606: Cutting Edge
Title text: I remember trying to log in to the original Command and Conquer servers a year or two back and feeling like I was knocking on the boarded-up gates of a ghost town.
Half-Life 2 is a computer game, specifically a first-person shooter, released in 2004. In the above comic, Cueball plays the game in 2009 since newer games usually require more recent and powerful computers which are more costly. However, even a very weak computer developed in 2009 will comfortably run a 2004 game as the technologies are much more likely to "match up". Newer games simply require more CPU power, more RAM and pricier graphics add-ons.
Additionally, the price for an older game is considerably less than those of the more recent variety. Even the price of a once-new, highly anticipated AAA game is almost definitely guaranteed to have fallen due to the presence of newer games and the relative maturity of the present game. Most of the expected sales of a game happen near the release. A game would not be deemed that lucrative after 5 years, prompting a price drop to justify its sales or even printing. Sometimes, a game will be released with several, if not all, expansion packs at a fraction of the price of purchasing them all separately during the initial release.
However, the downside to Cueball's strategy is that your gaming knowledge will be five years out of date. In a subculture that moves as fast as video games, it's almost impossible for Cueball to embarrass himself harder.
On the last panel, "The cake is a lie" and "This was a triumph" are references to Portal, a video game released in late 2007. The cake references originate from the promises of cake that GLaDOS, a character in the game, makes to the player. Exploring the levels reveals several hiding places that seem to have been used, in one of which the player can find the words "The cake is a lie" repeatedly scrawled on the wall. Portal was indeed considered old-fashioned by early 2013, with the developers themselves stating they were sick and tired of the endlessly parroted jokes. Both Portal and Half-Life 2 were released by the same company, Valve, and Portal 2 was released in 2011.
The title text also points to another flaw in this strategy: multi-player gaming requires other players, so if you play a game five years after everybody else, there's nobody else to play with. It's even worse with online gaming, as the company hosting the online server may have shut it down a long time ago.
- [Megan is standing. Cueball sits at a computer.]
- Megan: Where've you been all week?
- Cueball: Playing Half-Life 2!
- Megan: ...that came out in 2004.
- Cueball: I get games on a five-year lag. That way, I never have to buy a high-end system, but get the same steadily-advancing gaming experience as people who do - and at a fraction of the price.
- Cueball: There are no downsides!
- Megan: I can think of one...
- [Early 2013.]
- Cueball: Guys!
- Cueball: The cake is a lie!
- [Musical notes surround an italic line, suggesting Cueball is singing.]
- Cueball: This was a triumph.
- Cueball: The cake is a lie!
- Megan and a Friend: Sigh
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