September 24, 2020

By CODY MUDGE

Shorn paper in haphazard heaps, stuffy sweaters creeping up too high on your neck, too many dinner guests and some fantastic new toys are things that are synonymous with Christmas. For 20-somethings the holiday season also means a break from the tedium of school to enjoy winter activities; including those that involve staying indoors. Growing up in the video game era means that Christmases are a paradise of new worlds to explore, and on very special occasions, a new platform from which to explore them.

The holiday season just past presented such an opportunity to the massively expansive community of gamers. The Playstation 4 and Xbox One consoles, released in November of last year, finally got their legs underneath them, and the season saw a strong stable of titles and online networks that connected gamers to their friends, multiplayer servers and various social media platforms.
However, excitement over new consoles or games died swiftly Christmas Day, as error messages from Sony’s Playstation Network and Microsoft’s Xbox Live services denied crucial access to millions. In theory these consoles can operate without the Internet but, in practice, they’re a shade of their former selves without connectivity. System firmware requires updates to function, many games need patches in order to work properly and any multiplayer activities require a gamer to be able to access their accounts via servers lorded over by PSN or Xbox Live.

A group of Internet miscreants, loosely described by the media as “hackers,” claimed responsibility on Twitter for the DDos attack that crippled Playstation Network for several days and Xbox Live for nearly 24 hours. The attack essentially overloaded the networks with repeated denial-of-service errors, which trick a network into thinking that an error has occurred, effectively shutting it down for real users.

Yet mainstream media coverage was little more than cursory articles or mentions sandwiched between other stories. Not that this should be considered a calamity of our modern, interconnected age, but the world’s largest entertainment industry seems to still reside in its own corner apart from the more traditional mediums. It is an unusual phenomenon given the vast number of critically and economically important games released each year.

Sites devoted to covering the world of gaming were abuzz throughout the holidays with constant articles updating readers on the status of online services. Online commentary was, naturally, scattershot.

One IGN.com article featured over 8,000 comments and several updates over the course of several days.

“It’s a shame. I have friends who just got a ps4 and they’re just sitting here waiting to play it.

“People can’t just let others have fun,” said unforgiven91, a Kotaku commenter, repeating sentiments felt by many.

Deadline commenter, nmom, took offence more personally but presented an interesting point despite trouble with spelling, grammar and an inappropriate ethnic slur: “ditto! spend 600.00 on a system, extra controllers and warranty..only to NOT be able to play anything???!!!! merry Christmas! NOT. and no one at sony support can answer a phone or live chat!? thanks for leaving your consumers hanging! #feelingjipped.”

Others took a more sarcastic approach to the problem when they took to Twitter using the #psndown hashtag.

“New drinking game. Take a shot every time PSN goes down #psndown,” said @SachikoBrown.

“I have always been loyal with @Sony and @Playstation but they are starting to make it hard to defend them #psndown,” said @MaMaxxEx, taking an interesting stance and implying the popular multibillion-dollar corporations are usually defended by loyal customers.

Major Canadian news outlets CBC and CTV relied on an Associated Press piece to report this news to their viewership. This seems particularly peculiar considering the relevancy gaming has won in popular society and its enormous economic pull; Canada has the third largest gaming industry in the world behind only the United States and Japan.

It’s hard to imagine CTV and CBC not producing a vast amount of content if tens of millions of people were unable to see a movie because two major theatre chains suddenly lost the ability to display their pictures. Likewise, what might happen if the next Taylor Swift album hit track four only to inform you that the rest of the album isn’t finished yet but will be patched in at a later date? But thank you for your purchase!

No story about the Internet, or gaming for that matter, would be complete without at least one troll, so without further ado, here’s the mind-expanding comment of CBC.ca commenter SquareDeal: “somehow I have been able to live a fulfilling life without ever playing a computer game. Go figure.”

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