I personally love the idea of online gaming. Even if you do have friends that you could play with locally they aren’t always around, making online gaming great for those in need of some realistic competition. Artificial intelligence bots, something rarely seen anymore because of the existence of online capabilities, are better than nothing, but rarely offer the surprises or challenge that another human player will. Online gaming has destroyed screen peaking, a maneuver which allowed players in the same room to physically look at your segment of the screen and see your position. This made tactical advantages almost impossible, but it also made camping a little harder. In theory online gaming is great, but in practice it leaves a lot to be desired.
First off, I will talk about the obvious- online gaming etiquette. Most everyone who has played a game of anything online with voice chat has encountered some sort of racist, sexist or homophobic slur within the first five minutes. A lot of this has to do with the relative anonymity of the internet, but also has to do with gaming culture itself. There are gamers who can play a game casually, enjoy a challenge and do not mind losing occasionally. And then there are those that forget they are playing a game with nothing at stake and go into blind fits of rage. Age is also a factor, there are a lot of teens, and children, playing games online that they should not be allowed to purchase in stores. A recent online game of Halo: Reach was flooded with the voices of small children, something my brother says he hears fairly frequently. While I personally have no problem with kids playing a game like Halo, it isn’t especially violent or profane, I would have problems letting my child play these games online and be subject to hearing all of the awful things I have heard.
Another problem I have is something I previously touched upon, gamers taking things too seriously. Playing online is no longer just about winning or losing. It is now about gamer scores, medals, and kill/death ratios. I like the ability to win medals based on assists, or head shots, but perhaps things have gone to far when people are micromanaging how effective they are to the team based on kill/death ratios. This just causes a lot of fighting and creates a barrier to entry for those who just simply want to play a game.
Some of our most popular games of today have average to terrible single player campaigns. I am fine with games geared towards multiplayer, but if you are going to include a single player mode make sure it is well fleshed out. Gone are the days of lengthy campaigns with interesting stories, in their place are 5 hour pop corn flicks. Single player games are a much harder sell these days than online multiplayer ones, and developers know it. Single player only games are also much more likely to be traded in to a second hand store, potentially losing publishers even more sales.
Online gaming has also led to patches, allowing developers to ship broken games to retail. But it has also allowed them to provide additional content, which can be great for your favorite games. As long as it is something more substantial than horse armor that is. I am talking about extra campaign levels or multiplayer maps that come out a year after release, not modes or costumes that should have been included in the original product. QA testing can’t always catch everything though, so I appreciate the ability to fix potentially game breaking bugs or thwart the efforts of cheaters.
Online gaming is definitely the way the industry is heading, if it’s not already there. Games have more replay value, gamers have built in human competition whenever they want, and you can potentially build friendships. Blasting a co-worker online can build communication when previously there was none. It can allow you to maintain friendships that you previously had over long distances. Maybe you and a friend sat around a Nintendo 64 and played Goldeneye in college, now you can play the new Goldeneye remake on Wii from across the country. Online gaming has definitely brought with it some benefits, and will surely improve as gamers mature and realize that there are other ways to express themselves outside of profanity. I just hope we don’t completely rid ourselves of the epic single player games I grew up on.