Digital Gaming and Impermanence

The choice between buying physical copies of games and buying them digitally is making me think a lot about mortality.

It’s early April 2017, and the final Playstation 3 release in the U.S. (as far as I know) is likely out by the time you’re reading this.


While Persona 5 was released in 2016 in Japan, multiple delays have pushed its debut in the west into 2017. Considering it was planned as a Playstation 3 release from its inception, it has remained as one, despite also heading to the newer, shinier Playstation 4. But, I don’t own a PS4. I tend to purchase my systems a cycle behind, resulting in paying about 5-10% what I would have had I been an early adopter. Couple this to an addictive personally, which has resulted a bit of a large collection in just six months since buying it from another lovely expat who was selling it to help fund treatments for rescue dogs.

Seventy six games and counting, including 24 digital releases. I’m just glad I never tried meth.

But, now I am faced with a conundrum. The game will be available as both a digital release, which will come to me immediately after downloading for me to enjoy, or as a physical copy, which I could possibly order from some English-primary website and have either shipped to Korea (for a likely astronomical shipping cost) or my brother could ship it to me from America (PS3’s are not region-locked, which means I can play any PS3 game from anywhere in the world, provided I understand the language. And RPGs, like Persona 5, are text-heavy, which means an English-language version is much more important than, say, Street Fighter IV).

The benefit of the physical copy is that, as it is probably the final Playstation 3 game to be released in the system’s impressive 11-year cycle, there could be a bit of a collector’s value to it. Not that I would ever sell it, but like the final Sega Saturn games released in the States that are collecting dust in my father’s house at present, they’re nice to have.

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The benefit of the digital release is obvious: I can get started on a game I have been eagerly anticipating for what might be years.

But, all this consideration over which version to get has gotten me thinking about something else: someday, I am going to die.

In all likelihood, the online account in my name that holds the other Sony game system products ready for downloading to the system of my choice will be available to me in my lifetime. This, of course, barring nuclear war, zombies, or another plague of some kind that pretty much wipes out humanity and renders the worry of whether or not I can still download Suikoden II kind of moot.

However, at some point in the future after I cease to exist, Sony too will cease to exist. My account will cease to exist. And with that account, all those games, including Persona 5, will no longer exist. If a benefit of physical media can be derived over digital, it’s that while it, too, will one day cease (of course, environmentalists say plastic will be with us for at least 500 years so, hey, finally something good to come from all this shit!) it for now is something that can be held in my hand, turned around and upside down, inspected fully without ever needing to make sure the power is plugged in and my account is booted up.

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In an impermanent existence, the disc gives at least a fleeting, perhaps false but still comforting sense that things are going to stay as they are for at least a little while. Just a little time to pretend that we can catch up. Which, sometimes is all we need, especially when the scene outside my apartment keeps changing as another building gets knocked down and replaced.

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Much like my need to buy all the games, Korea can’t stop won’t stop building new buildings.

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