Microsoft Apologizes for Employee’s “Always Online” Comments, But Gamers Go Apeshit Anyway

Rumor Mill Fed By Unwitting Employee Goes Apeshit

You’ve probably heard the rumor going around for the last several months: Xbox 720 or 420 or whatever-the-hell they decide to call it will be an “always online” games console. For the time being, it’s just a rumor, though with several allegedly reliable sources backing it up. Yesterday, the proverbial shit hit the fan when a Microsoft employee started an ill-advised Twitter conversation.  They claimed that such a concept was “no big deal,” even though he confirmed nothing. Microsoft has since apologized for his foolishness. But instead of thinking things through before letting their heads explode, gamers are up in a rage-filled screamfest. They are stamping their virtual feet and waggling their virtual e-swords even in a complete and total absence of facts. Let that sink in for a moment, people:

Gamers are allowing themselves to be worked into a drooling foam over unsubstantiated rumors. Is that really who you want to be, gamers? The angry children of the internet? Really?

Let’s Reason a Bit

As gamers, we’re in the interesting position of being smack in the middle of an industry just starting to really mature. It’s finally reached the point where games are being genuinely talked about and appreciated for the artistry they sometimes convey. They’re noted for their ability to tell interesting stories and engage with audiences through well-written characters. At the same time, the traditional arts of the world, as they always do, are still fighting back. They are still arguing over what is “real art” or not.

Much of this discussion hinges around the conception of games as “for children,” or as gamers as being children or child-like. There’s a reason for this, of course. People typically believe art meant for children is not on the same level as art meant for adults. Now, whether that’s fair or not is up for debate. It’s nevertheless a divide that exists in people’s perceptions, and when it comes to gaming, some of that comes from the perception of gamers themselves. We all know the stereotype of the fat, lazy gamer, sitting in his parents’ basement, munching chips, working a fast food job to support his gaming habit, all the while thinking no deeper than his next headshot in Call of Duty.

And you know what? Gamers are to blame for those stereotypes. Head over to any of a dozen big gaming sites and look at the rage and fury filled comments from gamers, practically foaming at the mouth, over a rumor about whether the next Xbox will be an always online console. It’s positively mind numbing to watch people who are often perfectly reasonable devolving into these screaming children. And they’re doing it over a rumor.

We Don’t Know Yet

The simple fact of the matter is this: we do not yet know whether the next Xbox will require an internet connection to play even offline games. We don’t know if it really has an 8 core AMD processor or GPU; nor do we know if it has 4, 6 or 8GB of RAM. We don’t know if it’ll really run Windows RT or 8 or whatever. It may or may not be backwards compatible. We know Microsoft is developing an Xbox console, games makers and retailers are being filled in on some level of detail under NDA, and that it’ll undoubtedly be called “Xbox” something or other.

If we as gamers want to be taken seriously, and more importantly, want others to take our favorite entertainment option seriously, we need to calm the fuck down. We should wait for official, concrete information directly from the source, and pass judgment at that time.

One other note: Orth was right: being an “always online” console isn’t a big deal. The Wii was an “always online” console 7 years ago. Both Xbox 360 and PS3 make heavy, deep use of online features. PS4 and Xbox 420/720/whatever will grow that. The question is not and should not be whether the next Xbox will require online. It is what will it require online for? If it’s for things like automatic updating of games, downloading patches, syncing your game saves and preferences to your online account so you don’t lose anything, then it’s no harm, no foul. If it’s some kind of DRM nightmare that keeps you from playing even your store-bought retail games without an internet connection, then yes, there’s a problem and Microsoft deserves to be called out on it.

But for right now? Stop gnashing your teeth. It makes you look like an angry child, and that’s the last thing the gaming community needs right now.

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