April 16th, 2015


Huge Shelves.

My father had a huge video collection on VHS. When I was growing up we had a VCR next to every television. This was the world before the internet, on-demand programming, or DVRs. Back then if you wanted to watch a show more than once you either waited for a re-run or you set your VCR to record the show on a primitive, film-based video cassette.

My dad loved VHS tapes. He was on a first-name basis with the owner of a local video rental store, and when that store went out of business my dad was there to take two of their gigantic video shelves before they could be sent off to the landfill. Those things stretched from floor to ceiling, a constant presence that dominated the living room. If we wanted a video, we'd go to those shelves and browse the selection on offer. Movies, TV shows, home videos, cartoons, and sports programming were all represented in that collection.

Those shelves were more than just my dad's personal collection, it was a record of all our lives. My personal video cassettes contained Saturday morning cartoons and episodes of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. My middle brother recorded episodes of Saved by the Bell, and my second-oldest brother recorded wrestling matches. At any family event, my father could be counted on to be standing in the distance with a camcorder on his shoulder. Those recorded memories would be added to the shelves, so any one of us could view them at any time. Weddings, family reunions, graduations, and singular moments such as the first time I was sat on the lap of a mall Santa and told him what I wanted for Christmas.

When we moved into a smaller place, my mother tried to forbid my dad from taking his video collection with him. We simply didn't have the space to accommodate all those video cassettes. My father seemed to comply at first, but then Dad knocked on my door in the middle of the night. He instructed me and my middle brother to follow him into the U-Haul truck, and we moved all those boxes of cassettes into our new home.

My mother woke up to a nasty surprise. To say that she was furious to find her hallway stuffed with boxes of old VHS cassettes would be an understatement. Seeing the need to save space, I suggested to Dad that maybe he could start a DVD collection instead. I even purchased a VHS/DVD copying machine and gave it to him as a Christmas present, so that he could transfer his favorite videos to more space-friendly DVDs. He never used it.

At the time I didn't understand my dad's obsession with those primitive cassettes. They were old tech, after all, and DVDs were so much better in every conceivable way. Then again, I wasn't a fan of physical media in the first place. I was in the MP3 generation; I wanted to download everything and save it to a hard drive, or stream it online. I didn't have time to waste fumbling with discs, and I certainly didn't want to clutter my living space with them.

I don't care about VHS, DVDs, or Blu-Ray discs. Give me Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and Vudu. I'd even went so far as to put my book collection into storage and replace it with an Amazon Kindle reading device. Physical media, in my mind, is dead.

But Dragon Age: Inquisition was approaching its retail release.

As a fan of the Dragon age series despite the abysmal failure that was Dragon Age 2, I naturally pre-ordered the game disc and waited for the magical day to arrive. On my Playstation 4 I would often pass by advertisements for the digital version of the game and not give them a second glance. I didn't even stop to consider the digital version to be an option for me, even once.

When the day came I waited for the UPS delivery truck to arrive at my house. The thought did cross my mind that I could have been playing the new game more than 12 hours ago if I'd purchased the digital version, but why would I want to do that? Of course I wanted the physical disc; it was just so much BETTER than some immaterial digital copy.

When the game arrived I eagerly tore off the wrapping and opened the case. I inserted the disc into the console with ritualistic familiarity and waited for it to install. I imagined how nice the disc case would look on my video game shelf, which is filled with titles for the Xbox 360, PS3, PS Vita, Nintendo 3DS, Xbox One, and PS4. My collection would be much larger and encompass a much wider range of consoles, but it was only fairly recently in my life that time, circumstance, and money allowed me to start my own collection. In the future I hope to expand my collection to include games and consoles from all over gaming history, from the Atari 2600 to present day devices. I want games from the NES, SMS, SNES, Genesis, PS1, N64, Saturn, Dreamcast, and so on and so forth.

This is the point when I realized that I have much more in common with my father than I like to admit. Our entertainment mediums of choice may be different, but the same kind of passion drives me to collect game discs and cartridges as drove him to collect VHS tapes. Perhaps someday, if I ever have children, there'll be huge shelves filled with games that will be as much a part of their lives as my father's shelves of VHS tapes.

Who knows? I, for one, am no longer going to view the collection of physical media as a waste of time.

Cloud Busted.

So, I just learned today that OnLive no longer exists as a company. They've gone out of business, and at the end of this April 2015 the lights will go out on their servers. This means every game, every save file, an OnLive customer may have will be gone forever.

I can't say I didn't see this coming from miles away. It comes as a disappointment, but I'm not surprised by this outcome. I'd seen the writing on the wall years ago and jumped ship. The last entry I made on the subject of OnLive was all the way back in 2012, and I had some less than flattering things to say about it.

Back when OnLive was first announced I was blown away by the technology. My immediate thought was "this is the future!" I was an instant fan. I created an OnLive account the very instant they began taking sign ups. I purchased a Microconsole and filled my library with games. I became a regular on the OnLive forums and became a somewhat respected member of the community. I have an OnLive beanie hat which I won in a contest, and I my profile had a special avatar that I also won.

I began sensing that all was not well with OnLive back in 2011. There had been signs previously, such as games being delayed or canceled, but the E3 announcement of that years and the monthe following was when it really became obvious that OnLive was doomed. The forum was sent into a state of turmoil and confusion. Dissatisfied fans vented their frustrations (myself among them), only to be rebuffed by true believers who refused to admit that something was very wrong. Even after OnLive went bankrupt in 2012, the atmosphere among the OnLive fanbase was one of intense denial.

"Just be patient" became something of a mantra. The OnLive faithful constantly assured those who were dissatisfied that things would get better soon. There was always some reason why OnLive couldn't deliver on its promises, but would soon. "They need to renegotiate contracts," or "they're restructuring," or "Just wait until E3" were common excuses. They said the same lines month after month after year after year.

It got so bad that even the creator of the original OnLive fan forum lost faith. He abandoned the OnLive forum and made a new one for Ouya instead. I guess this guy just has a penchant for making fan communities for failed experiments.

I made my final break from OnLive during the time leading up to the launch of the PS4 and Xbox One. At that time I still had an OnLive Microconsole connected to my TV, mostly because I was too lazy to remove it. Actually, I think it's because a part of me still held out some small hope that things would get better.

My original plan, back in 2011, was to use OnLive as my main gaming platform and skip buying the next gen consoles entirely; maybe picking one up for the exclusives after the price had gone down. My mid 2012 I was purchasing console copies of games I had for OnLive because I knew the company's days were numbered. I got the PS4 and Xbox One on launch day. When it came time to hook up my PS4 I noticed the OnLive microconsole, sitting alone and neglected, having not been used in months. I finally put the thing out of its misery. I disconnected it, stuffed it in a closet, and used the ethernet cable it was taking up to connect my PS4 instead.

I continued to visit the OnLive forum solely because I'd become familiar with the people there, but soon even that wasn't enough. I haven't visited the OnLive forum in over half a year. Now OnLive is dead, but it wouldn't surprise me if there were still some diehard fans convinced that it will come back.

I'm just glad I jumped ship when I did.