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Persona 5 makes a big, but easy-to-fix mistake

The review embargo has lifted, at last, so I can tell you that, yes, Persona 5 continues the 2017 trend of fantastic video games. I can also vent about the role-playing game’s most maddening design quirk, a mistake that I think could prevent it from reaching as broad an audience as it deserves. Persona 5 — a game largely about the overlap of the real and digital worlds blocks players from sharing their experiences online by restricting the PlayStation 4’s screen capture, video clip, and social media features.

To quickly summarize how sharing normally works on the PS4: a Share button on every PS4 controller allows a player to quickly take a screenshot or record a small chunk of gameplay. This button also allows players to easily post their media onto social networks. Similar features are available on the Xbox One and the Nintendo Switch. Most games allow this option to work at any time. Some prevent the Share feature from operating during crucial plot twists or while navigating dull menus. Rarely does a game completely prohibit capture.

There’s a self-serving reason why game developers should encourage use of the Share button. The feature is a fun and easy way to let people know what you’re playing — but it’s also free marketing. Games like Horizon Zero Dawn and Forza Horizon 2 include photo modes not because they love photography, but because designers know fans are more likely to share beautiful, personalized images with friends, and in the process, promote their game. Just look at how The Legend of Zelda: Breadth of the Wild flooded social media thanks the Switch’s one-tap screen capture button.

In 2017, not allowing screen-captures is bad business. The creators of Persona 5 see it otherwise and I understand why. Their role-playing game is more linear than most of its contemporaries, its selling point being a 100+ hour story that, via screenshots and videos, could be spoiled. But the decision to prevent sharing entirely short sells the many fantastic moments that don’t spoil the game, and do capture what makes it so special.

The decision also ignores the fact that, without an option to take hi-resolution screen captures, people will just take grainy shots with a smartphone. And you get results like this:

And this:

Good tweets! Crummy images!

It appears, from an outsider’s perspective, like an easy enough problem to fix. A patch could allow the Share button to work within the game. The only barricade, really, is the developer. Until they decide otherwise, the best option will be the camera on your phone.

My phone has around 30 similarly fuzzy screenshots. I took them, mostly, for myself. In that way, the inability to take screenshots has helped me understand why I like to take them. Like a tourist incessantly taking snapshot, I use screenshots to capture memories. I’ve loved my time in Persona; I wish I had more photos to remember it by.


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