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Opinion: Antisocial networking

Keep your infernal Tweets away from my consoles

So now we can update Facebook and tweet on our Xbox 360s and PS3s. Forgive me if, instead of jumping up and down with glee, I fail to stifle a plaintive moan.

One of the curses of the 21st century is the way in which pretty much every day, a new Next Big Thing emerges, which will inevitably change the world forever. Invariably, each Next Big Thing is web-related, and in recent years, an example of social networking.

I'm afraid I'm suffering from social networking-fatigue now. You're lucky if my Facebook status is updated in any given week. Tumbleweed blows across my MySpace account, even though half of my mates are musicians. After a certain national journalist impersonated me on Twitter, following my repeated rants about how unappealing it is, I was forced to generate an account of my own (@realsteveboxer if you must know - I wanted @therealsteveboxer but it wouldn't let me have a handle that long), so at least I now know that it is even more clunky, unfriendly, dumbed-down and brain-fryingly pointless than I thought.

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And now we can waste our lives social networking without getting up from our consoles. Oh joy.

One of the best aspects of videogaming is that it provides a blessed relief from the frenzied navel-gazing and self-obsession of modern life, as personified by Facebook and especially Twitter. What better means of erasing the horror of being force-fed the details of the consistency of every one of Stephen Fry's daily bowel movements, or the latest thing that some vacuous, attention-seeking celebrity just said about some other vacuous, attention-seeking celebrity can there be than, say, decapitating a load of zombies with an electric guitar in Left 4 Dead 2, or exploding half a platoon of US soldiers' heads like watermelons with a sniper-rifle in Modern Warfare 2?

Games offer the best means of escaping the too-much-information fad of social networking so I, for one, won't be letting any social network anywhere near any of my consoles.

This whole rush to put every popular website on our consoles smacks of me-tooism and desperation. Are Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo fearful that we've become so obsessed with social networking that we'll stop playing games? I fail to see what possible benefit there could be to logging into Facebook on my Xbox 360 rather than on my laptop. The whole exercise is fuelled by sheer laziness. Which, frankly, isn't something that the games industry should be facilitating, given that it continues to be blamed for rising levels of obesity.

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Conspiracy theorists would argue that Bill Gates wants us to spend every waking moment welded to our Xbox 360s, but that doesn't hold water - he makes much more money selling software to work on our PCs. Facebook for the PS3 is a bit more excusable - Sony would love the PS3 to become a one-stop living-room hub. But that doesn't mean it isn't utterly pointless.

All the other non-gaming services offered by the Xbox 360 and PS3 - the Zune videos, Sky Player, Sony's Video Delivery System and so forth - can at least be justified as they're unashamedly designed to make money, whatever you think of their merits or lack thereof. But that just isn't the case for the social networking integration - there's a sense that it's there simply because it's technically feasible.

If Microsoft or Sony want to make decent money from a download service on their consoles, it's obvious what they should do - start streaming hardcore porn. That would actually fit quite nicely with the 360 and PS3's primary function, as it would offer a form of relief from the frustration of getting stuck, say, on a tricky MW2 level at Veteran difficulty. Which would be utterly appropriate, give that obsessive social networking is pretty much a public form of masturbation.

The above is an opinion piece by freelance journalist, Steve Boxer and does not necessarily reflect the views of CVG. Stay away, legal hounds.

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