The Gamesmen Minigame is an article series of opinionated editorials that are both featured on the front page and presented in audio form as well. The audio for this article can be found here.
I cannot help but think that rarely any past truths concerning our hobby hold true anymore. For example: video gaming is exclusively for nerds, being able to return software as a result of the code itself being incomplete and broken, or(and perhaps most importantly) Collector’s Editions of games ACTUALLY offering reason to warrant coveting them. The latter is becoming more and more prevalent as developers and/or publishers try to pawn off valueless goods at a premium markup.
Any gaming enthusiast born before the late 1980’s(myself included) can effortlessly and almost transparently see though the “hardcore” offerings for a majority of these proposed unique SKUs. The interactive digital entertainment that I enjoy on an almost daily basis has nothing to do with remote-controlled cars. I do not require night-vision goggles, nor does my cat have need for a futuristic crash helmet. Don’t give me redeemable codes for exclusive in-game content that no other owners can obtain… until they digitally purchase it TWO WEEKS LATER. Decals or temporary tattoos do not interest me. Plastic “Bat-a-rangs” and vinyl figurines look invariably tacky on your shelf, too- even before you get married and your wife has to draw it out for you. If you’re going to tout poker chips, at least give me enough to have the boys over for a few hands of cards. And for God’s sake, if you are including a novelty USB-drive, have the common courtesy to ensure that it works.
Who Got It Right? Halo 3, That’s Who.
So, if the aforementioned items are the brainchild of irrelevance, what should be included when you desire the “entire experience” that a certain title offers up? There are a plethora of franchises that have gotten it right: Gears of War, Halo 3, the Call of Duty Hardened Editions, Dragon Age: Origins, Metroid Prime Trilogy, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Ultimate Sith Edition, and most recently, Mafia II(the inspiration for this article) among others. Each of these items contain features relevant to the well-trodden path that a piece of software takes from inception to culmination and possess almost to the letter what I expect as a “collector”. What are my criteria, you say? Hmmm…
Art Books/Mini-Lithographs/Timeline Material. Every gamer that I’ve come in contact with in my 34 years of existence has had one dream that unified them: the seething appetency to be involved in at least part of any game’s development. Concept art coupled with other pre-and-post-production materials award us a small glimpse in that very window we yearn to crawl through. Being able to read about and/or see a character’s growth over an 18+ month development cycle even serves to further that pseudo sense of intimacy.
Bonus Disc(s) With Behind the Scenes Footage and/or Commentary. These are significant for the same reasons as art, but offer that conversance in a moving picture format. Also, it is truly great to see ACTUAL HUMANS creating digital entertainment that are flesh and blood, just as their target audience. I may be out of turn when appearing to speak for everyone, but do we not value seeing clips of design meetings and early animatics? A resounding “yes” from this seat.
Mafia II Collector’s Edition: The Perfect Example.
Orchestrated Soundtracks. In-game audio is arguably the area where this current generation of games has progressed the most. Sound design and production coupled with solid composition has become equally as important as visuals. We want to be awestruck by unadulterated versions of of a title’s OST.
Cloth Maps. In actuality, these are optional. Cloth maps are extraneous to be certain, but this is the perfect area for our “nerdiness” to shine through. The point here is that going overboard isn’t necessarily a concern as long as everything is condensed and does NOT take up extra space(and I had an uphill battle convincing my wife of even that).
Steelbook, Steelbook, Steelbook. What value has a Collector’s Edition with out a Steelbook? “None”, I say! Peanut butter without jelly, eggs without bacon, spaghetti without garlic bread- ludicrous. When a cartoon mouse tries to hand me an artbook that I must in turn place in a plastic, eco-friendly case, I say “no thank you”. This is a bulletpoint that turns a videogaming experience in to an heirloom with a legacy and should be ratified the absolute baseline.
This, my friends, is a recipe for what a hoarder of special items seeks when demanding more from a game. Save the chintzy dime-store trinkets and overpriced novelties that will have inevitably fallen apart this time next year. Perhaps some of those truths I spoke of earlier aren’t really all that far off, even at this point. They simply need to be modified a bit: Collector’s Editions are exclusively for gaming nerds, but only if they ACTUALLY offer reason to warrant coveting them. Too bad we still can’t return games that are broken or unfinished at retail release, but that’s an opinion for another time.