Nothing is Forever
The Burnt Offering is where Stu Horvath thinks too much in public so he can live a quieter life in private.
This is a reprint of the letter from the editor in Unwinnable Weekly Issue Forty-Two – check out the excerpts at the end of the post. You can buy Issue Forty-Two individually now, or purchase a one-month subscription to make sure you never miss an issue!
If human hands create something, you can be sure that time, happenstance and other human hands will do their best to obliterate it as quickly as possible. You would think, out of necessity, that would make preservation one of our great skills, but that isn’t the case. We are amazing creators, compulsive destroyer and shitty conservators.
Things haven’t gotten better in the digital age. Somewhere along the line, we got it in our heads that “digital” means “forever.” Digital actually means compressed, corruptible and only accessible on archaic tech. Coupled with the fact that people are creating material at exponential rates, we are finding our ability to determine what needs saving before it disappears outstripped by the sheer, storming ocean of data out there.
This creates an ecosystem of entropy that mirrors our long physical history. Our creations have a natural life span. Some die before they make their rightful impact. Others undeservedly prosper. A lucky few are enshrined in our collective consciousness. The difference between these stories comes down to luck.
That’s what rankles me about Konami pulling PT from the PlayStation Store.
A quick rundown. PT stands for Playable Trailer and was released in August of 2014 as promotion for Hideo Kojima’s forthcoming Silent Hill game. Recently, production on that game collapsed and it was cancelled. In turn, Konami decided to pull PT.
Pulling PT doesn’t cause it to cease to exist, at least not yet. Konami gave people four days to download the game to their PlayStation 4 hard drives before removing it from the store. So long as you have it on your hard drive, you can play it. Capitalizing on this, some awful people took to eBay, loading PS4 consoles with PT and selling them for exorbitant amounts of money (I know one was purchased for the astronomical price of $1,800). So, for the time being, PT is still out there.
It might not always be so. Konami may decide it wants to cull the copies of PT in the wild (unlikely, but not impossible). All it would take is a patch, downloaded automatically, that renders the software unusable. This would only wipe out copies that were on console connected to the internet, but in this day and age, that would probably be the vast majority.
A more likely cause of death for PT is time. How long before copies are deleted to make space for other games? How long before PS4s get banished to attics in favor of PS5s? How long until the last PS4 succumbs to hardware failure?
These are closed systems. You can’t (legally or easily) extract a game from a PlayStation 4 and play it on your computer. You can’t horde away a digital product the same way as you would a game on physical media. In a practical sense, Konami didn’t prematurely shorten the life of PT, it ensured that someday it will be as if PT never existed in the first place. And this is true of countless other games, apps and programs most folks think will live on forever, because they are digital.
This creates gaps in record. PT’s lifespan was short, but it was explosive. People would not shut up about the thing. I have no notion of how many people played it, but it stands to reason that a number of them were game designers. It also stands to reason that their experiences with the game may inspire future projects.
When we look at those games, the children of PT, we won’t have PT to inform our opinions of them. We won’t have years of changing context (see last week’s Letter), of visiting and re-visiting PT. We won’t have the game for students to experience, to pick at, to understand. We’ll just have a vague memory. A campfire story.
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This week’s issue is…massive. Our cover story, by Andrea Ayres, is a memoir of growing up gaming with her disabled twin and I can’t recommend it enough. Mitch Bowman’s latest brick is about growing old in the punk scene (but definitely not growing up). Our friend Joe Köller reports on his experiences from A Maze Berlin. Rowan Kaiser delivers a massive guide to the Civil War-era Avengers comic books. Finally, Davis Cox, David Wolinsky and I offer up an account of our hangout last weekend, a kind of philosophical vision quest through both North Jersey and the pop culture we love.
As I write this, I am on the eve of moving in to my fiance Daisy’s place. This involves a good number of books, some clothes and, perhaps most importantly, my desk and computer. It should go off without a hitch and not effect the production of Issue Forty-Three at all, but…forewarned is forearmed, right gang?
If you need me, I am at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great weekend!
Kearny, New Jersey
April 29, 2015