Sunday, November 23, 2008

Online Gaming Takes 3 Years Off of Your Life..

My Xbox controllers have been slammed more times than Pamela Anderson.

If you are a connoisseur of video games you've inevitably found your self screaming "Bull****!" or "What the F*** was that!?", or, my personal favorite, "The game is cheating me!" at some point in your gaming career. I know this because I've never been around anyone who hasn't shown a significant amount of frustration when their golf shot goes out of bounds, when Mario doesn't clear the jump across the lava, or when Shang Tsung lands the final blow before draining their soul. (I STILL SWEAR I PUSHED BLOCK!)

In any case we put ourselves through hell sometimes to reach the point where we can sit back and watch the developer's credits roll; empty Mountain Dew cans and Pringles containers scattered about the room. A video gamer's relationship with his console of choice is of the love/hate variety.

Growing up with the video games has been quite an adventure. From playing pong on my Atari while sitting on the living room floor in diapers (which sounds a lot like my usual Saturday night but I assure you I mean when I was 2 years old) to shooting gang members and picking up hookers in GTA3, the industry has come a long way in my lifetime.

Enter online gaming.

When I first starting playing S.O.C.O.M. online (one of the first titles with online play capability), it was an exciting time. As games became more and more online friendly, the features got better, the gameplay became smoother and the smack talk got dirtier. Now, after playing video games my entire life, I've come to an unpopular conclusion: online content is destroying video games.

Before you cry out "OFF WITH HIS HEAD!", hear me out. The internet has no doubt done some good things for the industry. It destroys the distance barrier between gamers. We are now able to co-op Gears of War with someone across town or "play Mortal Kombat with a friend in Vietnam." (Thank you Jim Carrey's Cableguy) Also, it's possible to download content and demos for games so we can save a couple bucks on a rental. However, while content is a plus, it is also a resounding negative.

If you have a service like Xbox live you know the routine. For "X" amount of Microsoft points you can download new maps, songs, or outfits for nearly every game. Things like this are giving game developers an out to make games with a lackluster amount of content as long as they promise to make more content available for download in the future. And if you do the math and put a real dollar amount on the "Microsoft Points", you'll realize that when it is all said and done a game can run you $100 or more. (And that's excluding games like Rockband and Guitar Hero that have astronomical asking prices to begin with because of the hardware involved.)

I can't afford to get the most out of a game's experience anymore.  It's hard enough to lay out $60 for a new game.  I am a member of GameFly, but I see no point paying for downloads for a game that I'm only going to have for a week.  I know that I'm not the only person with this problem, especially with the current state of the economy.  But, I digress. Before I wrap this rant up I'd like to take you through a typical online gaming session at my house.

I love how the "ranking system" claims to match players of equal skill level.  If that's the case, how come I always run into people that just kick my ass?
First it's the 10 year old.  A sniveling brat who has nothing else to do in his free time but button mash until he develops some skills; a child whose parents give him their credit card to keep him and his friends locked in their room and out of their hair.  He calls me a "noob" as he alternates standing and crouching over my dead body to make it look as though he's humping my leg.

It's now around 12 a.m.  I figure the 10 year old must be in bed so he can go to school tomorrow and learn how to write in cursive.  Maybe I can get some wins in.  However, I forgot about the 40 year old Wendy's manager, who just got off of his afternoon shift only to return to his parent's basement paradise, ready to adorn his headset and hand me my ass.  I'm ready to break something.

Ok.... I have a couple of days off work.  I'm going to play nonstop until I can beat these guys. 

Two Days Later

I'm in the zone. I scream at the ten year old about who the noob is now.  Even the Wendy's manager falls victim to my well placed head-shots. It's time for me to move up in the online gaming chain. Things are going smoothly. That is until I run into....the LAN party.

This group of teenagers are a part of gaming's elite. They have been sitting in the same room for 6 months.  Four TVs are positioned in a line.  They all, unnecessarily, wear their headsets and bark out commands about their well tuned room clearing or flag carrying strategies.  Needless to say that I and the 3 other saps playing against them are used to mop the floor.  I can't win.

The overall point is that playing online can cause so much stress that it takes years off of your life. Also, casual gamers are not going to lay out the necessary green to really get the most out of a game.  I'm tired of ranting.  I think I'll go play Mario 3. At least then I can blame the computer for cheating me.