Anyone who has even a passing interest in video games heard that this past Christmas was just the worst Christmas ever. A hacker group called Lizard Squad (allegedly) attacked both Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network and brought their servers down for the entire day (and then some). This led to the most first-world-problem crisis of recent memory as players in the gaming community collectively lost their shit over the inability to play games online and call each other racial slurs.
Servers going down is not a new annoyance, and it will certainly happen again. But after seeing how freaked out everyone got over this Christmas hack, I think we may need to go over some ground rules on how to appropriately deal with these outages.
1. When All Is Said and Done, They’re Just Games
Look, I love my video games as much as the next gamer. And I would be lying if I suggested that I wasn’t annoyed by the outage (especially being a PlayStation owner, whose network was down for two additional days). But at the end of the day, they are just games. They are a leisure-time activity, not a necessity. Much like writing erotic LEGO fan fiction.
And like any leisure activity, when it is unavailable you can easily move on to the next one. Go to the movies, read books, spend time with your family (it was Christmas, after all). Even staying within the world of video games, there are plenty of single-player games that do not need to be connected to servers in order to play them. We are a nation of consumer whores, which means there is a whole lot out there for us to consume.
2. Don’t Act Like An Entitled Snot
Both PlayStation and Xbox users now have to pay a subscription fee to use the online features, so it is somewhat understandable to be miffed about losing the ability to use a utility for which you pay hard-earned cash. If you browsed Twitter at all as this was going on, however, the annoyance quickly turned into enraged demands. It got to a point where almost every other tweet was angrily telling Sony and Microsoft that there better be compensation for the lost time that could have been spent playing.
Xbox Live and PlayStation Network both sell year subscriptions for $50. Diving that $50 by 365 days of the year, you end up paying about 14 cents a day. That is what you would be getting compensated. Even in the case of PlayStation, where the servers were down for nearly three days, that still only works out to 42 cents you have lost out on.
Admittedly, this is compounded by when it happened, as the holidays are a time when many people have extended periods of time off from work. There is more time than one normally would have to play games, and losing out on it is a cost that isn’t necessarily reflected in the subscription fee.
By the same token, when the power goes out and your food spoils, you don’t demand that the electric company compensate you for your lost groceries. And this is all beside the point anyway, as the Terms and Conditions we all agreed to without reading protect both companies from having to compensate us. The lesson here is READ EVERYTHING.
3. It Doesn’t Just Affect Us
A common refrain throughout the ordeal was how the hack and its result “ruined Christmas.” And when it comes to younger kids who just opened their new console and were unable to play it, I can sympathize. I remember what it was like being ten years old and all the hyperbolic emotions that came with it. It’s much less understandable when it is a 35-year-old taking to Twitter like he is the embodiment of Howard Beale.
Kids don’t know any better, but adults should. I guess your Christmas was ruined because you couldn’t dude-bro out to the new Call Of Duty: You Guys Like Titanfall, Right? Do you know who else had their Christmas ruined? The engineers for both Sony and Microsoft who had to spend the whole day frantically trying to get the servers operational again instead of spending it with their families. Don’t forget about the customer service reps who were forced to take the endless abuse of angry gamers who probably thought they were still playing online and, thus, racial slurs and the threat of sexual acts performed against one’s mother were acceptable.
4. Remember, This Is the Epitome of First-World Problems
If you were able to get upset and complain about Xbox Live and PSN being down, then you own an Xbox or PlayStation. That in itself makes you better off than most people in the world. Because instead of not having access to online gaming, you could not have water. I’m willing to bet the latter would have a bigger impact on your life.
We all complain about things that expose our relative privilege, but there is always someone who has it worse. There is always someone who wishes they had our problems, and we all know people whose problems we would rather have. It happens.
The trick, then, is to catch yourself before you get too carried away. Recognize how much worse it could be and take that into account when trying to figure out how righteous your fury should be. In the grand scheme of things, I’d probably put “inability to play video games for a few days” somewhere around “drinking too much apple juice” in terms of the problems we face as a society.
Was it inconvenient? Sure. Did we lose out on prime video game playing time? Yeah. But all you have to do is click on Google News to be reminded of how much more terrifying and worse things can be. If this was what ruined your Christmas, be grateful, because it’s pretty tame compared to how shitty the world can be.