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The 'Persona 5' Screenshot Ban Hurts Our Ability to Connect With It

Screenshots let us remember the journeys we've taken in games, so what does it mean when Persona 5 disables them?

by Janine Hawkins
Apr 11 2017, 8:00pm

Above: Persona 5 screenshot courtesy Atlus

The sharing restrictions that Atlus has placed on Persona 5 are making me miserable, and not for the most obvious reasons.

In addition to the embargo-like limitations placed on streamers and let's players, it turns out that the Playstation 4's native recording and screenshot functions are also disabled in Persona 5 for everything beyond the game's main menu. It's not uncommon for certain games to restrict sharing features, but it's typically done in a much narrower window such as a plot-critical cutscene and not an entire 100-hour RPG.

Practically speaking, disabling these features does little to get in the way of those with a capture card or PCs set up for remote play. They don't stop anyone who's truly determined to capture the game, only those players casually trying to save a few moments here and there over the course of play. And this is the part that's bothering me. I don't want to stream Persona 5. I don't want to make a Let's Play of Persona 5. I don't want to post the game's cutscenes to YouTube or make huge spoiler guides. Literally all I want is to be able to save the moments I most enjoy, just for me.

Let me frame it this way. I took a little over 900 photos over the course of two weeks in France. Photos of just about everywhere I went and just about everything I saw, from sprawling fields to immaculate statues to impressive palaces. I took those photos because I knew I wouldn't be able to return any time soon, if ever. I wanted to preserve as much of that experience as possible. I wanted to be able to access all those things and places and memories without having to spend two weeks and several thousand dollars to do so.

Years later, I took a little over 900 screenshots over the course of playing Dragon Age: Inquisition, for very similar reasons. It's a big game, a big investment of time, and as much as I'd enjoyed it I doubted I would be able to afford to repeat it anytime soon, if ever. So I took screenshots of just about everywhere my Inquisitor went and just about everything my Inquisitor saw. Sprawling fields, immaculate statues, impressive palaces.

I'm a serial screenshotter. I always have been, and silly as that sounds the habit's served me well as a critic. It lets me quickly and easily catalogue significant moments even if I'm not playing a game for the purpose of a review or with an article idea in mind. I can then revisit those images if I'm trying to piece an idea together later on, or when a friend is doing the same. But even beyond professional use, this is just part of how I prefer to process a longer experience—especially one that I'm enjoying.

Screenshots are often an excuse to keep thinking about a game, to connect threads I may otherwise have missed, and to really sit with those experiences without having to find the time to repeat them in full.

I can't say what long-term impact (if any) Atlus' sharing restrictions will have on Persona 5, but I have a pretty good idea of the impact they'll have on my relationship with it. For me, Persona 5 is an experience that simply won't endure, nor one that I'll be able to afford to repeat. No matter how much I'm enjoying it now, I'm just not going to remember all those impressive palaces.

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