Thursday, January 29, 2009

Continually Overwhelmed

Quite some time has passed since the big onslaught of games from the holiday season rush of last year, with many gamers finished with the big-name titles that were released and claiming to have nothing to play because very little has released so far this year. Myself on the other hand still has heaps of games to play and because of this I feel continually overwhelmed by the pressure of the progress of other gamers. While they are desiring new games to play, I'm desiring time to stand still for a while so I can catch up.

My recent series of posts on Fallout 3 is a good example. I am still playing the game over one hundred hours later while everyone else has seemingly moved on. Granted my time with the game is longer than others' because I am the type of gamer who likes to explore everywhere and complete everything, but even so the speed with which other people got through and over that game simply bewilders me. The game is huge, yet people can complete everything in three days? It's not just Fallout 3 that I have to play though, I also have Fable II, Midnight Club LA, Mirror's Edge, LittleBigPlanet and Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts to finish. That's not even mentioning the games that sit on my shelf still in their shrink-wrap, nor does it mention the backlog of games I have accumulated over the years that need to be completed as well.

The purchase of my PS3 and LittleBigPlanet is another example of just how overwhelmed I am. I have barely played the game which pains me to say because I absolutely love it and would like to spend more time with it in the future. Even my girlfriend has played it more than I have, which while not a bad thing makes me realise that perhaps I bought the console at the wrong time of the year when I already had so much to play. That said, I don't regret the purchase at all so don't get me wrong there. I am sure I will have plenty of time with the console in the future and I do look forward to it.

To get to the point of this post though, a post written by Michael Abbott from The Brainy Gamer titled "Chew Your Food" has been on my mind ever since he wrote it back in October. In it Michael describes a similar feeling of being overwhelmed and appeals to his audience to slow down a little with their games, only if they want to though. The post struck a chord with me and as a result I have spent the month of January caring a lot less about how quickly I play and finish these games before moving onto the next one. For both November and December, I wanted to stop feeling like I had to rush through these games thanks to the post but still tried to play them quickly anyway so I could be 'in' on the conversation. I am clearly too slow to be on par with the speed of everyone else so chewing my food has been a much better option for me and I'm glad Michael indirectly suggested it. Perhaps I should have listened to my parents all those years ago at the dinner table...


In Raptured Reality news, I'm quite happy to have successfully committed to a week focusing on Fallout 3 and am looking forward to doing the next series of posts surrounding a particular game in the near future. Finishing that week also showed me that I can be consistent with entries and while I didn't do anything last week due to catching up with some TV shows I am confident now that I can form some sort of regularity for this place and aim to do so starting in the month of February. I have the Always Connected series to finish and I'm disappointed that the length of time between that series' posts has been rather long. I also have posts upcoming on all of the games mentioned above as well as many other ideas, so please bare with me while I continue to chew my food and take the time to enjoy each of these games. I am already much better with managing my time this year than I was in the last few months of last year, so hopefully that translates into some interesting stuff that you guys enjoy reading. Happy gaming everyone.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Flawed Fallout?

Note: This is the final post in a series this week themed around Fallout 3 in which I take a brief look at some things in the game that annoy me. You can find the other four posts: here, here, here and here.

After spending the week praising Fallout 3 for being different and immersive, I thought I would end this week's look at the game with some of the things that bug me. These are only minor gripes, irrelevant to my enjoyment of the game and gripes that I can ignore with no hesitation at all but even so I thought it would be best to mention them here anyway.

The first one is something that I am sure many players of Fallout 3 would actually enjoy using so please take this with a grain of salt. Customisation in the game is, to me, pointless. I understand the reasons why it was included but even so I feel that it is irrelevant to the overall game. You create your character at the start, choosing various facial features and eventually settling on a look that you are happy with for your character. You then spend the majority of the game not seeing the appearance of your character and the various Non-Playable Characters (NPCs) do not react to how you look in any way, shape or form. This comes across as pointless to me and it is disappointing that I feel that way. I mean, I appreciate the effort that has gone into building the character customisation so to see it hardly be used afterwards is kind of annoying. One of the reasons it is pointless also happens to be my next issue with the game, but before I go into that let me just clarify that I have no issues with the customisation that involves your character's attributes and perks, I just have an issue with the appearance side of the customisation that has no real relevance to the rest of the game.

Another thing that seems to be pointless and unnecessary for the game is the two viewpoints -- first and third person -- that can be used. Again I realise why it is included and arguably including it gives more aid in customising a player's experience to their preferred way of playing, but in my own experience the only viewpoint I have ever used is the first-person one. So the third-person perspective serves no use to me as a player, is irrelevant to my gameplay and completely useless. When you consider the fact that the animation for your character in third-person is poor, it makes me question why Bethesda bothered to include it. If the perspective was more relevant, then quite possibly the customisation of the appearance of your character mentioned above would be more relevant to the game too, opening up the possibility of having even more unpredictable and interesting things happen in the game when conversing with the various locals of The Wastelands.

Beyond those two, adventuring through The Wastelands and trying to explore at night can be quite annoying. Normally I love the night in games but I feel that Fallout 3 is too dark during the night. Sure, I could change my brightness settings to accommodate it but really I shouldn't have too. Not when there are stars and a moon shining in the sky that should be providing enough light, but no, The Wastelands at night are as dark as the caves and sewers that you find yourself in from time to time. Other minor issues I have with the game include how hard it can be at times (although that is more my fault than the game's), how hard it can be sometimes to find a character you want to speak to like a Doctor and those damn Metro Stations when you first start to play and have to use them to reach say, the Museum of Technology. You get used to their designs of course, but they are far too overwhelming when you first reach them even with a quest marker to help you.

So there you have it, the minor and boring issues I have with the game. That concludes this post and indeed the week-long look at Fallout 3. I enjoyed doing it because it finally saw me posting regular content to the blog, hopefully you enjoyed it too because I plan on spending more weeks taking a look at various games in the future. Until then however, happy gaming.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tranquil Wastes

Note: This is the fourth post in a series this week themed around Fallout 3. Today I look at some of the quests in the game. Potential SPOILERS ahead.

After talking about the personality Fallout 3 has yesterday, I couldn't help but be reminded of the quests you receive in the game and how they themselves are examples of that personality. I name-dropped a few quests in that post, so now I think it is time to look at a few of them in a bit more detail.

The first quest that comes to mind is Tranquility Lane, one that occurs inside a virtual reality simulation where the residents of Vault 112 live their lives in a simulated suburbia street. Through the lens of a Sepia-Tone filtered camera, the player speaks with the simulated residents in the search of information about the whereabouts of James, the in-game character's father. The way this quest is presented was a surprise as I wasn't expecting it at all and it seems so different to the gritty Wastelands that you spend most of your time in. The way it suggest an older, more tranquil way of living while also remaining in the future that the game is set in, fits within the context of the game wonderfully while also demonstrating the sort of personality I alluded to in my last post. The combination of the Sepia-Toned filter, the way in which the residents speak to you and how their houses are presented as well as showings of the 'real' game through the quest's tasks you end up doing make the quest thoroughly enjoyable and is something that you wouldn't find in any other game. The upcoming downloadable content for the game, Operation Anchorage, will also be using a simulation for the quests received and is set in the snowy areas of Alaska. Obviously this colder weather will be a direct contrast to what is seen throughout The Wastelands and like Tranquility Lane, everything will still remain with context of the game. That is fascinating to me and if it means adding even more unexpected places for us to explore while also continuing to inject personality, then I seriously hope Bethesda continue to take advantage of these simulators for quests in the future.

Another quest that comes to mind is Oasis, another area in The Wastelands that is in direct contrast to what you would normally see in your travels. As the name implies, green blossoming trees and almost blue (it's still radiated) water are seen in place of the brown and grey and it makes for a nice change. I haven't finished this quest yet due to only finding it in my last session with the game, but already I am appreciating the different look and feel of the place because it is keeping the game fresh and interesting.

To move away from how certain quests look, a few other places that come to mind are both The Republic of Dave and the Canterbury Commons, with the former just being a unique place of The Wastelands and the latter containing a quest. While they are essentially just detours, or places to find to reward your exploration, they still are interesting enough to make Fallout's experience fresh. I won't spoil them because then you will enjoy them more when you come across them, but needless to say they are interesting and add to the overall experience with the game. To repeat the point I was trying to make with yesterday's post, Fallout 3's elements -- quests, narrative, exploration, art direction and so on -- all combine to make the game unique.

Okay so I didn't go into too much detail after all. Honestly, I couldn't do that to you guys. I don't want to spoil the game's quests when they play such an important part in the overall scheme of things, so let me end this post by saying that if you want to play a game that is different and features a unique setting that changes in unexpected ways, then you need to play Fallout 3.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Apocalyptic Personality

Note: This is the third post in a series this week themed around Fallout 3. This time I move away from my experiences with the game and focus on some of the game's personality.

I haven't played the previous Fallout games unfortunately so because of this, I don't know whether what I am about to talk about is also in those games or not. After enjoying the third installment so much though I aim to find out by playing the games in the near future. I'm interested in what they are like to play, as well as seeing the differences between them and Bethesda Studios' installment. What am I about to talk about then? The personality that Fallout 3 has and how I think it makes the game more engaging as a result.

It wasn't too long into the game before I started to see this personality and the more I saw it, the more I realised that it makes Fallout 3's experience unique and unlike anything seen in a game before it. Before you say anything, I am aware that the size of the game meant that Bethesda had to re-use certain things and therefore the game doesn't take full advantage of its personality potential, but even with this in mind the game still stands out to me as being unique and because of that, the game is much stronger for it.

I have always enjoyed games that have their own personality, with titles like BioShock (you saw that one coming didn't you?), Okami and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker engaging me on a deeper level than most of the games I play. The reasons why these games are more compelling to me vary, of course, with their narratives or settings being just some of the reasons. Another reason I enjoy these games so much is because of their art direction. I mean, it's no coincidence that the games I just mentioned also have very unique art directions that add to their experience and immerse the player into their respective stories, worlds or characters is it?

Fallout 3's art direction is bleak and grim. The post-apocalyptic setting dictates that, yet despite the vast brown land and the grey concrete of collapsed buildings, the game's personality still emanates from the many corners of the game and I think the art direction helps that along. Whether that comes from the various posters pasted over the walls of the Metro Stations or from how Rivet City was formed out of an old ship, it all combines to provide a unique setting and personality that can only be found in Fallout 3. Another thing that adds to this personality is the various quests you receive along your travels, from Oasis to the Republic Of Dave - all of them again give the game personality and makes the game better because of it.

Enough with the small examples though, my simple point and the one anyone who has played the game will understand is that Fallout 3 is different to most games and the reason for that is because it has a personality that can't be found anywhere else. You won't find Evergreen Mills, Tenpenny Tower or Paradise Falls in any other game but you will find them in Fallout 3. The Wastelands suggest that there is nothing left out there in the wilderness anymore, but if you explore it anyway what you will find will make you smile. When you consider that games are meant to be fun, how can you go wrong with a smile?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Emotions Falling Out

Note: This is the second post in a series this week themed around Fallout 3. This time I take a look at the various emotions I have felt while playing the game.

Reflecting back on my time so far with Fallout 3 -- both as the player and as the in-game character -- I realise that the game has taught me many things. One of those things sticks out more than the others and that is the various emotions I have felt or seen while playing the game. These emotions have demonstrated to me how a game can affect a player's approach to it in different ways the more they play, be it through knowledge of how things can and probably will pan out in the game or through experience with the game and its world as progress is made. The best example of this I can provide is detailing how I approach the game now, compared to when I first started to play.

During the first 20 or so hours with the game, I was scared of The Wastelands. The place, more times then I'd care to admit has made me hesitate before continuing on due to how immersed I was and also due to the uncertainty with what was to come. I have even jumped a few times when an enemy has crept up behind me and attacked. The desolate and barren place, with showings of brutality and insanity found all over unsettles you, making you anxious about your survival. When you finally find yourself safe inside an abandoned shack, low on medical supplies and ammunition after barely surviving fights against the stronger, hostile creatures of The Wastelands, you soon realise how intense the game can be. The vast expanse of land entices you to explore but you won't find anything of reward or interest until after you have learned to be wary of your survival.

Compare that to how I approach the game now, about 80 hours in. I have a lot more confidence when I explore now, entering places like the Metro Station tunnels with not even a thought of what I will come across. I am stocked up on weapons, ammunition and medical supplies and not worried at all about the Raiders, Super Mutants and Feral Ghouls who are all intent on killing me. I see a factory in the distance and immediately have a desire to explore it, curious about what I may find. I am rewarded for this confidence too which only further increases my desire to continue exploring and my haste in doing so. Then, all of a sudden, I am again attacked from behind. I don't jump this time but fear soon takes over as I turn around and begin to panic when I realise that the beast is something I have never seen or fought before. I find myself once again barely surviving the fight, injured and worried that I may come across more of these beasts before I find something that I can use as a safe place to retreat.

I am of course referring to the Deathclaws, strong and agile beasts that can kill you with a few swipes of their claws. Without realising it, the game puts me in my place and reminds me that survival in The Wastelands is tough. You don't know what you will find and you can still die no matter how prepared you may think you are. As a player, going through this change of approach and then being shown that I was just being cocky is intriguing to me and is something I haven't experienced before in a game. I am already aware of the power a game can have over a player through immersion but I have never played a game that has taught me to be so weary of my approach, taught me to think before I do something in game and taught me to reflect on the past to benefit the things I may do in the future. It is amazing to me and if you can't tell already, I absolutely love it!

To go on a slight tangent now; approach to the game isn't the only thing I have been able to reflect upon after playing. The game has my attention so much that I am able to reflect on the various quests I have done and the places I have explored, remembering them in detail. I have always had a photographic memory (if you will) for locations in games and stuff like that, but to be able to remember pretty much everything I have done in a game is not something I am able to do regularly so the fact I can do it with Fallout 3 is fascinating to me. That makes me quite happy which conveniently brings me back to the emotions that you can go through while you play through the game. I've provided some examples here in this post, now I want to hear about your examples so if you have played the game, feel free to let me know in the comments.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Wasteland Way Of Life

Note: This is the first post in a series this week themed around Fallout 3. In it I tell some of the story as told and experienced by the character in-game.

Growing up in Vault 101 with my father and friends meant that I knew nothing about the outside other than what the Vault locals mentioned in passing. The Tunnel Snakes tried to make it sound scarier than everyone else but deep down I knew that they didn't really know for sure what was out there and that all they were doing was putting on a tough-guy act. So when my father suddenly left the Vault and I realised that I needed to follow him, I abruptly left it behind and entered into the unknown. Walking outside, with the sun shining brightly in my face as it rose over The Wastelands, I couldn't help but hesitate as I saw how huge the place was. Dad could have literally gone in any direction and I had absolutely no idea where to start, so after admiring the vast area to the South I looked around and saw a nearby suburb. After raiding through the bins and listening to President Eden talk about the "Enclave" via a flying robot, I noticed a sign saying that Megaton wasn't too far away. Figuring that it wouldn't hurt to check it out, I followed the direction it was pointing to and came across the city of Megaton. A few hours spent there was beneficial to me as I was able to earn some Caps -- the supposed currency of The Wastelands -- by doing a few small jobs for the local townsfolk like fixing a few broken water pipes. The Caps I earned then allowed me to stock up on some weapons and medical supplies to aid me on my search for my father. Speaking of which, Colin Moriarty was able to point me in the direction of my father's whereabouts after bribing me and my Caps for the information. After staying the night in Megaton I spoke with Lucy West who was worried about her family in a small town called Arefu. She asked if I could go and check on them, so figuring that it could be ages until I knew more about where my father was, I accepted and proceeded to go to Arefu.

Along the way I came across many Raiders all of whom wanted to kill me as soon as they saw me. I also came across some Giant Scorpions and a Robot, all of which also tried to kill me. Upon reaching Arefu, all the way on the end of a broken bridge, I was once again shot at. This time however it was a mistake as a reasonably paranoid local of Arefu thought that I was from a group of people known as 'The Family'. After apologizing, this local told me more about The Family and then asked me to check on the rest of the Arefu residents who had locked themselves inside their houses. An hour or so later, the residents had all been accounted for except for the Wests, whom had been attacked and killed and who were also the family I was there to look for. Speaking with the paranoid guy again and after telling him the news, he sent me on a quest to find The Family. Heading North-East, the direction I was told to search, I came across an old cinema complex, a train station and the Meresti Trainyard. Searching through the subway tunnels of this trainyard, I eventually found The Family and also found that they weren't hostile towards me. In fact, they were quite welcoming to me after some initial hesitation and even offered me to stay the night to recover after fighting the Feral Ghouls that were in the subway tunnels. After some conversing with The Family's leader, I managed to convince him to let me see Lucy West's brother who was holed up by himself in a locked room. Speaking with him, I convinced him to head back to Arefu. He gave me a letter to give to Lucy and said that he would return as soon as I spoke with the leader. I did and managed to convince him to stop pestering the Arefu locals and even protect them from Raiders and the like, so long as The Family were supplied with Blood Packs in return. The Family were cannibals meaning that they enjoyed the taste of blood. This compromise meant that The Family got what they wanted, blood, and Arefu wasn't being hassled anymore so all in all it was a win-win for the both of them. After staying the night in Arefu, I decided to return to Megaton.

Along the way back to Megaton I was once again shot at by various Raiders and other inhabitants of The Wastelands making me soon realise that it is every man for themselves out there. I kept this in mind as I arrived in Megaton, stocking up on some more weapons, bullets and medical aid with the intention of being prepared the next time I headed out. I delivered the letter to Lucy and was sad to see her reaction to losing both her parents. Her mood soon improved once she realised her brother was still alive and well though, so that was something I suppose. After seeing her cheer up I headed outside to disarm the bomb in the middle of town, something I wanted to do earlier but wasn't quite confident enough to do so. After disarming some mines and traps while exploring the subway tunnels earlier, I felt I was confident enough to give the bomb a try. Luckily it was quite easy in the end. With the bomb disarmed, the locals (save for a few) were happy and offered me gifts for saving their town. I was also offered an unused house by the local Sheriff, which was quite a nice and unexpected surprise. It wasn't much, with only the bare essentials inside but it was better than nothing. At least now I had somewhere to go and hey, I also had a helpful robot who could dispense purified water when I needed it and tell me a joke or two when I was feeling down. Things were looking up for me in The Wastelands, which is certainly not something I expected after leaving The Vault behind so suddenly. With this feeling of comfort came a feeling of hesitation though as I knew that I had to venture back out into the hostile Wastelands, unsure of what I would find next and the knowledge that it could be ages until I found my father, dead or alive. So with a disheartened sigh, I rest my head upon my pillow and drift off to sleep unaware of what could happen tomorrow...

Saturday, January 10, 2009


I was originally going to post up an entry on something else tonight because I have a lot of things I want to discuss here on the blog but unfortunately there was a commotion outside on the street which saw me lose an hour or so while I dealt with it. So instead, I am posting up a quick Tidbits post to talk about a few things.

1up's Problems - The biggest news to come from this week was the unfortunate demise of America's long-time running magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly, or, EGM for short. Losing a magazine that has been running for almost 20 years is a big loss for the gaming industry and shows just how print media is changing. To call it the end of an era would be an understatement which is a big statement coming from me considering that, being Australian, I have never read an issue of the magazine. It makes me wonder about Edge's future, another well respected magazine that has been around for many years and also about Australia's own Hyper magazine. If such a big name magazine in EGM can become defunct, then what is the future of those two magazines going to be? Another unfortunate thing that coincides with EGM's demise is a lot of 1up's staff being let go and no longer having work. I am sure that everyone reading would be aware of the details but basically 1up was purchased by another company and as a result, lay-offs had to occur. When I first heard about this I was quite angry. Seeing all those names and knowing that they no longer were going to write for the site and more importantly, no longer had any jobs at a time when the economy isn't the best was, well, disheartening to say the least. I quickly came to my senses though and realised that there are two sides to every story, so I decided to not form any opinion of the ordeal until I knew more about it and had time to compose my thoughts. I have done that now and I realise that the site being purchased is actually a good thing because it gives it a well injected cash boost. I also realise that the staff who remain at the place are still going to try their best to create decent content for the site. It is unfortunate that all those people lost their jobs and that the site lost both the 1up Podcasts and The 1up Show as well, but I also have no doubt in my mind that their experience and the fact that they were well respected people in the industry will see them land on their feet and find work elsewhere. I of course wish them well in their future endeavors and look forward to reading/watching what they end up doing next. With that said, the loss of these people means that 1up as a website loses a lot of its personality and isn't the 1up that everybody knew and loved anymore. In namesake only, basically. That again is unfortunate, but what is done is done and now all I can say is that I hope that everyone affected - both those who lost their jobs and those who have to deal with the hasty hatred that the site is now receiving, not to mention the fact that they lost the opportunity to work with their friends - all can move on from this and continue to work in the gaming industry and write about the very thing they are passionate about, games. I wish everyone a brighter future and I look forward to seeing it.

Blog Notes - As I mentioned at the top of this post, I have a fair bit of content on the way for this place. I know, I know, I have been very inconsistent with my writing and have in the past mentioned my intentions to do something and then haven't done it, but this time it is different. I couldn't sleep the other morning and eventually found myself thinking about blogging. These thoughts gave me a whole range of subjects to discuss, as well as other content to produce and because I was wide awake I decided to write all of it down. Doing so made me think of more and the end result is a whole host of content to write and motivation to do so. The content begins next week, where I will have posts up every day about a certain subject that I won't reveal until the first post. Next week won't be the only week that I will theme posts around, with a few other weeks dedicated to a particular subject on my mind as well. That plus the continuation of my Always Connected series and quite a few other posts means that I am covered for content for quite some time and therefore can hopefully provide some interesting things for you to read and discuss. Look forward to it because I know I am.

Shout-Out - The last Tidbit for tonight is a quick shout-out to one of my friends who recently started up his own blog. This friend writes for Australian website PALGN so his experience from there should translate into some interesting things to read and I welcome him to the world of blogging. The Ordinary Gamer is only new so there isn't much content to read just yet, but give it a chance anyway. I know I will be.

And so another round of Tidbits is done. Have a good weekend guys and look forward to Monday, when my themed week begins.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Always Connected: Competitive Play

Always Connected is a series of posts about online gameplay. Part one focused on cooperative gameplay and now part two is focusing on competitive play.

The obvious opposite to playing cooperatively is to instead play competitively. Playing games against one another is nothing new, with modes like Deathmatch being staples of FPS games for a very long time. Online gaming has only increased the popularity of competition with PC gamers playing against each other over the Internet for many years. With the consoles now online enabled as well, those experiences have transferred to the consoles and now it is quite easy to fire up a game of Halo, search for a match and be playing within minutes.

For someone like me, the fact that the consoles are online now means that I can actually play multiplayer games. It doesn't matter whether it is cooperatively or competitively, before online gaming I generally didn't get to play multiplayer in any game due to not having any friends that were also into gaming. This has changed in the more recent years, ironically as online gaming has become more popular, as my wonderful girlfriend is a gamer and so is our best friend. Regardless of that though, I maintain that online gaming has changed my life for the better because it provides me the choice to play something with other people if and when I want to. Don't get me wrong, I have had some multiplayer experiences in the past, with Mario Kart 64 and Perfect Dark being played a lot during my childhood but the reality is that I didn't really play games with other people until online gaming became a normal feature of the consoles.

Now that I do play games online I find myself thinking about the various things that go with it. Anonymity is the first thing that comes to mind and how the various people from around the world act and react to different situations. Using my own experiences again as an example, the first night of my Xbox Live subscription showed me two very different sides of online play and how it can be both a good and bad thing. Easing myself into the service I spent the first half of the night playing with some friends who were already used to playing online but also realised that it was new to me. These friends were patient, answered any silly questions I may have asked and also demonstrated to me that playing online can be a fun and rewarding thing to do. We raced each other in Burnout 3: Takedown, shot each other in Halo 2 and when we weren't playing anything, just chatted. Doing this showed me that while we were playing against each other, socialising and enjoying our games together was great and we all had a wonderful time that night.

Later that night the other side of online play was shown, the side that is referred to in the industry when discussing the reasons why people are put off playing online. I'm sure I don't need to elaborate much further on the issue so instead I will say that it was a surprise and I could not help but feel disappointed in the gamers out there who decide to act and react like that while playing games. Games are supposedly meant to be about fun and yet here these people are caring more about ruining the experience for others than having an enjoyable time for themselves. It comes across as sad and as has been said countless times before, really hinders any progress we hope to achieve in evolving our medium and expanding its audience. I am used to it now, but on that first night it was off-putting and like many others I was considering canceling my subscription and never playing online again. In fact the only reason I continued to play online was because of my friends and thankfully the end result has been a few new friends made and countless, memorable times online in the various games that I own. I now believe that online gaming is important and I am glad to see that it has become more popular over the recent years, but it has a long way to go yet and I really hope that the journey is improved as we near the overall destination.

To extend on the above, I can't help but compare the various online sessions that I have had and wonder why these experiences vary to the degree that they do. Without meaning to generalise, it's easy to use a FPS title (and really, take your pick) as an example of games where disappointing and perhaps even insulting online sessions can and will take place. They are arguably the games in which competition is at its most fierce and players seem to be more aggressive with their attitudes because of the competition and desire to win the match. Some out there would even argue that the violence is a factor, but that is a topic for another day. When I compare my time playing Gears of War online with say, a racing game in Forza Motorsport 2, the attitude and general manner of players is vastly different and it is something I have found myself pondering many times. Racing online in Forza has been a more laid-back affair for me, with other players being respectful of you as a driver and not biting your head off if you make a mistake and accidentally cause a crash that takes you and them out of the race. The community of people who play that game seem to be nicer, more willing to just have fun with the game and are open to other players not necessarily being as skilled as they are. It makes for a more enjoyable time and really, that is what it should be about. I will look into my times playing these games and others in future posts of the series but for now I will say that comparing them has been baffling and intriguing and no doubt something that I will continue to analyse in the future.

Competitive gaming has even seen players form careers out of the experience with big name tournaments like Major League Gaming and the now defunct Championship Gaming Series allowing players to test their skills against players all around the world for prize money, sponsorships and even a little fame. These tournaments have become more popular over the years but due to not really having direction or an identity unfortunately haven't found a way to satisfy audiences nor expand the interest of competitive gaming as a whole. As someone who wants to see the industry progress and evolve as much as it can, that is disappointing but is also quite understandable given that games are much more fun if you are playing rather than someone else.

In the end, competitive gaming is here to stay thanks to online play connecting players across the world and that looks set to continue as connection speeds increase, gaming evolves and more and more people start to play and enjoy games. Combine that with the wonderful cooperative experiences that can be had, plus who knows what to come and you have a very bright future for people who want to play with or against each other.