The re-evolution of the online gaming community and the subsequent rise in electronic games
CAIRO: Before there was MSN Messenger, Google Talk or MySpace.com, there was Doom.
In less than 20 years, the basic game evolved into a world of interactive visual realties, online board and card games, an array of differently themed online and electronic games.
The popular online chatting software could be even traced back to the need to socialize using cyberspace, the same need that made Doom ever so popular.
Made by guys for a male audience, Doom wasn’t material you could call girlfriend-friendly. Back in the early 1990s when it was all the rage among the young male set, it required that you hunch over computer monitors with other men in poorly ventilated rooms, all the while sweating through your bad T-shirts.
This first-person shooter was the first game that enabled people to play with their mates over multiple computers, a local area network, and subsequently the Internet.
This multiplayer component had been severely lacking at the time, and Doom s introduction gave the gaming environment a social aspect. But Doom, and the many games that it spawned, are about shooting your friends between their virtual eyes. This particular (anti) social aspect appears to be frowned upon by the ladies, and perhaps with good reason.
Imagine a game which uses a community that isn’t hell-bent on destruction. The Sims, Mario Party and Hoyle do away with violence altogether.
The Sims has you building your own life in your choice of urban, suburban, or university slanted virtual worlds, where you interact with other family members, make friends, take care of your pets, go to work or school, and even decide how much you want to recycle. Mario Party tries to emulate a day at the fair, enabling up to eight people to play games like splat-the-rat, skateboard scamper and paddle battle. The Hoyle line of products takes board and card games to the online environment, consequently attracting a larger percentage of female players.
These games do not require investing excess time in mastering complex reaction-based skills like maiming with virtual weapons or racing a virtual vehicle; their very point is to socialize.
Multiplayer gaming goes like this. It’s a game in which multiple people can play the same game at the same time. Computer and video games have historically been single-player activities, with mere computer generated artificial opponents. In multiplayer games, you’re either competing against one another or teaming up to achieve a common goal.
World of Warcraft and Everquest are good examples and have a tremendous following.
Under the same category comes the increasingly popular the MMORPG, a massive multiplayer online role playing game. It is built on an entirely non-linear virtual existence, in which your character mixes with others and is guided solely by your own intent. This is all done in real time via the Internet in a world that literally doesn’t sleep; it continues to change, develop and grow while you are away. New buildings are put up, babies are born, the weather changes, and you age.
MMORPGs do require a level of computer knowledge however that is too high a barrier for many to climb, not to mention that you need a really good PC and plenty of bandwidth.
Online mechanisms for socializing like MSN or Yahoo Messenger or the suddenly popular MySpace also offer games, though they typically fall into one of two categories: classical or wacky. But either choice succeeds where others have failed. Whether you want to play Mahjong, backgammon or Chicken Invaders 2, you can do so cheaply, easily and immediately, and you won’t even need broadband. MSN and Yahoo have capitalized well on the already sociable vibe of their communities, providing a plethora of ways to have fun with others.
Meanwhile, price remains to be a barrier for those who are looking for cheaper alternatives for online gaming.
Here in Egypt, consoles like the Sony PlayStation 2 (PS2) are hugely popular and offer a cheaper entry into this gaming world. They also offer quite a different multiplayer-gaming experience, all of you usually in one room, hanging out at your friend’s apartment. The next generation versions, however, are not that cheap.
Microsoft with its Xbox 360, Sony with the PS3, and Nintendo’s Wii are trying to capitalize on that friendly vibe and minimize much of the hassle of technology. Each of these new or upcoming consoles has a community aspect to it and intends to encourage you towards bandwidth-hungry activities like video-conferencing, movie and music downloads, in addition to the online gaming that leads to most of the purchases in the first place.
But how much of this will really impact Egypt is another matter. Despite an open market value of approximately LE 1,750, the Xbox 360 is being sold by one Heliopolis vendor for LE 5000. Whatever the reason for the price hike, the PS3 is already being quoted as having a $600 (LE 3,500) price when it does finally launch. The Wii is the cheapest of the three but Nintendo has the lowest level of awareness in Egypt among the three consoles.
Though there are few things that will compare to an immersive first-person shooter with its opportunity to tear your mates limb from limb, or your escapist and entertaining 5:30 a.m. World of Warcraft dawn raid; there is something to be said for kicking back and flicking a checker or two while showing off your holiday pictures, not just your firing aim.