Gaming is better with friends- even if you get carried away and knock over the TV...again.

It doesn't seem all that long ago, but online gaming was very minimal except in certain situations.  When I was growing up, there was only one reliable way to play games with others- go to the house with the console and play together!  Now, having two siblings of my own, I had built-in gaming cohorts (when our parents would allow us to play, that is), but mostly, I went over to my next door neighbor's house because he was allowed to have a SNES, N64 AND (when it came out) his PS2 in his room, and we'd play stuff like Super Street Fighter Turbo, Goldeneye (which I was horribly bad at, by the way), and Tekken Tag Team.  When we played together, it enhanced every single part of the game- from the pats on the back when one of us beat a new opponent to friendly banter as adversaries to commiserating over losses.  When I think back to those afternoons, my feelings are not necessarily just focused on the game, but the feeling of teamwork and friendship that was strengthened through playing games together.  Of course, we also did other fun stuff, such as playing baseball, mountain biking and sneaking into R rated movies (NOT THAT I AM SUGGESTING ANY OF YOU DO THE SAME), but gaming was one of those pivotal cornerstones of my friendships with the other kids in the neighborhood.


There is something visceral about gaming with others, especially those who you know personally.  With the introduction and widespread DSL internet access available nowadays, there's also this entirely new chunk of reality that you can game with- THE INTERNETZ.  Unfortunately, just like in real life, the Internet is full of the same icky people who often populate the real world as well (only they're less inhibited because they are anonymous).  Of course, by the same token, there are some awesome, amazing and cool people (you all know who you are), but it can be hard to meet up with them.  This is why, at least to some extent, while there are people who I would consider playing online multiplayer games with, most of them are people who:

A) I know online at least fairly well and they don't act like a troll or a jerk.


B) I know in real life and they also happen to have the same game/game system and want to play online because we're separated by distance.

Unfortunately, those who fall outside of these parameter are like the GAMBLE CHOCOLATE you get on Valentine's Day.  Most of it is crap, and while there may be a couple of good ones in there, wading through the bad stuff is exhausting and ultimately not even guaranteed to end in success.


Now, I usually consider myself an open and gregarious person, but especially as a female gamer, I have to be semi-careful about who I associate with, especially if they know that I am female.  As I have mentioned before, there are quite a lot of trolls on the internet, but there are also a lot of people who engage in gender-specific negative behaviors, such as stalking, overly creepy behavior, or name-calling and harassment.  Now, I have a fairly thick skin- after all, I'm a veteran internet denizen, but I find as I get older and busier, I have a much lower tolerance for dealing with annoying shenanigans from people who mean about as much to me as a piece of dog poo on the side of the road.  


In short, if you're awesome, you get to be on my list of awesome and as long as you treat me with respect, I will do the same.  But that's the big disconnect when it comes to playing with friends online.  Even if you have a headset, you're not actually in the same room, and that can lead to the same sort of semi-ruthless behavior that people engage in when they are being competitive with faceless people online.  When you're right there in the room, it's easy to see how those around you are going to react, especially if they're more sensitive to critical digs or being shouted at.  Plus, I've found that some of the best inside jokes come from being in a room with your friends, playing games and having a light discussion about random things, a conversation that is often less likely to happen over voice chat via headset, largely because sometimes, well, you just HAVE TO BE THERE to understand the joke.

Borrowing games: 1980's Style

This brings me to my next point- the borrowing of games, and how it is rapidly becoming one of those Outdated Things that grandpas go on about while rocking on the front porch as their grandchildren look incredulous and amused.  When I was growing up, most kids could not afford every single game that came out.  But we all traded and borrowed games among one another all the time (well, as long as there was more than one save file, that is- you just DIDN'T touch another gamer's save file without their permission-THOSE WERE THE RULES OF HONOR).  This often led to hours of one person playing while the other person (who had already beat the game) looked on and made observations or simply chatted idly with the person on the controller.  To some extent, this also was one of the reasons I started enjoying watching others play games (as long as they were good).  When games started including cut-scenes and more in-depth stories, it became almost like watching a show that was controlled by my friend (or by me, with my friend watching).  And even if it was just a matter of going home with a game that someone else had played, it would open all sorts of hither-to non-accessible friendship doors. 

Like this door, actually.

Of course, my very positive experience with lending is largely due to the fact that I am a very courteous gamer.  I take care of other people's games very well and give them back just as clean and in working condition as they were when I got them (sometimes even better, as my neighbor was kind of a slob and I had a couple of "chocolate milk stained" cartridges lent to on several occasions- I would gently clean them with a damp cloth and dry them thoroughly before placing them in a nice box).  But there's a level of trust and closeness you achieve with someone who lends you a game, and whose trust you uphold because it is important to you.  There is a "glue" that cements a friendship, and trust is a large part of that glue.  Lending books is one thing, but games, which were (and still are) very expensive, especially back in the day where a save file was often at the mercy of the cartridge's whims, were one of those Big Things that signified that your friendship was more than just trading lunch items and listening to the same bands.


But alas, these days are all but over.  With the up-tick of downloadable games, used games at reasonable prices, and an almost insane leaning towards individualism, the days of borrowing games from friends is largely gone.  This is especially prevalent as an adult.  For example, I have many games and anime series that I love and enjoy.  When I am close to someone, I will often want to lend an item to them so they can use it themselves, but most of the time, I am met with incredulous looks or an admonition that they "will get a copy" themselves instead.  There is a purity to lending and borrowing games that seems to be lost in a world where adults can basically buy whatever they want within reason.  I think that out of all the things that my own daughter is going to wonder when she's old enough, she's going to wonder why I was so trusting of others to allow my stuff into the clutches of those around me.  I'm not sure what I'm going to say to that, probably some version of "you kids today......" or something similar.

....or is it?

The one thing that I *am* thankful for is the fact that I am blessed to be close to many wonderful people online.  While the trolls have their respective web bridges to dwell under, the internet has given me ample opportunities to get close to many people who live far away or who are generally out of "local" range but still provide support and gaming commiseration.  Whether it's an online buddy shooting the breeze with me about Skyward Sword or an IM conversation comparing most anticipated games, I find myself being able to make those meaningful connections with others, even though my next door neighbor is no longer a door away asking if I'll come by to play Tekken Tag Team with him because I kickmajorass at playing Anna and Jin and he needs someone to counter how epically good he is at playing Yoshimitzu and Eddie or it's just boring.  One day in the distant future, I'll be able to pull up a game, talk naturally with my friends in-game without complicated wires or headset-static, and get back into that comfortable gaming camaraderie in a new, yet familiar way.  But honestly, I need to start that list- you know, the list of things I'm going to have to explain to the young-uns because these times, they are a changin'.


So, what do you think are the pros and cons of "networked" online gaming?

Do you prefer to play with your friends in-person or through your consoles?

And what are your thoughts on the future of mutliplayer?  Will it pass like a fad or do you think it has potential to grow and improve?

As always, dear readers, your thoughts are appreciated and welcomed!


PS: I just wanted to mention that a bunch of lovely and wonderful people nominated me for Member Herding on GIO, and I am SO VERY EXCITED AND HONORED to be featured on Saints blog today!


Super huge thanks to Saint for making everything look so polished!

Ok, I promise, that is all for now!