50 hours into Persona 5, I’ve been having a great time getting to know its cast of stylish teenage misfits and conquering the twisted psychological palaces of bad adults. It’s just baffling that Atlus, the company behind this JRPG gem, doesn’t want me to share screenshots and video clips of my experience. Not easily, at the very least.
Atlus put in heavy restrictions for the average gamer on what can be shared about Persona 5. The game is out exclusively on Sony consoles, the PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation 4. The latter platform has built-in social features, allowing users to take screenshots, record videos up to 15 minutes long, or broadcast live to streaming services such as YouTube Gaming and Twitch. Apart from the intro screens and the brief opening moments of the game, all this sharing functionality is disabled for the rest of Persona 5.
Dedicated streamers who use external hardware to capture and broadcast footage of the game aren’t free from constraints. According to the official statement put out by Atlus USA, those who plan on posting videos are limited to showing only 90-minute chunks among other rules. Those live streaming the game are strongly warned to not exhibit anything past a specific point in the game’s story. Doing so risks video takedowns and account suspensions. All these restraints are for containing spoilers, supposedly.
Never mind the fact that the game has been out in Japan since September of last year, and that spoilers will always be easily found online when you go looking for them. Forget the emotional benefits game makers and fans get from shared experiences. I just have to consider my own time trying to cover the game for a review without the help of a capture device to declare that this sucks.
I’m either frantically reaching for my smartphone to snap a picture of a funny line of dialogue before the scene advances, or I’m looking through my phone’s relatively small, dark, and low-res screen while playing instead of my optimally lit Full HD monitor in anticipation of a screenshot-worthy image. Either way, the result is subpar, and I’m distracted from actually playing. This wouldn’t be the case at all if I were able to simply get a screenshot from the PS4 by pressing the SHARE button on my controller.
Adding to the frustration is that this limitation is dripping with irony given the presence and importance of technology in the world of Persona 5.
As the first game in the series that has come out in the 2010’s, Persona 5 is as modern as it gets. Your friends and confidants are constantly in touch via chat through your smartphone. The Phantom Thieves, your ragtag group of psyche vigilantes, gain public support through the aptly named online message board “Phan-Site.” There, followers share their love for the gang, as well as info that might lead to potential targets. The fictional hacker collective “Medjed” figure into the story as a global cyber threat. The very method by which you infiltrate the dungeons of the antagonists’ minds is through a mysterious GPS-like app on your phone called the Metaverse Navigator.
There’s even this fancy new feature called the “Thieves Guild,” which is basically the worldwide network of Persona 5 players. It shows percentages of what all the other players do with their time on in-game days, so you can get live tips on how you can better optimize your character’s busy schedule. It also shows the answers they choose for the random questions you get from teachers while your character is in class. The Thieves Guild is essentially a handy cheat sheet that brings the Persona gaming community closer!
And there’s also the undeniable feeling of rebellion throughout the game, of breaking free from the shackles of society, and of teenagers sticking it to the man.
These story and design choices are all so very now, especially in this tumultuous social climate. By locking down the simple act of sharing, Atlus undermines the contemporary, free-spirited, and always-connected message of Persona 5, revealing just how short-sighted, narrow-minded, and old-fashioned the company can be.