The Gamer’s Conscience 12.11.02

“Quality Control.”

A few things may come to mind when you read this particular phrase. Among some of my hip-hop clientèle, it may refer to the Jurassic 5 album of the same name, marking the final exodus of Charlie Tuna from his other act, Ozomatli (over which this author sheds no tears). It also may conjure up images of tiresome spokespersons 2 hours into a 3 hour infomercial, wasting their very soul in an effort to sell you that wonderful laundry detergent (that’s not found in any stores, mind you- so it’s ‘exclusive’) for only 19.95(!).

But while relevant to the above material, the issue I speak of here is with quality control, and how it pertains to the video game industry. I’m sure most of us have had to deal with a system that has croaked past it’s warranty line, or a controller that wasn’t up to par. With the sheer volume of hardware (both consoles and accessories) that’s out on the market today, the conscious gamer should be mindful of this back-end aspect of the industry. But lost in this avalanche of first and third party plastic, the issue of quality control has been ignored by manufactures and companies- mostly in the pursuit of our hard earned cash. This checkable ignorance on the manufacturing level in turns breeds ignorant decisions by gamers like you and me, who think that they’re buying a quality product.

With this in mind, I’m not holding back: I’m going to take some shots at otherwise reputable companies. Every so often, companies let their guard down and without warning or apparent remorse, will flood the market with error-ridden hardware that otherwise wouldn’t cut the mustard. With respect to the name of good business, in which a company will release a product that is up to the standards of the working consumer, the madness has got to stop.

So let’s take a look a couple of items, just to begin with, and how they failed to live up to standards. These shouldn’t be heavily considered as “reviews” in the proper sense- they’re just quick overviews. Mind you, this column is “Ëœtrans-console’ so to speak (no one here gets out alive!)

Interact’s Quantum Fighter Pad (Sega Dreamcast)
Imagine my zeal and delight, when on my birthday, I finally received a VMU to save my progress in Sonic Adventure. Alongside that, I also got the aforementioned waste of plastic. What was so damned alluring about this controller is that it has all six buttons on the face; a saving grace to Capcom serfs like me. The cumbersome configuration of the Dreamcast’s stock controller has been alleviated by the placement of R and L on the face. The glory days of Saturn fighting games would live on! Or so I thought!

One thing that Interact failed to mention was that despite having 6 buttons on the face, YOU COULDN’T BIND THE R AND L TO ANY OF THEM! What a glaring omission! I mean, they market this pad as a fighter pad” and put 6 pressable’ buttons on there that you can press to your heart’s delight. But do they do anything? NO! Try pulling off a dragon punch with Ryu or the raging demon with Akuma and you’ll see what I’m talking about! Arcade perfect my!

Sony’s Playstation 2 (and briefly 1) Console (Why, Sony’s Playstation 2!)

October 26th marked a new era for Sony in many respects: a newer, powerful machine would enter the console market to continue a dominance that the company built on a foundation of industry skepticism with its first Playstation. The PS2 would have many great games to come; it would play your older PSX games, and even your DVDs. One would rationally think that Sony would also be a little bit more conscientious about manufacturing the unit, as the launch of the PSX was riddled with over-heating units and burnt out motors and power-supplies.

Alas, some prayers were left unanswered. Following the PS2 launch, message boards and newsgroups were filled with the testimonies of gamers of how their SPCH-30000s slapped frowns across their faces. Some would put a disc in and got a scratched coaster out. Some would have motors die out on them past the warranty. Some would take too long to read the games. And some wouldn’t just plain read games at all. Now, when I even let loose of 25 dollars for a piece of machinery I cringe. The thought of loosing 300 dollars to a bum purchase I find appalling.

This is one of the reasons that you see different chip revisions as the life of a console goes by, and in this respect it took Sony over 5 revisions to get a PSX they were happy with. Sony should have simply had a higher standard quality control. But I don’t think that the world would have been angry if Sony had just delayed the launch to simply get it right.

So is there a saving grace for quality control? I really can’t supply readers with a definite answer. One thing for certain, however, is that when aberrations like the previous two occur, don’t let it fall by the wayside. Call the company that makes the product and let them know how you feel. Write them letters too- when someone takes the time to sit down and put their grievances onto paper, this conveys the seriousness of your complaint. Don’t stop at the manufacturer’s level either- call the retailer in your area, big or small, and let them know that the products that they carry don’t meet your expectations. Keep in mind- the reason these companies stay in business is because you spend your money on their products. If the voice is big enough than there’s no reason that companies won’t take notice.

Heck- there are some dozens of great examples out there, and I can offer a couple of good examples here. Chances are if you’re reading this that you’ve gotten around to playing Blizzard’s Starcraft; a game that needs no introduction. Besides being a great stand-alone game to this very day (standing the test of time over 5 years running), it has also been a great example of good quality control, being delayed many times before hitting the market in great form. As a general example, Nintendo has been great with their quality control- in both games an peripherals. They’ve undoubtedly earned a reputation for delaying everything with the Big N’ label till the cows come home, but that reputation was earned for the reason above.

So next time you set forth into your local retailer when you “just need another controller” for the ‘Cube or a multi-tap for your PS2, shop around the brands and ask the clerks questions (believe me- they love the high and mighty feeling they get when they go into pompous know-it-all-mode). Check the reviews too- a page and a half of well-written summary may just save you that cash you were going to put somewhere else more deserving. It’s what we’re here for.

Knowing good quality is the key to fun gaming.
That’s the Gamer’s Conscience.