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Hey, PSN pirates: thanks for showing me life beyond Netflix
by Greg Mengel

Editor's note - the experiences relayed by Greg in this article are based on a short period of two days when the Netflix application on his PS3 did not function during the PSN downtime. Most people have not had this problem, and have been able to use Netflix normally despite not being able to login to PSN. Please note that this is not a news article, but an editorial based on Greg's short period of not being able to use Netflix via PSN, and that it is not meant as an announcement that Netflix is broken for all PSN users. Thank you.

The PSN downtime has transformed the internet into a circus.

Chairs are flying in forums, angry citizens of PlayStatantia are grabbing pitchforks and torches and and marching on their frantic daimyo, and Xbox connoisseurs are high-fiving in champagne-baths whilst lighting cigars wrapped in money. What was once an arena commented on by jeans-and-tee-shirt-clad games journalists, has now escalated into a anarchic street brawl covered by CNN, the BBC, and even Al Jezeera. Somewhere in Alabama, a firebrand preacher is probably pointing to the Book of Revelations with one hand and slamming his fist down onto the pulpit with the other, whilst bellowing words like "Horsemen", "Babylon", "Music Television", and "That Great and Terrible Day of the Lord". In Arkham Asylum, the Joker is smiling.

Until four days ago, I really didn't care that the PlayStation Network was down. It didn't affect me. My life went on, unaltered.

And then they took away my Netflix.

Much to the chagrin of my roommate, who abhors the invention called 'television' in all its incarnations, Netflix has become a staple of my apartment. I've watched it in the kitchen. I've watched it in the shower. I've watched it smoking hookah on the porch. Terrible shows, good shows, historically accurate shows, genuinely frightening shows caused my eyes to bleed and erased my unshakable belief that there is good in this universe... I've seen them all. Netflix is an unofficial member of the Mengel clan.

Though I can - and do - watch Netflix on my desktop or laptop, my preferred method of viewing has to be through PSN on the PlayStation 3. Like all Americans, I am required by law to purchase a new flat-screen television of at least thirty-five inches in width, regardless of personal income, once every three years, and to use it with extreme frequency. When I watch a movie, I like to feel it. I don't care whether it's Die Hard or Art School Confidential - a home movie experience must strive to meet the standards of a cinema experience as often as possible. The PS3 allows me to connect the Netflix instant queue with my television, instead of limiting me to a computer. Given my need for cinematical gratification, this is a good thing.

When the PlayStation Network originally went down almost two weeks ago, my Netflix application was still mysteriously able to function. I would load it up, be asked to punch in my PSN username and password, and receive the bad news that I could not log in to PSN. But while PSN was telling me no, Netflix would tell me yes, sneakily continuing to load in the background. Pressing circle then allowed me to skip on to Netflix, completely unharassed. It was like being a tourist, told by a border patrol agent that I could not enter Mexico as it was currently undergoing a political uprising, only to have the roadblock suddenly lifted and the agent thrust a margarita in my hand and chuck a sombrero onto my head.

This freedom to wander the deserts of Netflix without PSN supervision ended late last week, when watching Netflix suddenly required a PSN login once again. On one hand, I'm perturbed by the sudden need to move my Wii into the living room and watch Netflix on that. On the other, I imagine that it's much safer for me to not be roaming PSN's echoing, abandoned halls when they've been compromised. What was most eye-opening about having Netflix abilities on my PS3 suddenly pulled out of reach was how reliant I had become on them for entertainment in my daily life. It made me feel sort of sick, actually, to realise that I spent truly unnatural amounts of time inside, embracing lethargy.

I'm not much of an online gamer. I have spurts when I want nothing more than to challenge gamers in Europe or Australia to digital combat, but I'm more of a fan of solo play. I'll take Gordon Freeman over a random Second World War-era private nine times out of ten. So when the PSN first went down, I shrugged it off and finished my sandwich. It was no big deal. Once it affected my ability to watch Netflix, however, I felt the void conveyed across forums and comment sections internet-wide. Something I had relied on for daily entertainment was suddenly gone, and for the first time, the PSN downtime had negatively affected my life.

Now that the initial shock has passed, I'm actually thankful that Netflix is difficult to reach, as it's forced me to look outside my comfort zone in search of fun. Instead of a film, I took in a walk last week. When before I may have just looked up a baseball-themed movie, last Friday I went to a Rockies game. I don't even like baseball, but without Netflix to fall back on I thought, "Why not?", and had a genuinely fun time. Instead of watching Battlestar Galactica, I'm re-reading A Game of Thrones.

As long as Netflix is down I'll likely continue to live outside my comfort bubble and find new activities to entertain me on a daily basis. Maybe I'll take battle-axe lessons, or learn Japanese. There's an instructional drawing book on the shelf with my name on it. I could always learn to play the ocarina and gain nerd rep at parties. Soon enough, the tangled PSN mess will be figured out, and I'll find myself instinctively navigating my PS3 controller to the Netflix icon whilst sprawled on my living room couch. I love free movies too much to not go back. But while PS3 Netflix is absent, everyone who normally relies on it has a terrific opportunity to enrich their lives before they fall back into a pattern of stagnation. Hopefully, new experiences explored during the PSN drought will be rewarding enough to remain a part of my life (and the lives of my fellow Netflixians) long after Sony rights the ship and brings its online network back to life. If that happens then, for many, the lack of PSN will actually have been a blessing, and not a curse.

PSN scalawags? For using the credit cards of people you've never met, you're jerks who deserve an eternity of creative and unique punishment in the deepest layers of Hades. But for forcing me to break free from Netflix for a few weeks?

Many thanks.

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- Greg Mengel

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