Monday, March 26, 2012

How to Fix Call of Duty, Part 2: What Can We Do?

In Part One, I talked about how Activision/Infinity Ward/Treyarch (from now on, collectively referred to as "the publisher") should utilize bungee balancing for short-term balance fixes while also spending the time and money to make a long-term commitment to the CoD community. In this, part 2, I'm going to tell you what you can do as a player to help fix Call of Duty.

Maybe you've heard the term "dollar votes" before?
The dollar vote is a concept economists use to describe how, in a market economy, consumers effectively vote for products—as well as how those products are produced, transported, marketed and sold—by spending their dollars. Through our “consumer sovereignty” we have the power to make our preferences known, one dollar vote at a time.
Every time you buy a CoD game, you are explicitly endorsing the publisher's business model. It doesn't matter if you boycott buying the game on release day, or you wait one month after release to buy the DLC*. They get the money. The publisher is always thinking about the money, especially for publicly traded companies (EA, Activision Blizzard, Capcom, Square Enix, Take-Two, Microsoft, and Ubisoft are all public companies).

* It does marginally matter if you wait to buy the game, but not enough to actually make a difference. 

The only way you are reasonably going to get to companies is to hit them where it hurts: the balance sheet. And there's only one way to do that.

Don't buy the game (new*).

* Buying the game used usually doesn't give the publisher any money, so you can buy it used without helping the publisher. Of course, for you to buy it used, someone has to buy it new, so you're still supporting the system... sort of. If you can't live without the game, then buy it used.

Unless, of course, you need an online pass or other code to make the game work for you. Then the rule still applies: don't buy it.

You may be asking, "But Ed, MW3 sold eighty bajillion copies in the first minute of sales. How can one person not buying a game make a difference?" And you're right; if only one fewer person buys a game, the publisher won't notice. But you can't use that excuse to justify buying the game in spite of your own protests. It's a concept similar to Kant's categorical imperative:
A moral maxim must have universality, which is to say that it must be disconnected from the particular physical details surrounding the proposition, and could be applied to any rational being. This leads to the first formulation of the categorical imperative: "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law without contradiction."
In short, this means that you can only justify your actions if, were everyone were to do the same thing, you'd be cool with the outcome. The classic example is stealing: you may steal something because you think only stealing one thing isn't going to hurt anyone. But if everyone was OK with stealing, then everyone would steal, and property as we know it wouldn't exist.

Applied to games like Call of Duty, if you think there is a problem with the game, you have to not buy the game, period.

Now, I don't really think we (meaning myself and the people who I think might read this blog) are going to convince the millions of 12-year-olds to not buy the next Call of Duty. But it's entirely possible that, if the demographic of CoD gamers became increasingly underage gamers, Activision would be forced to change. Additionally, if you don't buy CoD, you might buy something else, like Medal of Honor, Nexuiz, Battlefield, Bioshock, Metro 2033/Last Light, or Quake. And you'd support that game, rising it up. And maybe, just maybe, things might change for the CoD titan.

Addendum: Since I started writing this post, Mass Effect 3 was released. And gamers played it and beat it. And complained about the ending. Loudly. And Bioware/EA looks to be actually changing their tune about the ending, possibly changing it. Nothing is certain yet, and The Consumerist summed it up well:
What is for certain is if BioWare and EA truly want the entire gaming world to hate them, they will create satisfying endings — and then charge a pile of cash to download it.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Please Send Me Your Updated Contact Information

I started seeing a chiropractor recently. When I created the contact for them in my Google account, I opened the chiropractor's website and entered in all the data I could find: phone, fax, address, website, email, company name, anything I could find. Then, three weeks later, I had to update the address in my contacts because they relocated. And that was annoying!

I have 785 contacts in my Google account. On a cursory glance at the first 20, at least 5 of them were either entirely out-of-date, contained inaccurate or old information, or were for people I don't even recall adding. The data in those contacts wasn't always stale and incorrect, but people change phone numbers, employers, addresses, and emails.

As I was fixing the chiropractor's contact details, a thought came to mind. I am making a duplicate copy of the chiropractor's contact details. The original is with the chiropractor themselves. My programmer brain said to me, "Why don't you just link to the existing data rather than create your own copy? It's just reference data." Just at that moment, I attempted to log into Stackoverflow and was redirected to the Google 3rd-party authentication page. And I realized, "This is it." Use something like OAuth, but for contacts. Let me subscribe to a person's contact details. They can manage that with whatever site they want. Facebook and Google+ offer this sort of management with lists and circles, respectively. But don't make me use these sites. Make it an open protocol that any site can implement. Then I can just put in an email address and BOOM I am subscribed (the domain of the email can be the key for what site to check).

I suppose that Google+ and Facebook are sort of trying to do this. If you friend someone on Facebook, and if that person keeps their contact details up-to-date on Facebook, and you use some service to connect Facebook to your contact list (Android offers this natively, I assume iOS and WP7 have similar tools), you can approximate the behavior I'm looking for. But it's kind of a hack; specific APIs and whatnot.

webfinger is much closer to what I'm thinking about, but it lacks the privacy controls natively (as far as I can tell). Also, it's probably too neckbeard for widespread adoption.

Really, this is a pet peeve of mine more than a serious issue. But the technology exists to make contact management really simple. Let's do it.

I have no fun images or quotes for this post. I apologize. Here is a funny image I made to describe to my boss what the future looks like:

All rights reserved. Take that!