “Or he's going to do that,” says Fernando, striding around the counter and out the door as Ronaldo watches. The boy has leaned into the van again and so does not notice Fernando wading into the two feet of snow where the cup lay. Our protagonist picks it up and finds that it is still half-filled with some variety of the sweet, dark liquid for which the Coca-Cola company is famous.

The boy and his mother, by this point, have passed behind Fernando and near the entrance to the Dominion. Fernando calls out to the young litterbug, “I think you dropped something,” and waggles the snow-encrusted cup.

The boy does not show any remorse for being caught in the act and the mother is profoundly apathetic towards her offspring's maltreatment of the world. “Oh,” he says, and takes the container back from Fernando. He opens the passenger-side door and replaces the cup inside the minivan, where it does not deface the earth nor Fernando's property, then rejoins his mother inside.

They rent some movies and depart. Fernando watches to make sure a redux of what just happened does not occur out of a prepubescent boy's spite, but it does not.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


The phone rings. The caller ID reads "Out of State." Fernando answers with his usual greeting.

"Yes, could I speak with whomever oversees your website maintenance?" asks the Indian-accented man on the line. It's news to Fernando that he even has a website.

"With whomever," eh? thinks Fernando, doubly-sure he's dealing with a telemarketer. He wracks his brain trying to remember who that could possibly be. Then he recollects who serves as his web wizard.

Fernando pitches his voice in the direction of nasal and affects a smarmy tone. "Yeah, what do you want?"

"I am calling on behalf of Easygrip Enterprises. We are having a special deal for businesses such as yourself."

"Wait a second. I'm the guy who does the inner-tubes stuff here. What makes you think I'd source this kind of delicate development out-of-house? Do you even know what we do here?"

"According to my records--"

"We are engaging in a momentous experiment! The sort of experiment you see only once every, two hundred years! I can't have such things plastered willy-nilly all over cyberspace for the pornographers to steal my thunder!"

"Sir, could we be serious for a second?"

"Sir? Sir!? I'll have you know I resent the human-centric biases in language with regard to honorifics! Do you know how many time's I've had to deal with some fool who insisted on being called "sir" or "lord" just because his parents happened to insist on being called "sir" or "lord"? Jeans and not genes, as my uncle always said! Did you know that my uncle invented jeans?"

"Sir, please."

"Oh, I get it. You just want to call here to take up my time on piffling matters of no great importance and you don't want to hear about my uncle. How rude! How--"

Fernando cuts off here because the telemarketer hangs up. "Why does nobody want to be my friend?" he wails to the empty store.