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Sound Strategy for Success...

What constitutes cheating?

 

 

Don't get me wrong, there are obvious examples of cheating. Everyone would agree that any unauthorized program or modification that allows for an unfair advantage would be cheating. Things like aimbots and wall hacks are undoubtedly cheating.

 

 

But there are other behaviors or practices that some might consider cheating while others may not. You could ask a handful of gamers whether camping was cheating and get a handful of different answers. Some people would say that boosting and farming are cheating, while others would say it's not...perhaps lame...but not cheating.

 

But what about...

 

Hang on just a sec, let me give you the background before I broach the real subject of this blog.

 

While some might be embarrassed to admit their 15 year old daughter can totally destroy them at games like Halo or Modern Warfare, I'm not. It's not that I suck, it's that she is that good. I can watch her play round after round and come in first time and time again. It's quite entertaining to sit and watch her play.

 

But after she received a new piece of hardware for her Xbox 360 for Christmas, the trash talking became a little bit more harsh and a lot more accusatory of cheating. Nearly every round she has to defend herself to one or more players that she isn't cheating. It's easy for me to sit here and say, "Trust me. She isn't cheating. If she was, I'd kick her butt." But since you don't know me, or her, what's to say you'd even believe us. But for the record and for what it's worth, she isn't cheating. I'm an old school gamer and I would never condone or participate in cheating. I would ban her if I found out she was.

 

So what's this special piece of hardware that has really improved her game and resulted in grown men to shout obscenities at a 15 year old girl gamer and threaten to report her to the MS/Xbox Live watchdogs for cheating?

 

Ah...

 

Headphones.

 

 

Turtle Beach Ear Force X1 headphones, to be more precise. They aren't even the top of the line model. There is an even better pair, the Ear Force X41. The X1 is a regular old amplified stereo gaming headset with XBOX LIVE chat while the X41 are a wireless digital RF XBOX 360 gaming headset with XBOX LIVE chat and 7.1 channel Dolby® surround sound. Like most hardware, you get what you pay for. There are basic models that cost less than $20-30 bucks while others that run into the hundreds.

 

 

Prior to getting the headphones, our Xbox 360 was connected to the home entertainment system which included a surround sound system. I'm not sure how well this works in games, if at all. Piping the audio through the TV speakers and surround sound system resulted in what I thought was a pretty decent setup. But when she got these Turtle Beach headphones, it really changed the game. Dramatically. First of all, the headphones eliminate all of the background noise. Trust me. I don't know how many times I've yelled at my daughter to do her chores and she's totally ignored me until I walked in the room with my arms crossed.  She took the headset off and said she didn't hear me. I used to think it was just an excuse until the other night I was playing Dante's Inferno and had them on. It was unbelievable how good it sounded. When I finally went upstairs my wife asked where I was at because she had been calling me. I used the same reason my daughter did and blamed it on the headphones. You truly don't hear anything outside of the game audio. Speaking of the game audio, when using a high quality headset, you hear things you don't normally hear through regular speakers. Muffled foot steps sound like an elephant tap dancing on a marble floor. Weapon reloads sound like a hailstorm in a trailer park.

 

I've literally watched my daughter repeatedly run, stop, turn around...just in time to see someone coming up from behind. She's ready for them and dispatches them quickly and efficiently.

 

I shouldn't be surprised. I am by nature, a PC gamer, and gave up using desktop speakers a while ago. I replaced them with a cheap pair of headphones. One of the worst purchases (and one of the worst ideas in my opinion) I ever made for my PC was a rather expensive Cambridge SoundWorks surround sound system.

 

 

Do you know how difficult it is to set up surround sound for a computer desk without the rear speakers being in the way of practically everything. If you're building or purchasing a computer, my opinion is, either by a good quality two speaker + subwoofer set or get the best pair of headphones you can. Headphones and the advantage achieved by using them is just as significant on the PC as it is on a console. Block outside noise and focus on hearing in game audio. Can't beat it. (Don't get me wrong, the speakers sounded great, but the hassle was not worth it.)

 

The competitive edge that a high quality headset can provide is amazing. So much so that some say it's cheating. So the point (and question) of this blog (finally) is...

 

Is regular over the counter, commercially available and unmodified hardware, such as high performance gaming headphones, considered cheating or not? Ask a handful of different gamers, get a handful of different answers.

 

(By the way, I do not work for Turtle Beach - so this is not a really a shameless plug for them. Bottom line, they make good stuff.)

 

 

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