The internet’s been all-aflutter of late over the guys at gog.com and their recent marketing stunt. GOG.com – the “GOG” is for “good old games” – has been around for about two years. It’s a digital distribution platform for classic Windows games like the Master of Orion and Heroes of Might and Magic series.
GOG just moved out of beta, and to “generate some buzz” they peremptorily took the site down, as part of a hoax announcement they were shutting down for good. A few days later the site was back up, but the damage had been done. Everyone was howling like spider monkeys.
Now I don’t mind if a site needs to go down for an upgrade or server maintenance. Or whatever. Just tell me first, that’s all I ask. Don’t lead me to believe you’re going away and that I might never get a chance to download all the stuff I paid for.
But that's all the howling I'm gonna do. I’m utterly willing to forgive the GOGers. There’s nothing like gog.com out there, not that I know of. I’ll keep giving them my business no matter how many times they toy with my heart. Here are three reasons I love thee, gog.com:
1. 100% Web-based. Actually, I wouldn’t mind a GOG "client", showing a list of all the games I’ve downloaded. But such a program would just be a convenient organizer – with gog.com, you can get right to your games without an irritating intermediary pseudo-browser.
2. No digital rights management (DRM). You don’t buy a game with DRM, you rent it. If the game's servers ever go down -- if your Internet connection goes down! -- if the game's parent company ever disappears, so does your game. But not with gog.com! Once you buy a game from the goggers, it’s yours.
3. The prices and all the promotions. GOG.com charges just $6 or $10 for their games. That’s unbelievable, considering the stupendous buttload of entertainment-hours you’re getting. Plus, it seems like every other weekend GOG has a sale going on. I’ve gotten most of my games for $3 or $5. $5 for a game like Beyond Good and Evil – that’s beyond awesome.
“Wait a second, buck-o,” you say. “GOG.com only sells old games. That’s why they can price things the way they do.” And to that I would say “please, GOG, start selling new games, too.” Civilization V shows there’s still a market out there for immersive strategy games. There’s a level of complexity and richness to computer games that consoles, as great as they are, will never, ever be able to duplicate.
And I freely admit piracy is a huge problem – how can anyone justify stealing a game like World of Goo, made with love by a tiny developer probably just scraping by?
I don’t know what the answer is to the problem of piracy, I just know it's not DRM. I guess this is all I can say: any developer who puts a great game up for sale on gog.com DRM free has got my money.
I found this road sign just a few dozen yards from our apartment.
Whoever did this is a lot cooler and cleverer than me. If you haven't played Portal, you should! There's no excuse now since it's finally available on Mac.
In it, you play a plantation owner in 18th Century Puerto Rico, trying to out-produce and out-ship your opponents. Sounds boring, but it’s not. That’s the essence of a Euro game: take an obscure little nook of history – no violence, no war – and make it utterly fascinating.
My brother joined the army about a year ago, and while in IET – that’s “Initial Entry Training”, the training you do after boot camp – he tried to get some of the guys together for a game of good ol’ Puerto Rico. Who wouldn’t love Euro games, after all?
Much to his surprise, and much to mine (here’s where I get knocked out of orbit) some of the guys, who were actually from Puerto Rico, weren’t so crazy about the idea of the game.
It’s sort of a dirty secret/joke that Puerto Rico involves the subject of slavery.
There’s a mechanic in the game involving little brown “colonists” who arrive on a ship from “Europe” overseen by the “mayor”. But those little “colonists” ain’t colonists. They come from overseas, sure... but not from Europe. And it ain’t no “mayor” shipping ’em over.
The euphemism didn’t seem so funny or cute or charming after my brother’s story. You can hardly blame those guys from Puerto Rico, whose ancestors had actually endured slavery, if they didn’t want to have anything to do with the game.
The argument “it’s just a game, relax,” actually holds a lot of water with me. But then again, I’m not Puerto Rican. If humor is in the eye of the beholder, then so is offense. I’m sure the game wouldn’t rub everyone with African ancestry the wrong way... but the people in my brother’s tale are army guys, and therefore presumably pretty tough. Not the sort who look for excuses to bitch and moan.
With that in mind, imagine you’ve got some friends over. You decide to whip out one of your Euro games, but one or more of these friends are black.
Would you choose Puerto Rico? Maybe so, but further suppose these are new friends. You don’t know them all that well. Would you still choose Puerto Rico? Really?
I don't think the author of Puerto Rico had anything but the best intentions while making his masterpiece. And Puerto Rico is a masterpiece. Nothing can take away from that. I will continue to play and love it. The game is not “racist”; calling it as such would be absurdly histrionic.
But had the game been created by someone from the United States (which would be impossible, given how different US games are from Euro games, but that’s another story), it would never have involved slavery.
Part of what kills me about Puerto Rico is that the game could work just as well in almost any setting. You could set it in the Wild West, substituting cowboys for African slaves and horses and bison for corn and coffee. Hell, you could set the game on the moon; Race for the Galaxy and Twilight Imperium use a lot of the same mechanics are Puerto Rico.
So I guess, like a lot of things, Puerto Rico is “complicated”. While it’s a great game – among the greatest – it doesn’t change the fact that slavery is an excruciating, living legacy. It’s not a joke, and it’s definitely not a game. In a perfect world we’d all just take a deep breath and move on.
But we don’t live in a perfect world.
Version .73 -- God bless ya, DOSBox development team. Don't know what DOSBox is all about? Ohhhh my...