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Top Five Social Innovations in Video Games

Posted on Monday, July 11 @ 13:27:25 PST by
New ways of doing things come out all the time. But few ever alter the face of gaming forever. With video games, being social was long confined to only player one and player two. Coin-operated arcades provided somewhat of a social environment, but still, actual gameplay always confined you to just two (and the occasional 4-player game). That meant, you were stuck playing with whomever just so happened to be around at the time. But new (and not so new) innovations have allowed gamers to reach out to gamers from across the globe, all from the comfort of their worn-out sofa. It's these innovations that we're paying homage to today.


Does anyone even remember XBAND? If you do, then you also remember the terrible dial-up “wherrrrr, pssshhhh, sccccctttttttt, eyeeeeyyyeeeyyeee” noises that occupied your phone lines if you were connected through XBAND. This was online gaming before there was online gaming. It was essentially a modem that snapped onto your console that allowed a dial-up connection to other gamers with an XBAND over the Sega Genesis or Super NES.

If you think you experience lag now, you never experienced XBAND; it was almost useless. Still, it was the pre-cursor to modern online gaming that we know today, and for its time (in 1994) it even had messaging, a friends list, and user statistics. Pretty advanced concept, but internet connections sadly held it back.

Sidenote: My XBAND username was Mr. 40 Oz., no joke. I was 12 in 1994. I had never even seen a real 40-ounce at the time.

4.) Xbox LIVE

A real online service over broadband that works? Awesome! $50 a year? Not so awesome. But without Xbox LIVE, there may not have been a PlayStation Network or a Nintend… oh yeah, they still don’t have a service. Xbox LIVE was the first of its kind, that being the first to get online right. Sure, the PS2 could play games online, but with the lack of an identity and features that brought gamers together socially and competitively, it couldn’t hold a candle to Xbox LIVE. Now, it features everything from movies to music, with everything in between.

3.) Voice Chat

Sending text messages back and forth had been around since XBand, but it wasn’t until users were able to speak directly to each other (and hear each other) when online gaming really took off. Being able to plan strategies with squad-mates or talk to smack to your enemies is where the real fun is at. So long as there is a mute button. Unfortunately with such power comes great responsibility, and online gaming is riddled with obnoxious users screaming profanities and slurs. Even worse, someone has shitty music playing in the background or a fan blowing into their mic – the possibilities are endless. But even with all the potentials for disaster, we risk our eardrums for the chance to interact socially with other gamers.

That's Rihanna playing Xbox LIVE on the right. I'm guessing being called names and being screamed at (in addition to whips and chains) excite her.

2.) Game Invites

Sure, chatting with strangers across the internet is… interesting… to say the least, but it’s much better when you’re actually talking to people you know. Even better is when you’re both playing the same game and talking about what’s going on in the game. The way online lobbies are set up, it would be like finding a needle in a haystack if you were trying to locate your buddies online. But thanks to invites, it’s more like finding a needle in a junkie’s arm: simple.

Note: Don't do drugs.

1.) Party System

My kind of party involves beer, food, women, and a late night run to Taco Bell (I love “meat” filling). But then there’s the other kind. Taking traditional game invites a step further, a good party system will allow you to bring in a number of your friends or even your friends’ friends, to all get together and kick some ass online. Whether you’re playing with them or against them, true gaming bliss is having all of your friends around to see your amazing feats of in-game glory or to laugh at the embarrassment of the one noob in the bunch.

Tags:   Xbox Live, PSN, steam

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