Grumpy Gurevitz: Save Social Gaming as We Knew It!

You cant get more hardcore than 4 player Mario Kart.

You can't get more hardcore than 4 player Mario Kart.

Since the days of my Spectrum I have always had the chance to host, or go to someone else’s to enjoy, a gaming session. This continued with my Amiga and in the years of the N64 to Playstation 2 it reached the apex of commitment with regular gaming sessions with four close friends.

We would spend an entire afternoon or evening eating junk food, generating lots of hot wind and playing a mixture of ‘retro’ and new titles on our consoles. The floor would be a mess of wires as we would have a PS2, Gamecube and Xbox all laid out in front of us. We would enjoy some nerdy banter, especially whenever the Xbox was taken out and switched on. The jokes mainly revolved around having to run the virus checker first and Bios before we could play a game. Other gags included us ribbing the Xbox owner that we were required to notify the national grid before we switched it on so they could arrange extra capacity.

These were good sessions.

Over time people changed, as did the games and machines. We grew older, worked harder, rediscovered reading, perhaps learned new interests such as running, religion, philosophy or even had children. This in time resulted in people becoming less committed to the get-togethers. Being the most enthusiastic of the group I tried to hold it together and keep my friends connected to the gaming world. I would send them an email round up every couple of weeks covering what I was playing and why – and what I was looking forward to playing. It would have made a good blog actually, but it was just for them. It was appreciated; so much so that I used to get requests if I had not sent one in a while.

A great multiplayer game - but only if you like playing music. Otherwise its a rather expensive way of collecting strangely shaped bits of plastic.

A great multiplayer game - but only if you like playing music. Otherwise it's a rather expensive way of collecting strangely shaped bits of plastic.

That was then, but now I do not send gaming emails. I know there is no point. My mates are not really interested and no longer request them. I’ve tried to get them back into gaming. One of my friends bought a Wii, the same time I did – launch time. I really thought he would get into it, but it is being used as a party game, which he brings out once in a blue moon if guests are round. He did get himself addicted to WoW (which he has now stopped playing, patiently waiting for Star Trek – which I am too!) which was great in many ways as we could still chat gaming in general – but there was no shared experience. He even got himself on a US server to save money, so when I bought the game trying to play with him, I couldn’t.

Xbox Live and to a lesser extent, PSN are great. They really are – but all too often other players don’t have headsets and when they do, we often get abuse or daft comments through our headsets. Perhaps a new default matchmaking option would be to only include games with people who have headsets? Or, where I can choose to only play with people who speak the same language as me, at least giving me a list of choices – it would be a great way of practising one’s GCSE French or German.. I would also like an option to avoid people who are twats.

So I find myself in a situation where my erstwhile gaming mates have lost interest. Not only that, but they lost their gaming skills, as demonstrated by the fact that when we did have a little session a while back they were useless! 0 kills in Halo 3 would be around their best mark! Remarkable for guys who grew up on TimeSplitters and Quake!

However, I’m not attacking them, but the industry. At some point my friends got left behind. People don’t stop watching movies, or completely stop viewing TV. You don’t suddenly say ‘theatre has nothing to offer you’, but gaming is not able to retain large numbers of people. Both the hardcore and casual companies share this problem. The hardcore offerings are too hardcore and the casual offerings are often so gimmicky that traditional gamers dismiss them. They do this whether they are currently gaming or not, as once a hardcore gamer always one!

I’m not saying games have failed to progress or improve in this generation. I love them, and think they are amazingly immersive. But still, they are not engaging my friends. One of them got an Xbox 360 Elite through work (long story) but he doesn’t really touch it We have had some Halo 3 sessions and chatted away on our headsets, which is cool. Not as cool as our old fashioned ‘being in the same room as each other’ sessions though.

For get Modern Warfare 2! Timesplitters is where the action is.

Forget Modern Warfare 2! Timesplitters is where the action is.

So, what is the solution? I’m not too sure. For me, it’s important that developers don’t drop split screen multiplayer from their offerings. It’s so rare to see split screen in many games and when they do have it, the game usually only offers 2 player and not four. Developers claim it’s because the graphics take a performance hit. That’s ok – I can handle that. Not a problem. The in room atmosphere more than makes up for it! The great thing about ‘in room’ multiplayer is that apart from the wise-arse who owns the game, everyone else is often on an equal footing and the built in ‘matchmaking’ often works better than the online version. Having four player split screen helps to make hardcore games accessible.

There is nothing like four mates, in the same room, playing a game. It’s the banter, the arguing (about what game to play), the fact you can look at the other player’s screen and work out where he is on the map you know inside out, the ordeal in agreeing what pizza to order and of course the look on the wife’s or girlfriend’s face when they come back from a day out to find the mess and that no one has left the room for a whole day.

Yet finding anyone motivated enough to share this experience with me is becoming harder and harder.

Maybe I just have the wrong mates?

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Written by Steven G

Steven Gurevitz is the CEO of 2002 Studios Media LTD and a founder of gaming accessory company Asiiya. 2002 Studios started off as a music production company, but produces a range of content from videos to videogames. The company specialises in localizing content for global brands. He also owns the Urban Sound Label, a small niche e-label. He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor and co-owner CriticalGamer.co.uk. He enjoys FPS, Third person 'free world', narrative driven and portable gaming. He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor to CriticalGamer.co.uk.

3 comments

  1. KrazyFace /

    Hey Gurevitz! If this is an elaborate request then just tell me where you live! I’ll be round in a flash! It’s been YEARS since I’ve had the oppertunity to have a gaming session too. Same reasons aswell; Everyone just frittered off into their own lives and left me playing single player, which I grew to respect.

    But you’re right, nothing beats a session of junkfood,an assortment of games (and machines), and three other mates on the same ‘gaming wave-length’ as yourself.

    I share your pain.

  2. Kevin M /

    I’m trying desperately to get some of my mates into gaming again, but due to some of them having children, their own leisure time and money are limited, so they are now a lost generation of gamers. Some of them still have PS2’s but have never upgraded to the latest consoles. There are a couple who have moved away and online gaming keeps me in touch with them, which is something positive that this gen of consoles has achieved.

  3. sudster /

    Don’t forget the pleasure of physical/instant retribution!
    Ahhhh, worms armageddon I miss you…

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