Rundown (3/21-3/27) No Pleasure for the Children

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Wherein I discuss an NSFW paradigm, Sony’s grand exodus, a half-step upgrade, another migration to the great North, and the next episode of the Cookstar Saga.

Let’s see…  What’s on my mind this week. Um… Oh! I know! Minors and NSFW media! 

Within the past few weeks, or perhaps months, I’ve seen more than a few NSFW artists and content creators remark how they are vehemently opposed to the idea of minors engaging or viewing their work. While I understand this from a legal perspective and get why these individuals want to cultivate a community of people who are all legal adults, something about the idea of excluding minors from perusing NSFW content has always struck me as odd. And when faced with the question of should minors be allowed to engage with NSFW content, my answer has always been yes.

My justification for this is not really backed by any of that new fangled facts or logic stuff, and is instead supported solely off of my own experience. Because back when I was between the ages of 13 through 17, I encountered a litany of NSFW work, and I consider a lot of it to be formative to my preferences and sensibilities. It entertained me, it helped me broaden my creative aspirations, it helped me garner a stronger appreciation for art, and it played at least some role in helping me come to terms with my own gender identity. If anything, I would make the argument that part of being a teenager is stumbling into NSFW places, and using those experiences— those glimpses into the ‘adult world’— to help develop one’s preferences.

However, when a minor reveals that they are a minor within a community then… yeah, that’s just uncomfortable all-around, because all the adults feel like pedophiles when a kid comes into their erotic den of degenerate wokeness. If somebody says they’re a minor in one of these places, then… you kind of need to kick them out. But if they keep their head down, mouth zipped, and don’t reference their age or high school, then is there a problem? I don’t really think so. 

Also, if you truly do want to enforce the 18+ age restriction found in NSFW environments, then you’re basically saying that you do not want high schoolers to masturbate to nudity, which is… just gosh darn stupid. Let them kids fap to the nudes. Don’t make them settle for lewds. 

Anyway, I’m bored, let’s talk about video games.

Something that I regularly harp on in these Rundowns is the game industry’s disregard for its legacy and preservation of its history. We have the technology to emulate and distribute games digitally, and we could make buying a game from 1987 as easy and seamless as buying an album, movie, or book from the same year. However, there often is not a way for people to purchase these older games, and the only way many people can access these titles is through unauthorized emulation and ROM dumps hosted online. 

While this does indeed work, and people can reasonably find, emulate, and play the majority of games from the 20th century, I think this is an uneasy and awkward situation for the medium to be in, and wish that more platform holders and publishers would host their older games on an emulation-based storefront so that people who love the medium and its history can legally purchase digital copies of older titles. We’ve seen glimpses of this in the past with Sony’s PSOne classics, Nintendo’s Virtual Console, and GOG’s continued efforts to bring old PC games back from oblivion. But these efforts have never been as thorough as they can and should be, causing much of the medium’s past to only live on unofficially.

I sometimes like to play the optimist and think that things will get better, but my views on the future of games preservation have only grown direr as of late as platform holders have been shutting down digital storefronts. I get why PSP Minis, Xbox Live Indie Games, and the Wii Shop Channel all shuddered, but in doing so, the industry put a finite limit on the number of licenses for these titles in existence, and unless you bought these hundreds of games when they released, you’re screwed. Either find a system with these games installed or emulate them.

I have long been dreading the day when a major player decided to shut down their first incarnation of a digital storefront and… it’s finally happening. This summer, Sony will be permanently closing the storefront for PSP, PS3, PS Vita, and PSOne titles. They will be delisting THOUSANDS of games released from 1994 to 2020, making hundreds of digital-only releases unavailable, and erasing years upon years of gaming history. 

They have been steadily reaching this point over the past few years, and now that it is finally happening, all I have to say is this: Fuck you, Sony. You are a platform holder. You are a distributor of art. You developed an ecosystem to preserve the history of the medium. And you have a responsibility to preserve what you built for as long as you possibly can. And even if it is not sustainable in its current form, it is your job to change that. 

You could have made all of these titles, and more, available on your latest and greatest hardware. Hardware that can support the vast majority of these titles via software emulation. You could have made the steps needed to bring these titles forward onto the PS5 and all your future consoles… but you don’t care about your past. You do not care about what this medium was. 

Wait, no, that’s not true. You care about it when you can make a profit off of it. You care about PS3 games when remaking them for new hardware. But you do not care enough about the games themselves— the art that made you billions and enriched the lives of hundreds of millions— to develop some basic-ass emulation tools for your new console, and instead of paying the server and rudimentary maintenance cost to keep these things going until you can turn the PS5 into the ultimate PlayStation machine… you’re just throwing everything in the trash.

Now, the defenses to this argument are that these stores are expensive to maintain, asking for backwards compatibility spanning 25 years and 6 different system architectures is unreasonable, and Sony does not actually need to do anything. Those are all true… but fuck that, Sony can do better. They’re a multi-billion-dollar corporation. They hire some utterly brilliant people. They CAN do this… but they’re not going to, because you only care about the future.

Hell, I can’t even argue that these games will truly live on via emulation. Because while PSOne and PSP emulation are rock solid, PS2 emulation has always been wonky, PS3 emulation only works for about 60% of the library, and PS Vita emulation is JUST getting started. Emulation will NOT save us from this exodus of games! So thanks Sony, now the best way to get these games will be to scrounge around for physical copies. And if the game is digital-only and cannot be emulated… then I guess it just doesn’t deserve to exist.

The presence of a robust and developed emulation scene is part of the reason why I do not get this passionate about Nintendo erasing their legacy. Because while it is utter bullshit that they are gating away their legacy content like this and not preserving their history on the Switch via widespread emulation, you can easily emulate NES, SNES, N64, GameCube, Wii, GameBoy, GameBoy Advance, Nintendo DS games. 3DS and Wii U games are still a WIP, but Cemu and Citra are both making steady progress and could be as robust as Dolphin in a few years. Hell, Switch emulators are already making dope progress.

In fact, Switch emulators are almost at the point where they can be seen as a superior way to play games with better frame rates, higher resolutions, and a few quality of life features. However, most Switch game players don’t mess with emulation and want the real deal— the raw deal— and want a beefier Switch that can run games at the resolution and frame rates that God always intended.

Rumors about a souped-up Switch, a Switch Pro, have been around since the Switch’s first year on the market, and fans have been lapping up rumors that I mostly dismissed as wish fulfillment. However, a Bloomberg article recently came out stating that Nintendo is indeed planning an upgraded model of the Nintendo Switch. The article reiterated a lot of what people pretty much already knew. The system will be capable of outputting at 4K resolutions when docked. The screen will be upgraded to a finer quality OLED display. And a new more powerful Nvidia chipset will be used, one that makes use of Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling to render games at higher resolutions.

It sounds like a nice update, but I doubt it will be as robust or powerful as some people are hoping based on what this article discloses. Still, the boost might be enough for some Nintendo fans, the ones who prefer happiness over semi-righteous indignation, and Bloomberg estimates that this new model will debut for somewhere between $350 and $400, which is about what you would expect for an upgrade like this.

Speaking of Bloomberg, back in January, they published a story about how Amazon has been floundering and failing to make much headway in the games industry for years, investing millions upon millions into new projects and studios while wanting to turn every title they make into a billion-dollar hit. They have a lot of issues, but that has not stopped them from investing in a brand new Montreal-based studio.

Why Montreal? Well, as I said several times this year alone, Montreal is pretty much the best place to set up a games studio in the world. It’s a real-sized city, it’s close to the US, there are tax breaks available for game studios, and there is a vast pool of developers to hire from when opening up a new studio. 

Anyway, the studio will be working on a new AAA multiplayer IP, which describes pretty much all of Amazon’s projects, as Amazon wants to succeed by putting out a game that can thrive on social media and streaming sites, and one with glorious production values. Despite the fact that both of those things are incredibly hard to do, especially for a publisher that has yet to ship a single successful title.

While I think Amazon’s philosophy and goals are unreasonable, I also cannot say that I think less of them than any other AAA publisher. Plus, they’re pretty good when it comes to crunch and job security. However, I still don’t like seeing massive corporations like this waste money on projects that fail, and look like they are going to fail from the outset, because of bad management and mandated overambition.

One of my favorite stories in the past… decade, really, was the confusing saga of Cooking Mama Cookstar. I summarized the legacy of this title back in Natalie Rambles About 2020, but I’ll offer a summary for those who have forgotten, or simply never knew. In 2019, Planet Entertainment announced Cooking Mama: Cookstar, a Switch title developed by First Playable Productions that marked the first time series IP owner, Office Creates, licensed out their property to another publisher.

The game garnered little attention ahead of launch, and people only really began taking note of it after the game launched for the Nintendo Switch on March 30, 2020. Hours after it was available on the Switch eShop the game was delisted, physical copies were scarce in retail and online stores, and people began to smell a conspiracy. And they were right too… but that whole shtick about Cookstar being a malicious program that turned Switches into cryptocurrency mining machines? That was just nonsense. 

It took a few days before either Planet Entertainment or Office Creates replied. Planet said that they had the full right to release Cookstar for the Switch, per their agreement with Office Creates, while Office Creates said they didn’t. Who was right, and who was wrong? Well, nobody really knows, as any agreement between the two parties was never made public. 

Since this incident in late March, Planet has continued to operate and update the Cookstar Twitter account and produce physical copies of the game, but it was never brought back to the Nintendo Switch eShop. While Office Creates has not yet taken down their warning notice stating that Cookstar is an unauthorized use of their IP. 

Now, nearly a year after the game’s release, we finally have an update. Apropos of… nothing, Cooking Mama: Cookstar released for the PlayStation 4! Physical copies can be found in certain retail stores, and the game is also available digitally via the PlayStation Store. This is especially confusing because Office Creates claimed that Planet did not have the right to produce a PS4 version of the game, even though they previously advertised the game for both systems. Is this also an unauthorized release? Was Office Creates lying? Did the two parties reach an agreement behind closed doors and Satoshi the intern just forgot to update the Office Creates website?

I don’t know, and it’ll take some internet sleuth to uncover the truth behind this mystery… but it’ll probably be a few years before people are willing to talk about it. And by then, most people won’t care. I’ll care, but that’s not really a good metric for… anything, really.

Header image comes from My Childhood Friend is a Lesbian by Garun.

I was originally going to use this screencap from TS Omorashi Hero wa, Mama ni Katemesen! by Kouji, but I don’t think I can comfortably talk about that piss baby pervert manga. It’s not explicit, but it involves a group of Super Sentai style hero men who are transformed into a bunch of 3-year-old girls and subsequentially undergo identity death as they pee themselves. It’s real messed up… but I wrote a story where a 12-year-old was transformed into a military-grade sex toy. I can pretend like I have standards, but I’d just be lying.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Jet

    Aww, that’s a shame. I literally just sent my PS3 Super Slim to Sony two weeks ago for repairs (after 7 years of use, the power supply broke) and *then* they’re going to kill off the store in a few months…

    RIP the PS3. Or as I like to call it, the PS Triple.

    I know at some point the PS3 was going to ‘die’, but Sony did it the most lazy way imaginable. They could at least have a PS3/Vita-wide sale (like 30 to 50% off?) so people can buy all the games they haven’t had the chance to earlier, so at least once the store is finally dead they can still re-download them whenever, but that’s just me.

    1. Natalie Neumann

      Hopefully you get your PS3 back in time to buy some games before the store shuts down. Repairs like that tend to take a while, and with the ongoing pandemic, things are moving extra slow.

      From what I have heard, Sony has not allowed publishers to put PS3 and PSP games on sale for years, and while it would be nice and pro-customer for Sony to do a store-wide discount, there is an argument to be made that publishers and developers will get the most revenue if their games remain at full price until the day they delist. Because they are not going to drop in price ever again.

      Since I posted this article, the situation has gotten even worse, as the web-based store was delisted without warning, and now the only way to buy digital PS3/PSP/Vita games is via the system storefront. And only then, after they removed the most accessible way to buy these games, did Sony decide to announce the closure formally. It’s disgusting, disrespectful, and makes me paranoid if Sony can be trusted with people’s digital libraries. It makes me glad that I never got invested in their ecosystem.

      Though I did buy a Vita in 2014, but I only played it for about a year, because the system was getting fewer and fewer exclusives, and the games I bought a Vita for had started making their way to PC.