Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Downloadable games

I'm a big fan of downloadable media. Years of collecting movies and games have left me with bookshelves full of plastic cases, and I simply don't have room for another giant shelf to store another generation worth of plastic. I've grown used to getting my content through streaming or downloading, thanks largely to Apple's ecosystem. I can download games to my iPhone or iPad, stream movies to my Apple TV, and access my music anywhere, any time. I've used the Nintendo eShop to download a number of titles on my 3DS, and not just download-only games. The last couple of top-tier games I bought, I chose to download rather than get the physical copy in a store. Portable titles, however, seem to be where the convenience hits a turning point for me.

The other night I saw that Ubisoft was having a 30% off sale on the Wii U eShop. "Perfect!" I thought! "This is a perfect chance to get Assassin's Creed 3 on sale, and get some points for my Wii U digital promotion deal". The purchasing of the game was as easy as it could be, but possibly due to other people thinking along the same lines that I was, or maybe due to some other issue, the game hit errors 3 times during the download. I didn't notice these errors right away either. If I had wanted to play this game quickly, it would have been much easier to drive to a store, buy the game, come home, cook a turkey, eat, change in to some post turkey dinner sweat pants, and sit down to play. At the point the downloadable game might have hit its second error message.

What I'm really trying to say is the convenience isn't really there. With mobile titles, the sizes are small enough that I can wait a couple of minutes, grab a drink, and play my game. It's easy. With a console title, like AC3, the size (16 gb in this case) makes it so even on my super fast FibreOp connection, I still have to wait a long time. PS4 seems to have the right idea, claiming you can play while you download, but I'll wait to see this in action before I start singing it's praises.

That's my rant for the day. I love downloading games, hate long wait times, and believe that a better solution needs to be found before people really embrace digital content. What do you think? Do you download now? If so, what are your thoughts, and if not, what would make you consider switching to digital?

Friday, 22 February 2013

Humans 2.0

One of the first things I'd like to talk about in this blog isn't actually related to video games or anything I usually post about. At least not directly. I think one falls more in to the geek category. I'd like to share some thoughts... or more accurately... I'd like to open up some conversation about what it means to be human. I've been thinking for a while now, and asking people at random, about what they think about things like robotic augmentation. I've been reading things about 3D printed hands, limbs, etc. There was an article posted recently about an implant that will let blind people see shapes and light, which I'm sure will rapidly evolve one it gets approval and more funding. These kinds of breakthroughs are absolutely amazing! However, as a gamer and avid sci-fi fan, after the awe of scientific achievement sinks in, my mind immediately goes to fantasy. Games like Deus Ex: Human Revolution show a future where cybernetic body parts are readily available. It's not just for people who need it. Robotic parts can make these characters stronger and faster, so why not get rid of the messy fleshy bits and go with something new and shiny?

Right now, there's really no issue like this. If someone gets an artificial limb or organ, they're still human. They need that to live, or at least increase their quality of life. However, as we saw in the last summer Olympics, for the first time a runner with two artificial legs was able to compete, but only after great debate on whether it was fair or not. I think it's only a short matter of time before this kind of thing becomes a bigger issue.

If an athlete could have more powerful legs, or an artificial heart or lungs that didn't tire, obviously that could give them a giant competitive edge over "normal" people. There are a lot of avenues of discussion I could take this. For now, I want to focus on a specific scenario I have in mind.

Say there is an athlete that upgrades his legs. Following that, his heart, maybe lungs. At which point, if any, does the athlete cease being a human? This kind of question has been a topic of interest for the character Cyborg in DC's new Justice League series. For anyone not familiar with the character, he was a former athlete who's body was gravely injured in an attack, and his scientist father, not able to watch his son die, augmented his body with robotic parts to keep him alive. The big issue in the comic, and something that plagues the character, is the issue of his humanity. Is he still technically alive? If most of his body is robotic, is he still human? In a recent issue he willingly swapped out his one remaining lung, replacing it with a robotic breathing system that would allow him to go underwater to rescue the other heroes. He struggled with this choice, wondering how much further he could change himself and still remain human. As long as he still had his brain intact, he figures that still counts... for now.

Do you think he's right? Is "human" more about our consciousness and our ability to think and communicate and is the essence of that in our minds? As long as we have our minds intact, does the rest of our physical being matter that much? Would you call a war amp any less of a person? At what point does that change if people are changing themselves on purpose? I don't pretend to know the answers to these questions, but I like thinking about it.

I think the ramifications to these kinds of issues will be a major debate in the coming decades. The way technology is progressing, I think it's closer than we may think. I'd like to know your thoughts on this. Leave comments here, or go to the Facebook page and let me know what you think. Would you change or upgrade anything about yourself?

One final thought I'd like to leave you with is this. I can think of a lot of situations where changing out body parts for manufactured ones can save lives. It could be a great breakthrough in extending the life of someone that, given current technology, might not make it. Thinking along these lines though, I have to wonder, if there was ever a time when we hit a level of technology where a human consciousness could be effectively transmitted in to a computer, what would that mean? You would have the same memories, the same feelings, the same thoughts. It would essentially be you. You could even download your mind in to a robotic body that would never grow old, and if it was made to look like you, nobody might know the difference. In that situation, are you still a human? Do you still have rights? Do you have, if you believe in that sort of thing, a soul? Again, I have no idea if there is a clear way to answer this, but I believe in the future these issues will have to be addressed. WIll it happen in my lifetime, who knows, but eventually, I'm sure. This is the kind of weird shit that keeps me awake at night. Sorry if it now causes you to lose some sleep thinking about the possibilities. Again, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Even if you just want to tell me I'm crazy and need more sleep.

New blog!

I've decided to start a more traditional blog, in addition to my Facebook page. I find Facebook is good for posts and things like that, but a proper blog just felt better for longer thoughts. I'll still be posting on Facebook, and we'll see how things balance out. Most of my short thought bursts and news sharing will likely remain on there, and my longer thoughts, posts, and reviews will likely end up here. I hope you'll follow both and tell your friends. Thanks!