Friday, 18 September 2009

Die, Electronic Arts, die

A randomly-chosen
character from RA2

Ok, I admit it. I play games. I'm 47 and I play games. Why? A host of reasons; they relax me, it's a way to share a hobby with the kids, they're good for the brain (if you choose carefully) but most of all this; they're clever. You're not just playing a game; you're getting into the mind of the person who wrote it.

I've worked with computers all my adult life, and games have always pushed what they can do. It takes a very bright team of people to make that little box under the desk jump and hum the way some games force it to; extraordinary graphics, other-worldly sounds, and an intelligence that in the best games, runs rings around the gamer.

Westwood Studios were among the brightest and best for a long time. Their Command and Conquer games were witty, sharp, imaginative. Time and again they pushed their own envelope to produce a game that engaged the imagination for long enjoyable evenings. They were among the first to produce a game that could be networked allowing two or more players to share a game. Gaming became a social activity and a very enjoyable one. Read Alert 2 is still one of the best games ever; try it if you haven't already.

Then along came Electronic Arts. They bought out Westwood and proceeded to milk the franchise with a series of dull and lifeless titles. But worse - they got greedy. Westwood used to give away an extra CD with each game so you could play with a buddy. This is way too generous for EA. Go out and buy two.

But with their latest title, the execrable Red Alert 3, they've gone a step further. It's not a great game; recycled humour and washed-up actors grinding out a tired plot. Much has been made of DRM (Digital Rights Management) which only lets you install the game five times; then your expensive DVD is a coaster. But I can live with DRM, because the game was hyped as one where you can play along with someone else. My two sons were dead keen; and father-son time is a precious thing.

So here's the added twist, and the one that's really hacked me off. To play a network game you need to register with an e-mail address. So my younger son registered and promptly forgot which address he'd used. He's 13 - what did they expect?

The result? Having bought two copies of this game, I can't play on a network with my kids, regardless of the hype. EA support is non-existent; we can't reset it. My game is a coaster before I ever expected it to be.

A new C and C title is in the works. It'll be the first that I won't buy. I don't think I'll be alone. People of Westwood, if you're still out there, buy your poor broken company off these idiots and give us our games back.


  1. I couldn't agree with you more. Well, I could if I knew something about electronic games, which I don't. But I do agree that the continual electronic globalisation of everything, from Microsoft to EA, which is from work to home, is bloody irritating. And another thing: yesterday I went to Microsoft web help to find out something to do with Outlook. One of there FAQ's is "How to print a list of delegates to a meeting". The answer? "you can't!" AARGH!!

  2. Randomly chosen character. Pfft.


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