As an avid gamer and someone who has tinkered in the realm of video game development I am fascinated with the mechanics behind level design, map construction and the quality control measures used to evaluate the product from production to implementation. In short order, I like the nuts and bolts of game development.

So, when I read the article in the September 2010 issue of Game Informer titled "The Lab Rats" by Annette Gonzalez, I was...simply put...fascinated. If you are remotely interested in video game development and the measures companies go to in order to test and evaluate their creation, the article is definitely worth reading. I've read it no less than 5 times, I liked it that much.

For the record, I try not to make a habit out of using other people's material as the source of my blog, and for the most part I'm not...but definitely a big part of tonight's blog was inspired by the Game Informer article. Inspired by...yes...but this blog is going to take a bit of a different approach and talk about how much visibility the game industry has on our online gaming activity.

Clearly, this issue will primarily deal with online games and if that translates to First Person be it. The point is, if the companies can do this with FPS games, then chances are they can monitor any game that is connected to the Internet. In fact, one of the things I will mention from the article is derived from Blur, the racing game.

Before I jump in, let me give you a bit of the background...

In Annette's article, she discusses a "heat map", a "kill map" and "collision data".

A heat map shows the movement of players and vehicles, which can be used to show where most of the activity is taking place and allow the game developers to tweak the map as needed; a kill map shows a dot where players were killed and a connecting line to the player who killed them, which allows the game developers to identify potential unbalanced areas that promote camping or other undesirable behavior; and the collision data used from the racing game Blur shows spots on the race track where cars consistently run into the walls, potentially identifying track construction issues.

When you think about "big brother" (in this case the game developers) tracking your every movement...well, that's pretty impressive if you ask me. It makes me wonder how much visibility do the game developers have on our online activity. And not only how much, but what kind of data are they able to collect.

If you think about it from a First Person Shooter perspective, consider the amount of data that is collected, processed and stored for every single player that logs on. For a game like Modern Warfare 2, we're talking millions of people. Every day! That's remarkable.

Shots fired. Weapon used. Kill/Death ratio. Maps played. How long you play on each map. Just to name a few of the more commonly viewed statistical information.

Who knows how many different variables are recorded...and then when you add in capabilities like heat maps and kill maps, it would seem that the game developers could very easily track your every movement, your every action, your every everything. If a heat map and kill map is capable of logging a position, it wouldn't seem like that far of a stretch to imagine that they can also associate a specific user to that position.

It makes you wonder (or at least makes me wonder) just how close is Big Brother watching...and what are they doing with all that data?

Boosters beware!