Most games I know will not allow you to play them at all online until you update them. As I said in the OP, these are overnight downloads for me. I'm working on it, but gigabytes of updates spread over multiple games takes a while. Is it really interrupting in the middle of the game? I think you're right that I couldn't go online at all until I did. For Little Big Planet, for example, when it wanted to update, it said 32 MB, 1/11, and I said OK.
Is it really interrupting in the middle of the game?
It shouldn't do that except right when you load the game up. Each download should be ONE download, not multiple separate ones.
I'd first make sure you've updated the system software itself (which should be current, otherwise it wouldn't go online at all). The problem is it interrupts my game repeatedly if I forget to turn off the internet. Some bugs make the game use too much of the network's resources. So they fix these bugs, and annoy you until you download the updates. This happens whether I'm using the online features or not.
With all of our readers hanging on every word that Sony puts out, we decided to put together a page explaining the proper processes in updating your PS3. You can update directly from the PS3, you can update using data on a game disc, or you can download the update file from your PC and update using a USB drive or memory card.
Downloading the file directly from Sony’s servers to your PC is generally the fastest way to grab the PS3 update file.