Physical vs. Digital – Video Games

For a long time I have been a big supporter of physical media. The ability to hold a tangible, real product in one’s hands brings me much more joy than downloading a few strands of code from the cloud. I prefer physical copies of most media – books, music, movies, games… But that isn’t something everyone understands. My family, while they love the content, doesn’t care to much about actually having it. As long as they get the content in some form, it doesn’t matter.
I do see some arguments favoring digital media. Such as the lack of space to hold physical copies of everything they might own. Some people may have hundreds of games on Steam, or dozens of books on Kindle, and there would be no way to store all of that.
I am by far more passionate about physical games then most other media. Well, that and books. Movies and music, while I will continue collecting the physical copies, I see as a lot of good reasons to make them digital. Not enough for me, but in general… I feel that those are better candidates for the cloud storage/digital era.
So let’s break it down, starting with the games.

I recently subscribed to a service called Indiebox. This company works for the noble cause of returning PC games back to their big box roots. If you are unaware of what that is, basically video games didn’t used to come in those DVD style cases. Not even console games, perhaps with the exception of Sega. They used to come in large, cardboard boxes complete with physical manuals and other inserts. PC games, though, got the best deal. Those cases were HUGE, frequently coming with large manuals sometimes as long as books, and other extras called “feelies”. Games like the Ultima series came with a beautiful cloth map of the game world. I was excited two years ago when my copy of Skyrim came with a cheaply made paper map.
They might come with a piece of the in-game money, or little booklets of lore, or sown iron on patch… Basically, things you only find it the good, expensive collector’s editions of games today.
Sometime in the early 2000s, the switch was made from the big box, to the DVD case, because it was more convenient and cost less to produce.
Basically, Indiebox strives to bring back a bit of that nostalgia, and give people that like stuff some real good stuff. They take indie titles that usually only get a digital steam release, and craft a big box (not exactly of PC box caliber, more along the lines of the Nintendo boxes, but they are FANTASTIC none the less) complete with a physical USB cartridge copy of the game, beautiful full color manuals, the game soundtrack, and plenty of other goodies pertaining to the game.
This is really a cause I can get behind. Video games are meant to be experienced, in the game world and out. I can’t tell you how disappointed I get when I find out I paid $50 – $60 dollars for a case and a CD that is so laden with DRM that they might as well just slapped a Steam code in the box and saved them the money on the CD. (I’m just joking, please don’t). What happens to be even worse is putting a little piece of paper in the case that tells you about a digital copy of the game manual. That just feels like they’re pouring salt on the wound.

Indiebox helps relieve a lot of the pain, and I thank them for it.
But that’s the problem with this growing digital era of video games. I enjoy Steam. I use Steam. It is convenient, frequently cheap, and I get to play it without ever leaving my chair.
And as much as I like that at times… When you see where we were, and where we are now? There is something about going out to a game store, picking out the game, taking of the plastic and (used to be) seeing what goodies lay within… I enjoyed carefully putting the CD in and downloading the game, maybe having multiple CDs you had to alternate between, reading the manual and getting excited as the progress bar slowly fills up and your expectations are soaring… It truly is something you are never going to be able to explain to someone who doesn’t understand. Its a ritual, a tradition, that is being left in the dust. And maybe for some people who are too young, or just not a collector, or is simply a casual gamer, this doesn’t matter.
But I’ll tell you, seeing a copy of that game sitting proudly next to the rest of them on your shelf is a much better feeling then seeing that long list of titles in your Steam library.

Like I said, not everyone shares that feeling, and not everyone will understand. The love of physical games to put on your shelf is slowly becoming a niche demographic. A lot of people enjoy the digital convenience, but I say that just gives us another reason not to get up from our chair, and we really don’t need another reason.

You can check out Indiebox at if you enjoy physical copies of indie titles that are usually only digital, or if you simply enjoy stuff. Because Indiebox really delivers the stuff.

I’ll be back on Thursday to discuss physical versus digital books, and until then…

That’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 2:58 PM


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