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Posted on Sunday, April 26 2009 @ 10:37:08 PST
Dreamcast came to the US in 1999 with a MODEM built right in. That meant after the parents went to bed my friends and I could silently huddle around the TV and look at questionable websites with no worries about history left on the family computer. A Game-Revolution, indeed! My big sister's GBF once saw me downloading a "song" for Samba De Amigo and exclaimed, "The INTERNET on TEEVEE? Imagine what they have in the military!"
Now, in 2009, I often say the best part about today's video games is that you don't even need any real friends to play versus mode. I really appreciate this, because I recently switched states for some reason and don't have any videogame-playing friends nearby. Especially not for the fighting games like Street Fighter 4, your Soul Calibur, your Tekkens. Luckily there is the vastness of the internet to be my unpredictable human opponents, which is incredible. Imagine what they must have in the military.
To a degree of course, this is nothing new. I know online PC shooters and RTS-es have been around forever and I know that the last generation of systems has been internet-capable as well. I'm not talking about playing Counter Strike or Warcraft or Halo (maybe Halo a little), I'm talking about the games that used to be played in arcades and/or basements. Experiences where you're all in the same room and maybe you feel like you're getting the worst of the trash talk because your sister's a cheerleader, and then you're agitated and you toss the playstation controller a little too aggressively. Maybe your buddy wasn't paying attention and the controller nails him in the ear. Then he tackles you and you start kind of fighting for real over a videogame but it's okay because you're still young but then you knock over the potted plant and suddenly someone's mom is yelling at you boys to stop it, STOP it, WHO'S GOING TO CLEAN THAT UP, BOYS... right? What I'm saying is, you certainly can't hit someone in the ear through your DSL line and even at a LAN party if you tackle someone mid-game you're likely to knock over $2,000 worth of equipment. I'm talking about the new online multiplayer of those games which were previously played with and around real, tangible, tackleable humans. Fighting games, high-score battles, the sort of thing that really relies on competition.
What happens when these games when you can compete with someone you never have to see and can't punch in the testicles? Aside from missing the in-person interactions I already talked about, I think the main difference is that you don’t have a nemesis. I suppose with friends lists it’s possible, but I got way better at Tekken 5 and RE4’s mercenaries mode than anyone really should, all because my roommate and I had a running rivalry. That kind of thing doesn’t exist with random online matchmaking. My nemesis and I would also talk strategy, which is embarrassingly nerdy but it’s another thing that’s missing from the online experience. If you ask someone “How’d you do that?” on PSN or Live, you’re way more likely to get your sexuality questioned than a step-by-step tutorial.
These thoughts come up because I’ve been playing a lot of SF4 online lately and it’s awesome, but I still feel like there’s something missing. Playing online definitely beats going against a CPU opponent, but it’s still second-best to playing in person where you can trash-talk, debrief on strategy, punch each other etc. I’m sure as technology continues to improve the experience will get better and closer to the in-person experience (if I recall there was no voice chat in ChuChu Rocket), but until that glorious day I’ll still miss getting yelled at by my fat stupid roommate over a game of Tekken or RE4 Mercenaries.
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