In the third age of written history, there was a time of technological proliferation. People gradually enjoyed a higher standard of living in Western countries, as each year came and passed, and their options for entertainment increased as well. Instead of going outside and doing things like “playing ball”, kids stayed inside – even adults stayed inside, mesmerized by the moving pictures on TV sets. More splendidly, they played electronic games, even before they had good graphics or enjoyable gameplay. The people rejoiced, for sitting on their collective asses was far more enjoyable than exerting energy to “do stuff.” Though the gaming industry floundered and nearly disappeared from the annals of history more than a few times before the third millenium, it persevered.

Though technology was around every corner and increasingly in their pockets, Al Gore had not  yet bestowed upon people the Internet, you know the thing from the 50s, and so the world was still a large place filled with ignorance and foreigners. Games were released on computer and when a game company wanted to make some additional money off of that game and add more content to it that they believed people would buy, and probably enjoy, they released expansion packs. Expansion packs were entire new discs, in entirely different boxes, and they were less expensive than the original game. They added whole new experiences to games, and were loved by many. If a game did not merit an expansion pack, well then, it was not that good. Expansion packs were not downloaded; the developers were not a millisecond away, and patches in the early days took some time to be released.

Insert absurd stock photo here.

At the dawn of the third millennium  though, the modern Internet was descended from the heavens, and yay, the people rejoiced. Much revelry was had in sharing songs on Napster, allowing people to hear music they never would have heard before or would have had trouble hearing without knowing the right places to go and the right people. Patches could be downloaded easier. Web pages were becoming ever fancier – people could communicate without ever seeing each other. Tom Hanks could fall in love with Meg Ryan for the 13th time without her ever learning that he was the one who screwed her over in real life. People could shoot each other more reliably in online games. In fact, there were online games. Game-playing types rejoiced in what was often thought to be a great time to be bored.

Unbeknownst to the good Men of the West, an evil that ever lay dormant in the East had arisen from its slumber. It gazed across the land at the free men who so enjoyed their liberty and comfortable lifestyle. Over time it grew angry, disgusted; it broiled with hatred. Jealous of their freedom and readily available flags of all sizes, it lashed out and destroyed one of the most iconic landmarks in modern history, killing unspeakable amounts of innocents with its incredibly successful, dastardly schemes. Schemes so loathsomely toiled over that they violated the very laws of chemistry and physics. Schemes so well-crafted by evil geniuses that they slipped past the best army in the entire realm.

Much to the Evil Axis’ chagrin, however, its plan backfired. The Men of the West grew bold, impetuous, and incensed`. They grew angry and violent. They called upon the Eagles, and beneath their shrill cries, did battle in the arid wastelands of the East. More importantly, they developed interesting new technologies, and vastly improved the old. The IT bubble crashed and technology proliferated among the Western peasants like never before.

A new age of Internets was born, wherein everything was flashier, faster, cheaper, ubiquitous and most importantly: easy to access. The modern home entertainment console, called the game console, rose up again and struck upon the face of his older brother – the computer – a mighty blow. He proclaimed he would no longer suffer the elder’s theft of the spotlight, and worked to emulate him at the same time, that he may better replace him. The console accused the PC of being a nerd, and it stuck. Computer saw his friends become distant, saw them sticking their cords into other holes.

The years dragged on and the gaming stores all changed, virtually overnight. What once were walls nearly covered by computer game boxes transformed into smaller, sleeker, newer packages – packages not compatible with computers. Computer games were involuntarily re-located to the nethers of the stores. The word  Computer or PC gradually disappeared from written text in those stores. Trying his best to evolve, computer did it’s best to fit in, but it still stayed in the back – so alone. In time, computer learned that it’s only way to survive was to give itself willingly – to submit to conformity. It found new friends on the internet and they propelled its success back to the old glory days, helping him as a distributor, handler, and protector all at the same time.

When I was your age, this was a computer game store.

Then came the dark ages. A disease swept across the land, affecting first the computer’s younger siblings. It tore out their innards, took pieces of them and held them for ransom. They stumbled around, half-alive, half-conscious, stricken with amnesia and not quite sure what they were, as if their purpose was unfulfilled. Computer gazed  upon them, decidedly unworried. He felt no inseparable bond to them, no unconditional love. Unaffected, he continued about his business, living still in the shadow of the afflicted. Little did he know, he too would soon fall prey to the disease.

The Men and Women of the West noticed little. They continued to make use of such software, often times not realizing what lie before their very eyes. Many did not see the holes, the missing parts – the content held hostage by the most greedy of the plague spirits. Some saw what was happening and ignored it, hopeful that the plague would not grow into an epidemic.

Eventually what some feared came to pass, and the Great Scourge was made. It affected every game, and every person. Lobotomized games roamed the stores, cascaded across the shelves, and flashed their grotesque faces across the internet. Before long, there came a time when few remained who could recall a vision of games before the Scourge. Few could relive the memories of the games that once were. Many came to defend the Scourge, to support its way of being. Although they could not see it – as the Scourge had no tangible , audible, or visible form on its own – they threw themselves in front of it, ecstatic to perpetuate its existence, despite all the while being ignorant of what it was. Some of the older gamers, some younger – free spirits, all, in a sense – attempted to prevent it from spreading. Many suggested boycotts, or theft, but it made no difference. A greater number of them, yet, were hypocrites – they sought to make a stand against the plague in one place but welcomed it into their homes, or the homes of others, at the same time.

So it was that the Great Scourge of Gamerovia inserted itself into life. It refused to go away, it divided its victims, and stood on the precipice of immortality.

Is there any hope? No, seriously, is there any hope of returning gaming to the way it used to be, before the internet enabled every publisher in the industry to prey on consumers like a flock of raptors in a sheep farm? I don’t think so. Unless literally every gamer boycotts it across the board, DLC is going to continue. Frankly, some DLC is good – it is welcomed, and we want it. So how can we possibly establish a ruleset for the publishers by which the worth or value of DLC is determined?

One thing I think needs to be mandatory, one way or another, is an actual look at what the fuck we are buying. Xbox Live Marketplace offers you absolutely no preview nor information whatsoever on what it is you are about to buy, as far as DLC goes. If it’s a Rock Band song, yea, you probably know what to expect. If it’s an actual game, yea,  you get an overview and screenshots and community rating. PSN is the same way, you don’t see what you’re getting in the slightest bit. At the very least, that gives us some sliver of a clue whether or not this is worth our money. It’s not impossible to tell what you’re getting, and they aren’t necessarily tricking us into buying anything, but it’s undeniable that a preview would help them as much as it would help us. There is no store in existence at this point in time where you can’t get some preview of the product. We’re talking about the internet here. It’s all bits and pixels – there is nothing real, no risk of theft or copying, before buying.

We aren’t talking Oblivion or Skyrim or Fallout DLC where the PC version is easily torrentable. Consoles, consoles, consoles, oh for the love of jesus consoles. Primarily a PC Gamer as I may be, I own a PS3 and a 360 and a Wii and I own a lot of games for those consoles that I like to play or might like to play, if I had time. I might be even further interested in purchasing DLC. I’ve certainly done it before. I’ve bought DLC for Operation RC, RE5, RE6, Soul Calibur, and a lot of other games on console alone. I’ve unfortunately even bought CoD DLC on Steam before, much to my discredit. I more or less knew what I was getting with those – mostly on-disc locked content to be frank.

I read the sites like Destructoid, PCG, Kotaku, RPS, Gizmodo, and whatever else, mostly to pass the time because there is very little I read from either “game journalists” (idiots) or “gamers” (also idiots) about which I can pass up a chance to argue with them. I see people who say the same thing I do. Unfortunately, I also see people who say nonsense like “Just don’t buy it”. It doesn’t work that way. If you don’t buy it, someone will. If anyone buys it, it tells the publishers it’s perfectly fine to chop up a game into little pieces and charge you $150 or more for one game – ONE. One collectors edition with everything ever included? No, one base game, plus the extra 90 you pay for DLC.

Wonderfully enough this all ties into other marketing aspects for games. I’ve seen people complain about collectors editions, and they’re right. The majority of collector’s editions are rip-offs. Assassin’s Creed 3 came with a flag, a belt buckle, and a statue. While I’m into two of those things and those are why I bought it, it came with absolutely no ingame content (other than the boarding axe, oh wow). It didn’t come with a season pass. For $100 or whatever I paid, that’s unacceptable. Drake’s Deception was the same way. Tomb Raider collectors edition which comes out on Tuesday, I’m pretty sure that includes a minimal of actual game content as well.

A boycott will not work to stop these predatory practices by the publishers and those developers who are okay with it. So what exactly are we supposed to do?