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The cactuar syndrome paradox

As I see it, it’s all about the easy XP.

Ever since Microsoft announced earlier this week that the price for an Xbox Live gold membership would be jumping up by $10 a year, the internet has been filled with angry notes, blogs and comments from long time fans, casual gamers and trolls about how completely and unequivocally awful this is.

But, I hear you shout at your computer because either you or I am crazy, that’s what the internet is there for, isn’t it?  To give random people a chance to complain and raise hell about the injustices of the world.  We’re making ourselves heard the only way we can.  The management at Microsoft is reading our rage, man.  They know.

So what?

Jen, this is not the internet!

I do love the internet for its ability to give people a voice who would otherwise not have one.  Hell, this blog is a good example of that.  But let’s be honest, and bear with me, the internet is not a cactuar.

It’s a basic premise which we’ve had in our games since the early 1990s.  I can remember plugging in Final Fantasy III (or FFVI for you Final Fantasy name purists) with Elrood way back in the day after making a startling discovery.  There were elusive creatures hidden in the game world that, if you could manage to kill them, would give up tons of XP, items or gold.  I think this was actually the first game with cactuars (don’t quote me on that, though), but we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves.

No, these creatures were called intangirs, hidden on the often forgotten triangle island in the corner of the map.  They were large, angry, and had the ability to wipe out your entire party if you pissed them off enough.  You accomplished this by simply waking them up. At the point in the game when you can encounter intangirs, your party doesn’t stand anywhere near a close chance of taking it down the old-fashioned way.

Don't! Wake! Daddy!

The only way to safely take down one of these monsters was through an in-game glitch that made invisible creatures extremely vulnerable to abilities and spells that had a slight chance of removing enemies in one shot.  Not through instant-death, mind you, but moves that physically ripped the enemies out of the battlefield and put them on their way through space/time to, I dunno, Disney Land Before Time.  At that early stage in the game, the only one of these moves that could accomplish this was attached to a random string of dances available to Mog, the game’s fluffy, overpowered mascot character.

So each time you fought an intangir, Mog had like a 20 percent chance of doing the move you wanted him to.  If he did the wrong move, however, the intangir would shove meteors up your ass for a good minute and a half before falling back to sleep.  You’re party, of course, would be pretty dead at this point.

Fighting these usually ended up hilariously awful.  But if you won…  Oh man.  Esper city.  Your characters weren’t going to get those magic points by themselves, chuckles.

Snake has gained a level! HP + 16 Bite +4

From here, the Final Fantasy games moved up to cactuars, which quickly became another mascot-esque character for the entire series.    Looking strangely like very small men wearing felt cactus suits, cactuars were always worth hunting, if you could land that killing blow before they pumped you full of needles and high tailed it into the sunset.  They weren’t as destructive as intangirs, mind you, but there’s nothing quite like attacking and missing one for five minutes just to watch it run away.  Other games picked it up too.  Dragon Quest made metal slimes.  Lost Odyssey made silver kelodons.  Hell, Borderlands made Crawmerax the invincible (Though Crawmerax doesn’t run from you.  You run from HIM).  Levels, loot, XP or gold;  Basically, the payoff is there, but you have to work for it.

So return to present day, and we have an entire generation of frustrated gamers expecting Microsoft to lower their prices because they totally posted about it once in a blog somewhere.

Don’t get me wrong, personally I’m mixed on the whole thing.  I like the service Microsoft provides, and so I have no problem paying about $2 more a month.  I do think it’s ridiculous that they’re raising their prices when their competitors offer basically the same services for free.  But hey, if you have a full-time job, an extra $2 isn’t going to break the bank.  It’s a bit of a slap in the face, but I can see where they’re coming from.

But honestly?  If I worked at Microsoft I wouldn’t pay too much mind to the angry forum posts.  Because those same people who are complaining are totally placidly accepting the price increase anyway.

I know I’ve harped on this before, back when Infinity Ward announced they’d be releasing five Modern Warfare 2 maps for the “low, low” price of $15.  Video games are still a new medium.  It’s up to us to determine how much developers price these things at.  If you genuinely feel like you’re being ripped off, don’t buy their product. Are you unsure about whether a game is good or crap?  Read reviews!  Rent it!  And if it turns out to be something you want to see more of, buy it and support the industry.

This shouldn't be too hard to- OH SWEET GOD

If you’re that opposed to the $10 increase, cancel your gold account.  Sure you’ll be without online play for a while, but that?  That is the cactuar you must slay.  Your own personal cactuar.

Still, the internet is not a cactuar.   You’re not going to be able to use it for an easy burst of theoretical XP.  More realistically, you’re not going to jump online and into instant stardom, you’re not going to suddenly get an email from the Prince of Nigeria who is somehow related to you, and there’s no such thing as the Random Canadian E-Mail Address Lottery.  Contributing to the anger and troll population isn’t going to win you any Microsoft points (figuratively and literally speaking), and its doubtful that you’ll be taken seriously at all.  The only way to let these companies know where you stand is with your wallet.  If you see an injustice, don’t spend your money on it.  They’ll get the memo sooner or later.

Hello, ladies!

The reason I call this the cactuar syndrome paradox is because I can’t understand how we’re a generation of people who can spend many, many aggravating hours hunting these irritatingly hard to kill monsters for that one, big pay off, but that we seem to be incapable of taking a stand the moment something inconveniences us.  Maybe it’s laziness?  An addiction to the hobby?  Or maybe because despite all their squeaking and needling, those cactuars aren’t really going to put up much of a fight.  It’s easier to take out anger out on them than it is to cancel that account or not buy that map pack all your friends downloaded.

But you’ve got to remember, you’re not going to get that big payoff without working for it, homes.  Say what you want about Microsoft raising their prices, but if you really have a problem with it and still use their services, well it sounds like that cactuar is kicking your ass pretty good.

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2 Responses

  1. haha

  2. i am addicted to farmville

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