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GameGuy: The “Keep Your
Online Gaming” Edition
By Mark H. Walker
Don’t blind me with science, especially
that of the statistical persuasion. There are 85,155 folks gaming The Zone as I
write this, and 57, 879 players playing Everquest. But who cares? I haven’t
played online this year, and gaming is my job. Strong marketing and a deluge of
massively multiplayer online games announcements bombard our senses, and if
gaming pundits are to be believed, the Internet and online gaming will soon
become the Mecca of all things game.
But me? I’m not quite ready to face east
and bow before the new religion. Although online gaming’s future is bright, it
is not a blinding nova that eclipses the remainder of the gaming world. Yeah,
fragging a wise ass from Great Britain is sweet, and the alternate reality of a
persistent online universe is enthralling, but online gaming doesn’t quite
stack up to its elder, single player brother. Hence Internet gaming will
continue to grow with the gaming community, but it will never dominate the
industry. Here’s why.
Why number one: Convenience. Of course I
know online gaming is 7/24, but my gaming comes in spurts –a half-hour before I
get the kids up for school, an hour after I put them to bed. It takes 5-10
minutes to hook up to Gamespy, enter a room, and pick up a game of Kohan --let alone play the dang thing.
Conversely, I can resume my Kohan saved
campaign in a couple of minutes and play till the instant before reality calls
me back to parenthood.
Why number two: Story. People want story,
they want their games to sweep them off their feet and toss them into a new,
fantastical world. In most cases it takes a single player experience to craft
that story. Blasting opponents in Quake II’s Tokay Towers may be fun,
but it doesn’t give the player a beginning, middle, end, plot surprises, and
character development –in other words, all the components that make a good
story. Yes, it creates a universe –-as does Everquest, but the
universe lacks a sense of movement toward ultimate climax and finish.
That climax/finish leads to why number
three: Completion. Despite what the wife says about my garage, humans are an
orderly species. We like to finish what we start, and often only start projects
that we know we can finish. Despite its immense size, Baldur’s Gate II
will end (if you can stay awake long enough), Asheron’s Call will not.
Playing the Call forever provides no completion, just a boss character.
And you won’t even build that boss if you
have a poor connection. Ever tried to frag someone using a cable hookup when
you are puttering about with your meager 28.8 dial-up connection? Nevertheless,
according to recently published statistics, the most common web speed
connection is 33.6, followed by 28.8. Thanks, but no thanks, I’ll play Unreal
Tournament against the ‘Bots. At least the lag won’t kill me.
For those of you counting, that brings us
to why number five... rudeness. I hate rude people, and I bet you do too. Yet
between the P-killers and jerks, immature whiners and loudmouths repeatedly
typing “LISTEN TO ME,” Internet gaming is laced with downers. Like anywhere
else, most Internet people are nice, considerate and even kind, but the idiots
are plentiful enough to ruin the best gaming experience. Yet that’s a ruination
absent from offline gaming.
Online gaming has a place in our world, and
it will continue to grow and prosper. From the publishers point of view online
gaming is a serious cash cow, but Internet play will not dominate the future of
our industry. Solo gaming’s combination of convenience, story, and sense of
completion, will make it the choice of the majority of gamers --gamers that
don’t want to hassle with buying a cable connection or online rudeness, gamers
that don’t care what statistics say, gamers who just want to have fun.
© Mark H. Walker, LLC 2001
H. Walker is a veteran interactive entertainment journalist who has written
over 40 books including his recently released Medal of Honor and Wizardry 8
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