Opinion/Humor: An open letter to video game developers.

Dear friends,

And friends you are, have no doubt.  But I’ve noticed in the last few years, that there’s a long-standing issue we haven’t addressed. Do you realize, as an industry, you have been the downfall of millions and millions of children?  Innocent elementary-schoolers playing side-scrollers.  Voracious young women destroying records on racetracks.  Curious young people exploring all the myriad wonders of any number of universes. You are ruining them.

Allow me to explain.  Your average 15-year-old boy is playing inFAMOUS Second Son, like you do.  He’s having a marvelous time, satisfying that desire to spray paint walls that all teenagers have but most find not worth acting upon.  It’s a fair trade, and perhaps he’ll learn something about Banksy (no qualms have I against your educational proclivities, my friends).

It’s now nearing 5:15pm, and his father has returned home from the store.  This find upstanding parental figure is beginning to prepare dinner and goes to throw away a meat wrapper when he notices the bin is too full to contain anything else.  Oh dear.  He calls out to the son to please take out the trash.

“Just a minute, Dad,” the son calls back.

“No, now please,” replies the increasingly frustrated father.  He can’t very well pick up that pot roast off the counter and take out the trash and wrangle the dog and answer the demanding ring of his iPhone.

“Just a sec, Dad, I have to get to a save point!” the boy pleads.

“Son…!”

And here is where this innocent child must choose his sacrifice.  He can forfeit his virtual life, coming under fire from both above and below, unable to find cover (and here you might think, perhaps the boy could pause, do this small duty and return safely, but no, consider if this were an MMO, please!  There is no pause.  There is only AFK).  Or he risks his very freedom, that which defines him as a teenager, to play video games, shoot hoops, even possess a smartphone.

There is one simple concept that could save this boy the torment he will inevitably suffer: allow him to save his game.  Anywhere.  At any time.  At the push of a button.  Save this young soul the torment of an impossible choice: his avatar or himself.  That is no choice at all for a child to make.

Let me also – as a married partner of two years – bring to light how this wicked affliction can continue even into adulthood.  The wife, choosing from the goodness of her tender heart to craft a nutritious meal for herself and her husband, calls that dinner is served.  The husband, down the hall in his office, enveloped in the music of mayhem that is Diablo 3, hears her entreating him to join her for this meal.  He bashes a few more heads and calls back to her, thinking he will pause and avail himself of his beloved’s culinary expertise in “just a few more minutes.”

She waits, a patient creature, and calls again.

I think you know where this is going.

I beseech you, oh powerful and benevolent programmers, project managers, beta-testers… Please, give us what we so deeply desire.  Give us the ability to save.  Let us save not only ourselves, but our relationships, our partner’s trials and tribulations, our groundings and repossessions.  Give us… freedom.

Save us.

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