Monday, January 19, 2009

Pro Gaming: an oxymoron?

At first glance most people would not consider video games to be a viable outlet as a career or at the very best a pro sport. The reality is that video games are becoming more mainstream everyday, even becoming considered a pro sport. Recently ESPN began airing a monthly television show dedicated solely to gaming, even going so far as to air a “Top Ten” of halo plays. As with all pro sports, going pro in gaming takes a lot of dedication, practice, and skill. Pro gaming events boast prizes in the upwards of $10,000, and even have been known to include endorsement deals with major companies looking to market themselves to gamers. Halo 2 was originally the best game to get into if a person wanted to go pro and make the most money, Halo 3 has become the new standard of that. The statistics today show that there have been 792,192 unique players logging within the last 24 hours playing a total of 1,699,448 total matches logged in that same time frame. As Bungie rolls out their new matchmaking play list setup in a free-for-all tournament style, there will also be a tournament sponsored by the United States Army which will allow U.S. residents to compete in a tournament bracket with the finalists being flown to New York to vie for the $50,000 prize. Halo 3 was released on Sept. 25th 2007, so it is still a relatively young game but already there are contests and promotions that give the average casual gamer a chance to compete with their peers and win prizes. The casual gamer can even try their hand at going semi-pro or even pro by going to several of the tournaments of the gaming season hosted by the MLG or Major League of Gaming. All pro and semi-pro spots are already reserved, but by paying the $240 entrance pass fee, an amateur can compete and gain much needed exposure to further their career in gaming. As the gaming industry consistently proves that it is not going anywhere soon, and begins to out perform even feature films, gaming moves to the forefront and what once began as a group of people getting together to play games in their basement on the old black and white television, has become a pillar of modern entertainment today.

Music to game by

As any gamer knows, a good feature in any blockbuster game is the music. The most notable coming to mind would be the fine tunes composed by Marty O'Donnell of Bungie Studios for the Halo Trilogy which blends classical instruments with some electronica/rock elements. Music is easily a staple for any person at any point in their daily routine, and multiplayer gaming is no exception. Gamers choose music that typically gets them excited, pumped, or otherwise fired up to do what needs to be done.My personal preferences for music vary based on the game I am playing, and whether or not I need to hear the action in the game. While playing Halo 2 multiplayer, I compiled a mixed CD that had some of my favorite music on it which would get me excited, and some has even been included the machinima series "Shadowfall" that I am working on.The Outsider [resident reinholder remix] A Perfect Circle-Resident Evil Apocolypse Soundtrack {2004}Bloodwork- 36 Crazyfists - Resident Evil Apocolypse Soundtrack {2004}Passive- A Perfect Circle- Emotive{2004}Firestarter-Prodigy-Jock Rock 2000 {2000}Hypnotise-System of a Down-Hypnotise{2005}Whats it feel like to be a ghost-Taking Back Sunday- Louder Now{2006}Duality-Slipknot-Vol. 3 The Subliminal Verses{2004}Getting Away with Murder-Papa Roach-Getting away with Murder{2004}Breaking the habit-Linkin Park-Meteora{2003}I'm gonna get my gun-D12-D12 World{2003} Naturally there are more songs that could easily fit into this list, but these are the top ten that always get me fired up and ready to frag like a maniac.

What makes a good player?

We all have our stories of the "best game ever", one where we performed so well it was almost as if some higher force was controlling our hands as we fragged through the masses. What i'm wondering is how do we actually determine what makes a good player, we all see the MVP choice at the end of each match in Halo 3 multiplayer, and can go through the post game carnage reports for many of the games we play today, but those aren't an indicator of a good a player in my eyes. There is no doubting that some players out there have the best skill, and can "no scope" you from across the map as you spawn, or stick you with a grenade that makes it seem as though the sticky appeared from nowhere. But that only means the aforementioned player has skill in a game we all play. When I consider what makes a good overall player, or evaluate myself in that context I don't look at strictly kills, or other arbitrary numbers. I look for how did that person play with his/her team, how were their assists, did they steal kills by letting others do the heavy lifting and then used a single shot to finish their opponent? These are all factors which must come into consideration when a person decides whether or not this player is a good player.

We've all played matches where despite us getting 20+ kills our team still lost because our team mates got slaughtered by a well balanced team who all had a similar amount of kills to their names. I'm inclined to believe that when such a scenario comes about we are partially responsible, if we were so good as to get the 20+ kills then perhaps we should have stuck with our team a bit more and help keep them alive, give some assists, team shoot, etc. This isn't meaning that we should sacrifice ourselves for the team, or that we should carry every weak player we have all the time, but it does mean that we should at least try to help our team succeed. I played a match once where I was playing some phenominal players and what made them even more dangerous was that they worked as a team. If you found one of them, chances are you'd find at least one more if not the whole team and they all put shots on you and there is no escaping that type of barrage. As I was trying to pick apart this well oiled machine, my team was very much a group of lone wolves who all got slaughtered as they were only thinking of themselves. The high scorer of our team was getting his high number of kills, but the cost was we were getting tanked because he was nowhere near us. I couldn't help but feel frustrated by this as I knew that if I just had some backup I could contribute, but for every one time I got them, they each got me, thats 4 to 1 against me, hard to fight those kind of odds.

There is always the flipside to that coin where the team you've been matched with truly are bad players and will get you killed if you stick with them, so in my mind what makes a good player is balance. When I pull up the post game stats I look at all of them, and if I dont have a good number of assists I silently reprimand myself because assists should be just as important as kills as it demonstrates you worked as a team. Another example would be when my friend and I played a match together and I drove the warthog while he gunned and we were for the most part unstoppable. In a few maps in Halo 3 the tide of the game can very well be controlled by whichever team posesses the vehicles and knows how to use them. I scored very few kills that game as I was just the driver, and we had enough of a run going, that save for the few splatters I got as I cut my way across standoff, I was primarily just the wheelman. But i've not ever taken so much pride in medals than the 12 or so wheelman medals I earned that match. Because those medals show that I kept my teammate alive so allow him to get those kills. The next match we played he took the wheel and I gunned, and we did equally well again, this is what makes a great player to me. The willingness to play a balanced game, working with your team to accomplish a goal and sticking with it until that goal can be accomplished. Skill will always play a part in these matches, and will thus always be important, but I say we should not sacrifice the unity of a team just for the sake of getting our picture in a little box with the letters MVP below it. Finding the balance is always the hardest task, it is something that I have to work at everytime I play, some games I do better than others, but the fact i'm still trying is what matters to me.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New to the neighborhood

Let me begin by saying I have been a Halo addict since my very strange neighbor thrust his copy of halo 2 into my hand and told me I must play it, and who am I to say no to such a googly eyed stranger? That day was the first day I began to think of myself as a "gamer", I had played video games my whole life starting on an atari and working my way through consoles as I grew. So why did I not consider myself a gamer you ask? That would be because no game had ever so completely sucked me into its story and gameplay before as Halo 2 had. Before I owned my Xbox I owned the Playstation 2 and did get quite engrained with the Gta series, but again nothing hit me quite as Halo has. Upon my introduction to Halo 2 multiplayer I was hooked, everything from fan art to machinima to the game itself fascinated me and its with continued admiration and adoration that I write this now.

"I have been a Halo addict since my very strange neighbor thrust his copy of halo 2 into my hand and told me I must play it"

I purchased my copy of Halo 3 the day it came on sale, I was the tenth person in line to recieve my copy at my local walmart and I have played this new version ever since. While I would never claim to be a god gamer or really even all that "hardcore" I would say I am a hardcore fan. But as of late, specifically in the last few months or so I've been left wanting with the multiplayer experience of H3. The mechanics work fine(lag permitting)but the way that I play tends to lend itself better to working as a team than being randomly matched with people that may or may not hold the same tactic principles as myself.

When I logged into
I was greeted with the main page, and on this page a post about a community called Buddy System Gaming, or BSG and after reading about them I decided to break my usual habit of avoiding large groups and went to their site to sign up. The process was relatively painless and their forums function like many of the others you see out there, but the key difference is i've not seen the egos one might expect to find on a forum that was just featured by the creators of our beloved halo. Instead I found a welcoming, warm group of people who all seem very helpful despite the fact they are currently swapped with new member requests.

After some intial bumps with getting in and setup, last night I was able to game with a great group of players and can easily say that i've not had that much fun in Halo in quite sometime. The night began with a warmup match with a new friend on a custom map he created in forge and it is sufficiently blood pumping. The map itself is rather simple in concept and thats what makes it so brilliant. A two level maze,relatively small and almost all looking identical makes for a rather disorienting experience. The game settings add to it making it even better. Its shotgun starts with unlimited ammo, no radar, no overshield. The only time you have any shielding is when you spawn at which time you have plenty of shield to protect you as you start the game. This feature both got me killed and saved my life and is a great idea, so much in fact I wish that it was a common feature on all halo gametypes to discourage spawn killing. After your spawn you then have no shields and are flying blind as you run through the two level maze. This heightens the anticipation as it becomes a game of finding your opponent before he finds you. I would imagine with more people it might be less nerveracking but in a one on one, this game type and map is rather unsettling.

"I found a welcoming, warm group of people who all seem very helpful despite the fact they are currently swapped with new member requests."

After that match concluded, He and I were brought into a large group of players from BSG, either friends of the community, guests wanting to gain memberships status, or the BSG guys themselves it was a packed room to be sure. It was at this time I came to discover my new love, Nades N' Spades. This gametype requires that you stick your opponent in order to score points, with a very full room it was a map of chaos as grenades were flying everywhere, and to be perfectly honest I have never had more fun or laughed as hard while playing a match.

In order to not make this first article so long you age prematurely age before finishing it I will abstain from going over the rest of the matches. But suffice it to say these games were fun, laughter filled and I actually felt a part of something. Regardless of whether or not we won or lost, I still felt like I had a stake in something bigger than just myself and feel like I have finally found a place where I belong.