I'm going to start this week's issue of Critical Thinking off on a rather contentious note - gaming as a whole involves far less interaction than it used to be. It's turning distressingly solitary.
It's a trend I've noticed in passing for some time now, although it never occurred to me to organize my thoughts and address it until just recently. See, I was a child of the nineties. Although arcades are something of a distant memory to me, I still fondly recall consoles such as the Nintendo 64. I still hold dear to my heart memories of wasting away the night playing Mario Kart, Super Smash Brothers, Mario Tennis, and Perfect Dark. Although I hate to gush, it was something of a golden age for party games: the most fun you could have on a console usually involved four friends sitting next to you on the couch.
More than anything, that was the real joy of it - kicking back and letting loose with a group of your closest friends.
Fast-forward a few decades, and with a few rare exceptions, video games - and gamers -are becoming more and more solitary. Name ten games released in the last two years with four-person local multi-player. As an added challenge, only two of those games can be on one of Nintendo's consoles. See what I mean? Tough, isn't it?
Don't get me wrong, gaming is still social enough. Everybody's willing to buzz on Facebook about their latest achievements; people co-ordinate with one another through VOIP clients in League of Legends; developers are making an active effort with next-gen consoles to promote ease of sharing and a sense of online community. At the end of the day, though? All that stuff simply isn't the same as actual human contact, and it would be foolish to try pretending that it is.
In short, we've shifted our focus away from human contact towards what is honestly best termed a sad imitation.
In the case of consoles, it can be chalked up to three factors. The first is technical concerns. Like it or not, modern video game consoles simply might not have the power to support four-person local play with certain titles. That sounds absurd, I know (after all the Nintendo 64, with its 133 mHz processor was capable of doing so), but it's still a possibility that's worth considering. Secondly (and this could be considered something if a vicious cycle), online multiplayer is prevalent enough that most devs may not be willing to expend the time or effort to set up local play. Last, but certainly not least, the almighty dollar may well play a part. After all, if you've got four people playing on one console, that's three people who haven't bought the game.
That last one is a bit cynical, sure...but with how prevalent micro-transactions have become, you'll have to forgive me a spot of cynicism.
The end result of all this is that many of us run the risk of becoming ever more isolated, even while under the illusion that we aren't. Thankfully, the solution isn't all that difficult: we just need to be more consciously sociable. In the meantime, perhaps there may come a day when social media - and online gaming - evolve to the point that it's a suitable substitute for in-person play.
For the time being, though? "Social" definitely doesn't mean what it used to.
HyperX Cloud Pro Gaming Headset
How does the new HyperX Cloud Pro Gaming Headset from Kingston stack up against the competition?
Eight of The Most Memorable MMO Dungeons Ever Designed
Dungeons are a staple of the MMO genre; large-scale challenges requiring co-operation and co-ordination between anywhere from five to a few hundred players to adequately complete. Of course, not all are created equal, and some stand head and shoulders above their peers. Today, I'd like to tip my hat to those few legends, those instances that'll stick with us for years to come as shining examples of how to do dungeons right.
Ten Of The Best MMORPG Songs Ever Heard
In many ways, an MMO is only as good as its music. Many of the best and most memorable moments in an MMO invariably have a song associated with them; a piece of music which brings the memories flooding back the moment it reaches one's ears. Today, I'd like to pay homage to some of those songs - and some of those moments. Here, for your listening pleasure (and in no particular order, I assure you) is a list of some of the best songs ever heard in an MMO.
Facebook's Purchase Of Oculus VR Isn't The End Of The World
For those of you who've been living under a rock, Facebook recently purchased Oculus VR to the tune of $2 billion. Understandably, backers and developers alike were rather unimpressed, calling it a betrayal. As for me? I've never been more excited.
Seven Of The Worst Things You Can Say In League
If you've played league, you've probably encountered at least one toxic player. If you haven't, there's a good chance that YOU are the toxic one. Don't believe me? Ask yourself if you've ever said any of the following...
Six Reasons You Should Be Playing Dark Souls II
I've been playing a lot of Dark Souls II lately - and you should be too. Say what you will about the game's flaws, it's still arguably one of the best action RPGs released in the past several years. If you're up for a bit of a challenge, it's well worth the buy. Don't believe me? Let's talk, then.
Eight Reasons The Elder Scrolls Online Will Be Awesome
As you're all no doubt aware, The Elder Scrolls Online - currently in open beta - will be launching in a few months or so. In light of both the new release date and all the hype surfacing around it, I've decided that, over the next two weeks, I'll be looking at all the reasons to look forward to it...and all the reasons we shouldn't.
League of Legends or DOTA 2?
The debate between Dota 2 and League of Legends has been raging almost since the two games were first released. But which game is REALLY the superior of the two?
Ten Fictional Settings That'd Make For Awesome MMOs
Let's look at a few settings, worlds, and stories I'd love to see made into MMOs. I'm sure you'll agree, all the entries on this list have the potential to be downright awesome.
MMO Year In Review: 5 of 2013's Biggest Dick Moves
People are dicks - particularly on the Internet. While that shouldn't come as any great surprise, occasionally we come across someone whose level of sheer dickery reaches legendary proportions. As we move into 2014, let's take a look at a few such individuals from the previous year.