By now I'm going to assume that everyone with even the faintest interest in doing so has either watched or at least gleaned the bullet-points from this past Tuesday's reveal of the XBox One; a new digital delivery system for Star Trek trailers, Steven Spielberg television vehicles and American Football broadcasts which may or may not also one day be able to play videogames. Curiously, said unveiling took place during what appeared to be a live conceptual theater piece based Mike Judge's 2006 cult film Idiocracy, but perhaps I am once more failing to grasp the evolving subtleties of the New Media.
All kidding aside, the cacophony of "Are you kidding me's?!" engendered by Microsoft's lime green laser show (who did decide that the XBox's primary color scheme would be the hues used by early 90's horror films to denote "nuclear toxin," anyway?) have already been well covered by folks more qualified to do so than me. To be frank, it's hard for me to avoid regarding the whole scenario with the weary schadenfreude of a doomsday prepper the day after The Big One drops. Oh dear, gamer community, are you feeling that Microsoft has abandoned you for the lucrative pastures of streaming television and NFL partnerships? Well, gaming culture kicked me to the curb around the time Ryu Hayabusa started dressing like a leather club bouncer from Planet Mongo - welcome to Orphan Alley.
I have, to be sure, all the same concerns, complaints and fears about The One rehashed in a dozen other pieces, but the one that sticks out most in my mind is the one with implications far beyond gaming. I got used to the idea that gaming not only doesn't want my business but rather seems to actively resent my presence among its consumer base as a relic of an age it is now ashamed of a generation ago, fine. But the gumption with which Microsoft has embraced the re-definition of the media itself, the Orwellian wordscape wherein the term "product" is subsumed by "service" and consumers are granted "permission" rather than "ownership," that development chills me to my bone.
My relationship to technology has always carried a hint of schizophrenia. I am by disposition a futurist; I prefer barreling forward in scientific and human advancement in open defiance of all inertia. Let's settle outer space! Let's rewrite the gene code! Let's cure death, clone Tyrannosaurs, teach hamsters to fly fighter jets, solve overpopulation with a Martian Colony and end world hunger with burrito trees and pumpkins the size of houses! But I am also loathe to throw anything useful or well loved away when it can yet be repaired or re-purposed. I tend to view technological upgrades less in terms of replacement than compliment, particularly when it comes to electronic entertainment. My Gameboy Advance (SP, the model painted to look like an NES) sits, charged and functional, next to my 3DS as we speak.
As such, while I am a well entrenched user of streaming and download services for music, movies and games, said services haven't replaced physical media ownership for me - not by a longshot. TV shows and movies I plan to view more than once I buy physical copies of, and few things bring me down more than learning something I just discovered and loved via streaming cannot be acquired physically. I back up and store data semi-obsessively for the expressed purpose of preservation. The idea of a book, movie or game existing only as an amorphous line of code in a "cloud" for only so long as the device and service used to access it function feels to me like tempting fate.
At the root of all this is ownership: the ancient but by no means eternal concept that my possessions, when acquired justly, are mine to do with as I please. That my relationship with the maker of this or that product begins and ends with a successful purchase. Granted, the waters have been muddied in recent decades by warranties, contracts and end user license agreements, but at the end of the day a fundamental truth remains - I bought it, and it's mine until I no longer wish it to be.