Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Progressive Deterioration

I really don't know if I have the energy to complain about this properly. Pandora just implemented a complete redesign that tampers with virtually everything I like about the site's layout; Facebook's umpteenth facelift has continued the unbreakable trend of me somehow thinking less of Facebook with each new update; Office 2010's new ideas waste just as much of my time as they save; and Windows 7 continues to sacrifice nearly everything I like about Windows XP in exchange for one minor new feature I kinda like...and I can't even remember what that feature is right now.

I am a creature of habit and it usually takes me a while to warm up to something changing unless it was obviously broken in the first place. While I could painstakingly whine about the individual changes to Pandora, Facebook, and Windows, the fact of the matter is that most of my complaints boil down to personal preference and an appreciation of various functionalities that newer audiences can be trained not to expect. The bigger problem is not that anyone changed anything I liked, but that they revoked my ability to choose what I liked.

One of the recurring themes you'll notice when I write about video games, especially, is the significance of choice. Even when Muramasa: The Demon Blade gave me incredibly powerful weapons toward the end of the game, I still found myself occasionally gravitating toward the swords I'd picked up only halfway through, because their special abilities were more in line with my playing style. Yes, their damage output was inferior, but I stayed alive longer when I used them--and I had more fun choosing rather than defaulting to the "latest and greatest" option.

I understand making a change to fix a problem. I understand the standardization of procedures and interfaces where consistency is critical. I have run out of patience with innovation steamrolling the established order while there is still room for both. Am I really so inflexible, or have we started to lose our ability to improve on a good thing without tossing out what made it good?

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