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Monday, April 14, 2008

Internet Nations

Culturally, I'm an American through and through.
Stop reading now! He wants you to think this is an innocent post, but eventually he's going to get to videogames and Wiis! It's a trap!
I thought you had left.
It's a public service.
Go away.

As I was saying, I'm an American as far as culture is concerned.

I watch American TV shows and movies.
I read American comics.
I play games adapted for Americans.
I speak American English.

Not too long ago, this would be very difficult and undesirable for a person living here. If you live in Israel, you speak the Israeli language and you watch Israeli TV and you read Hebrew books and you expose yourself to Israeli culture, just because that's what you have. And you learn to like it.

Ah, but the internet is breaking down borders, isn't it? I can get American entertainment just a few hours after they get it themselves! I can spend an entire day talking with people online without hearing a single word of Hebrew! The internet has everything short of the essentials: housing, food, water, electricity. (I look forward to the day when those are covered as well.) And it's accessible to everyone, without borders. The internet doesn't care where you live. principle, at least. Where this isn't true is whenever big corporations are involved. If I go to the website of, say, an American TV network, it won't let me see its streaming video. It checks where my service provider is. For some reason, the American companies don't want to lose the national borders. Maybe someone can explain to me why, because I have no idea.

A lot of media is still distributed in physical form. There are a few reasons for that. First of all, it's to prevent piracy. (This doesn't work, as my entertainment habits attest.) Secondly, people who haven't learned to access everything by computer yet think there's some intangible essence of media that's lost if they make the change. This position is wrong and will disappear with time. (At this point, I wouldn't want to see comics on anything but a computer screen.) I'm sure there are some other reasons too, but I'm not particularly interested. What matters is, discs and paper are still around. That's a problem.

I've mentioned the difficulties of getting videogames here before. If not for the rampant piracy on the internet, I would never have discovered videogames at all, since they have next to no presence at all here. Nintendo doesn't sell to Israel, not because they have anything against us but just because we're so tiny and insignificant to them. So if you want a Nintendo system, you've got to pay four times the price to get an imported one, for which it's rare to find any actual games here.

I thought the Wii would be different, because you can buy games through it directly from the internet. No shipping, just a direct download from Nintendo's servers to my system. Well, it doesn't work that way. It demands a billing address which is in Nintendo of America's territory (North and South America). If you don't have one, you're not allowed to download. (I called the technical support, who were very surprised that anyone in Israel would have an American Wii. They were no help.)

The only way, I learned, to get these games off the internet (and they are only available from the internet) is to buy a special card. Each one represents a certain amount of money, and it has a code you can type in to retrieve it from the online store. These cards can only be bought in America, of course. I can buy one online off of Amazon, but they won't ship it outside of America. Nintendo doesn't want to sell to anyone outside America.

Someday, big businesses may finally get the idea of the internet. I look forward to that day impatiently.



As usual, it turns out I saw a problem where there was none. The Wii Shop works fine! Moshe suggested I try buying something with a billing address unrelated to the credit card. It wouldn't have occurred to me that this might work. But I tried, and it did! It doesn't actually seem to care where your billing address is. So now I'm having a blast with Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda. It looks like I'm not going to have any trouble.


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