Friday, 20 May 2011

Is Jonathan Fargher Entirely Trustworthy?

Sony's Apology Package

Haven't had much to say about Sony's recent security troubles. Well, it's hard to travel anywhere on the news websites and blogs, without crashing into Floydian walls of opinion about the corporation and its permanently besieged Playstation Network. Even on the subject of this post, namely the "apology package", there are countless deafening choruses of "too little", "too late", "also, I want an Xbox", and related flamewars without end.


Jonathan Fargher, senior PR manager for Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE), has crossed a line with me. And I'm sure, with every other gamer with a gramme of technically literacy. If I may quote just two lines of his, from say the BBC's report:
  1. Clearly there's going to be a minority of people out there who have some of those games.
  2. We certainly believe [...] the choice of games that we're offering [...] is good value.
Of course I have to be careful what I say now, mindful of my country's draconian, and quite literally, unspeakably insane 17th century libel laws. But given these two statements, it is quite easy to prove with rigor, using little more than the rules of the predicate calculus, that Jonathan Fargher is either deranged, or a liar.

The proof doesn't depend on the truth or falsity of the individual statements themselves; given certain platitudes, it's as certain as any proof in logic, more so than any in the rest of mathematics. It is true regardless of whether or not some people already have some or all of these games; whether those people form a minority, or a majority; whether the choice of games is good value or a ripoff; and whether or not Jonathan Fargher believes some, any, all or none of the above. No single given factoid convicts. Rather, Jonathan Fargher's problem is that there's no consistent assignment of truth values to the various parts of his statements, that avoids the incriminating conclusion.

Reductio Ad Absurdum

We proceed by assuming the truth of everything Jonathan Fargher claims in those two statements above. From this we derive a contradiction. Finally we conclude that either Jonathan Fargher believes this contradiction, in which case he is arguably deranged; or alternatively, he doesn't actually believe (one or more of) his own claims. In that case, inescapably, he's a liar.

So, working from the back to the front: the second thing Jonathan Fargher believes is that the choice of games is "good value". How can we express this in less subjective terms? Let's take a look at that choice.

PS3 TitleRelease Date
Dead NationDec 2010
InfamousMay 2009
Little Big PlanetOct 2008
Ratchet and Clank: Quest for BootyAug 2008
Wipeout HD/FuryDec 2009

Apart from the PSN exclusive zombie shooter Dead Nation, and the Fury addition to warhorse Wipeout HD, everything here is two or more years old.

PSP TitleRelease Date
Killzone LiberationNov 2006
Little Big Planet PSPNov 2009
ModNation PSPMay 2010
Pursuit ForceNov 2005

Wow. I'd forgotten there even was a PSP console in 2005.

Yet regardless of the considerable age and the low current prices (below £10) of many of these titles, and notwithstanding the fact that you get to pick only two games from either list, none of this allows us to deny Jonathan Fargher's claim of "good value". Why? Because here, they're free. Any attempt to compute the value-for-money of a given selection results in a division by zero error.

That can't be right. Are we now agreeing with Jonathan Fargher, and going fargher still, to say that the selection represents infinite value? No. Clearly the concept of value-for-money is inapplicable to truly free offers. A better gauge is the popularity of the selections. The more popular the game, the higher its value as a free offering. But here we begin to see the seeds of the contradiction that we seek. In a given console community, popular games are by definition those most likely to be owned already. And to such an existing owner, a free download of such a game obviously has a very low value indeed.

Summing Up

From Jonathan Fargher's Second Law, we are being offered a "good value" selection of games, in other words, a set containing at least some popular games. By definition, such games are already owned by a majority of a given console community. That contradicts Jonathan Fargher's First Law, that no more than "a minority of people" will already have any of those games.

Quod erat demonstrandum.

No comments:

Post a Comment