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.
Five Reasons To Love (And Hate) Free To Play
"Free To Play" is the phrase that's been on everyone's lips lately, particularly in the world of MMOs. It's the new business model that every production executive is cooing over; the model that many have come to hate with a burning, fiery passion. But is it really so bad?
Ten Things Rockstar Did Right With GTA Online
So...by now, most of you are probably aware that Rockstar kind of botched the launch of GTA Online. I mean, they seriously botched it. To the point that it was completely unplayable. At the same time, though...they handled the situation masterfully - there's a lot of stuff they actually did right.
Five Reasons To Look Forward To League's Fourth Season
With this year's LCS drawn to a close, a new season of League of Legends is just about upon us. It's bringing with it some very, very big changes. Trust me when I say they're something to be very, very excited for.
Indie Game Of The Week: Magicka
This week, I'm revisiting an old favorite of mine - and one that I desperately hope you've heard of. Magicka tells the tale of one to four homicidal, sociopathic wizards, their not-vampire instructor, and an eldritch abomination that threatens to destroy the whole world. Did I mention you can blow up pretty near anything you've a mind to?
Indie Game of The Week: Huntsman: The Orphanage
This week, I'll be taking a look at Huntsman: The Orphanage; a rather fresh take on the horror genre that manages to convey fear and anxiety without any violence or gore whatsoever. It's actually pretty impressive.
Ten Ways Social Media Has Changed The MMO
Social networks have effectively changed the way we...well, do pretty much everything. We interact differently, work differently, and even view the world differently since the birth of Facebook - there's even talk that it's bringing about a fundamental change in the way we think. It should thus come as no surprise that they've also had a considerable impact on the world of MMOs.
Indie Game of The Week: Outlast
This week, we'll be taking a look at Outlast, a horror game that tosses you into the shoes of independent journalist Miles Upshur as he explores the sinister Mount Massive Asylum. Spoiler alert: it doesn't go so well for dear Miles.
Indie Game Of The Week: The Bridge
This week, we're going to take a look at puzzle platformer "The Bridge," a rather esoteric game about a mad scientist, impossible geometry, and a reckless disregard for the laws of time, space, physics, and gravity. Shall we get started?
League: Ten Tips To Help You Be A Better Support
Historically, support has kind of been the butt-monkey role of League of Legends. In spite of being one of the most valuable and vital roles in the game, few people ever seem to want to play it. As a result...there aren't all that many people who can actually play it well. We need to change that.
Indie Game Of The Week: Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs
For those of you who've been living under a rock, I've some news: Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs has finally released. It's about as terrifying as everyone expected it to be, but for entirely different reasons.