Tagvideo games

Video games keep us in touch

While I don’t play Fortnite, this resonated deeply with me because video games keep me connected to my friends as an adult.

I have a small group of friends I play with regularly, who are scattered around New York City — they’re all busy with their creative, interesting lives, and we don’t see each other enough because we all have shit to do. But we talk fairly often, the rotating four or five of us. About our days, about our feelings, about what’s really going on. For us, Fortnite is an excuse to talk on the phone. It’s an excuse to stay connected.

Via Fortnite was 2018’s most important social network

This is why I play [Destiny](http://destinythegame.com/). I have a [group of friends](http://fr0zen.party/) I met through the game. And I will never be able to hang out with them in Texas and Missouri and England and Australia.

I barely find time to see my friend that lives an hour away in the same state. But gaming keeps us connected. It’s a reason to talk. It’s a place to vent and ask for advice. It’s a place to compare horror stories and find reassurance.

It’s a place to laugh with people. It’s an oasis in adulthood.

Playing with your idols

A lot of people laugh at the idea of eSports. Playing a video game professionally is a scoff-worthy idea but is it so different from other sports?

Someone spent thousands of hours practicing and playing a game and now they’re extremely good at it. My brother and I poured far too many hours to count into NBA Jam when we were growing up. We kept records of our point/steals/block totals in games.

We could try to blow out the computer-controlled team or hold them scoreless, if we could. We had a blast playing and that was with a Super Nintendo in our living room in the country.

Today, it’s possible to play games with people from all over the world and I’ve made friends in London and Australia. I have friends all over the United States and Canada. I never would have found these people if it weren’t for video games.

Video games are fun. I play to unwind. I play to blow off steam. I play to escape from the real world and emerge myself in someone’s else’s reality. The game maker’s reality.

There’s something about eSports that levels the playing field unlike other professional sports. The ability to play with or again your idols.

Reading my Destiny Twitter list, I saw this tweet:

So I had to check out the video. (Embedded below.)

It’s so much fun to see kids freaking out and having so much fun playing a game against someone they admire. Ms 5000 Watts is a Destiny gamer who streams her videos and she posted a video of the match against the Pint Sized Guardians.

One of the many reasons I love Destiny is because of the inclusive, caring community. The big names are good-natured folks who love the game and love their fans.

Amid all the bad news and uncertainty floating around online and in the world, it’s good to know my refuge is still a place where things like this are happening.

Video Games from Couch to Twitch

Why do people like watching other people play video games online?

Much has been written about the curiosity of things like Twitch. A service allowing players to stream video of them playing a game to the web from an Xbox One, Playstation 4 or Windows PC.

It allows others to watch that player and comment in a chat box or follow along with the action. Why do we do this? And more importantly, why do we watch others?

Marketing

It’s different for a lot of people. Recently, I found myself among hundreds of thousands of people watching Bungie show game-play from their new House of Wolves expansion to Destiny. It was a first-look at the new aspects of the game. What better way to see what it had in store for me, than to watch people play it?

Streaming video games can be a marketing tool. It’s better than a trailer. Instead of pre-rendered footage or marketing clips, it is real game-play by real people. So it will show off the product exactly as it is.

HowTos

Back in the dark ages of the Nintendo Entertainment System and later the Super NES, the talk of the lunch room and hallways were tips and tricks for Mario, Zelda and Metroid. Many of the secrets in the game came to us by word-of-mouth and friend-of-a-friend eyewitness accounts. Many of the feats are not real but there was no way to know.

I spent a lot of my youth at GameFAQs. A site dedicated to walk-through and FAQs about all different games. When I’d get stuck in a Final Fantasy quest, or need a refresher about where I was in the story, I’d consult the fan-compiled .txt files and ASCII artwork.

Today, I can spend 30 seconds and look up anything on YouTube and find a recorded stream of the person doing exactly what I’m trying to do. Where is this item? How do I complete that quest? How do I get to this specific area in a game with no map? It’s all there and it’s only seconds away.

What’s the analog?

A friend on Twitter asked about the analog to watching people play video games online. He’s done it. I’ve done it. And I think it’s sitting next to a friend or sibling on a couch and watching them play something where you had to take turns.

My brother and I spent hours playing through Final Fantasy II and III on the SNES. We’d take turns playing quests and helping each other through. There was nothing for the second person to do but watch and follow the story.

Early computer games like Command&Conquer could be played by two people. Over our blazing 26400bps modem, one of us would play the game, using the mouse and the other would spam our competitor with the text chat or enter keyboard commands.

We’d work as a team even though only one of us was really playing the game. There is something extremely social for me about playing games that stems from those long afternoon and nights of gaming with my brother.

We had a serious obsession with NBA JAM and would compile long lists of our records in notebooks. Most dunks, steals or three-pointers. How much could we blow the other team out? Could we hold them scoreless?

Social

Gaming is a social activity. I love cooperative games more than anything else. There’s nothing better than joining a team in person or online and working together to complete a quest or help a friend through a tricky part of the game.

I play with a core group of friends that work all varying shifts. When I get home in the evenings, they’ll just have gone to work and I will start a Twitch stream and share my game with them.

Destiny Team

It’s nice to chat with them over the game, even if they can’t respond in kind. I leave the chat window open on the side of my screen so we can talk. Which is a perfectly fun asynchronous way to chat while we’re both doing something else.

It’s no different from chatting over text message or a phone call with a distracted second party. It’s nice to hear a friendly voice when you’re stuck working on tedious tasks like data entry.

Board Games

Streaming games can be a lot of fun and it’s not limited to video games. Wil Wheaton hosts a show called TableTop where he invites friends to play board games. It’s a stellar show with explanations of the games beforehand and clarification throughout. It’s informed a lot of my board game purchases as my wife and I explore our growing love affair with them.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Dice Tower. My wife has watched hour of videos from them. They put together lists of games in all sorts of categories and play styles. It’s a great intro to a genre of games or if you’re just looking for something passed Scrabble and Parcheesi.

No Couch Co-Op

With the rise of internet-enabled gaming (specifically Xbox Live for me). There is a lack of “couch co-op”. That is, co-op gaming where both players are sharing a couch. I love to play Destiny because of its cooperative gameplay. While it’s too redundant for my wife to play, she’d love to play things too. But the only couch co-op things that do co-op well are shooters like Halo and Call of Duty. And again, without a storyline, they’re not going to hold her attention.

Destiny Confessions

We looked over a number of Xbox One games this weekend and found some stellar-looking title such as Never Alone and Child of Light. But in reading reviews, the co-op is either a pain to deal with or relegates the second player to a minor role in the overall game.

That’s disappointing. We are two grown adults who want to play something together. And it’s getting harder and harder to find games that hold our attention. We enjoyed Fable III, even though it had its issues with the co-op system mostly around camera angles and the relegation of player 2 to a supporting role. Which I was fine with, but it was still disappointing.

There are so many games which don’t even offer the option for co-op at all. Online or local. But it’s even harder to find anything with a story line that has a good cooperative experience. There are a number of games which offer co-op modes. Such as a survival mode, or something tacked onto the game. Again, this is fine for a few playthroughs but eventually becomes tedious and repetitive.

One of the best co-op games to my mind was Chrono Trigger, which I played with my brother on the SNES growing up. We each had a character to play. We were both fully invested in the story. We both had characters we could upgrade, buy new weapons for and customize to our liking. Neither of us was sentenced to sitting and watch the other person play, only helping in minor ways.

It’s maddening when browsing Xbox online to try to find games because it doesn’t list whether a game is multi-player or not. The Xbox itself shows whether a game is single player only or provides co-op either through Xbox Live or locally. The web site doesn’t offer any of that information. As a result, I usually go to Cooptimus and get a list of their games since they’re focused on the co-op experiences.

I’ve found a couple of possibilities and will report back once we get a chance to play them. But it’s getting harder and harder to find something to play for two adults. Especially when we recently picked up a few tabletop games that we’ve had a blast with.

Monaco – What’s Yours is Mine [Game Review]

I picked up Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine recently when it was offered free to Xbox Live members. I heard it was a good co-op game and I was delighted to find it allowed for Couch Co-op. This means my wife and I could sit on the couch and play it together.

In the age of Xbox Live, fewer games allow two people to play together in the same room. It’s irritating because I love to play together but there is so little to choose from. And don’t say Halo or Call of Duty. Gunning people down gets old quickly, especially for casual play.

Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine was a wonderful find. It has a retro 8-bit style and is shown top-down. This is important because the game is all about sneaking through buildings to pull off heists. To start, four thieves are available. Each has a certain skill set to aid your mission. It allows for up to 4 people to play locally or online. We started out and quickly added two more thieves to our roster.

Choose your crew wisely.

The challenge was finding the best thief for the job. We robbed banks, freed other criminals and stole passports from an embassy. Often starting over as we triggered alarms and were found and killed. We tried again. Learning how to better get through a room. How to hack an alarm or laser trigger to sneak by unsuspecting guards.

The game is one big stealthy puzzle. In some levels, we had access to guns. But mostly we had smoke bombs or bandages. Have you ever snuck through a three-story building against armed guards with nothing more than your cunning and a bandage?

We had a blast playing it. I look forward to picking it up and trying to make it through the next levels.

Download the game for Xbox 360 or Steam for Windows, Mac or Linux.

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