Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I'm not just a one system gamer girl.

As much as I love my Xbox 360 I do have other gaming systems. A PS2, Xbox, computer, Game Cube, N64, Super Nintendo, GBA SP, PSP, and an XYZ. Okay, I made up that last one. I just haven't played those systems in a long time.

My PS2 is currently functioning as a stand for my 360. My Game Cube has been shoved to the back of my entertainment center. I'm not even sure where my original Xbox is. My GBA SP and PSP are tossed in a bag somewhere and my N64 and Supertendo are working on their dust bunny collections. I do get on the computer occasionally to check emails but after a day at the office staring at a computer screen and sitting in uncomfortable chair I'm not all that inclined to sit and do the same thing at home.

I blame my lack of playing other systems to Xbox Live. It's always a blast to get online and see which of your friends are plugged in and what they're playing. Even looking at the cute little pink Pac Man ghost your tough talking and tough playing friend picked as his avatar is a hoot. Player's mottos change often . . . sometimes hourly. And when your testosterone filled buddies, who once gave you a hard time for playing Hearts, are now seen playing Backgammon or Viva Pinata it only adds to the tauntings you can hand out to them later. (And don't believe them when they say their wives were playing.)

I will have to tear myself away from Xbox Live and my 360 if my other systems even have a hope of getting played again. It's not like I don't have any great and thoroughly engrossing games for those systems. (Yes, the Game Cube and N64 have some of those games too. Have you heard of Pikmin or Rouge Squadron?) It's just when I play those other systems I wonder what my Xbox friends are doing.

Have they past me on the leaderboards for Pac Man? Did they finish a game before me? Did they find a way to get that elusive achievement that's been the bane of my existence in Bejeweled 2? Is their GamerScore higher than mine now?

Yet at the same time I'm wondering what happens next in Final Fantasy X-2. Which is the real world in Chrono Cross? Where will Jak and Daxter or Ratchet and Clank go next? What do I have to do to beat the final boss in Pikmin in one day? How can I save that Galaxy far, far away? And just who is Solid Snake, Samus or Master Chief?

If I didn't have to go to work 5 days a week I'd be closer to finding out those answers, and many more. That is if I can put my Xobx 360 aside to plug another system in. Maybe I'll give it a try tonight. After all, I'm not just a one system gamer girl.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Why can't we just get along?

I hope a little misunderstanding hasn't ruined some friendships.

Here's the story.

I'm in a squad in Chromehounds and a couple of my friends (met in Gears of War) have the game and wanted to play with people they know so they joined our squad. One of the them played a lot with the squad and in 2 weeks time passed me in achievements for the game (I've been playing for 2 months). Another one is having trouble taking Gears out of his machine in order to put something else in.

We had a rare night when the 6 most active members were all on at the same time. Our nation was in ruins. And we wanted the Nation Resurrector achievement. We would play with a purpose. We spend some time all together playing a mission or two for that catching up that infrequent friends often have to do before splitting up and running missions individually (thus hopefully winning more overall occupation points). Some split up in teams of 2; others on their own.

I was by myself running missions and destroying bases and hounds like a madman. Unfortunately, the maps were reset before we could revive our nation. All that effort wasted. I called it a night and tucked myself into bed. (Thanks to boosters we got the Nation Resurrector achievement later on.)

When I got on the next night I had a boat load of messages waiting for me. And 2 fewer people in our squad. It seems that after we split up our squad leader was talking to one of the newer members that he's thinking about removing people from the squad that don't play. "Deadwood" was the term he used. The newbie assumed that that included the Gears-addicted newbie (who hasn't played much) that we're all friends with. So he left the squad, got the Gears-addict to leave and sent a very upset message that he's starting his own squad just for "newbies and deadwood who just want to play to have fun".

If this was all there was to it, it could easily be fixed. Unfortunately, the whole situation grew a life of it's own. My brother, also a member of the squad, sent a message that he was considering leaving the squad and limiting the number of members so that our "renown per member" wouldn't be as bad as it is now with all the inactive squadmates we have. This then lead to other members wondering if there was going to be any kind of squad left at all. And led to hurt feelings.

What our squad leader was referring to was a couple of members that haven't played in at least 6 wars (as long as I've been a member) and who no longer have the game. If they don't have the game to play why should they be in the squad? They're "deadwood". Not knowing this was what he was referring to, the newbie took the comments personally and left.

Although several of us have tried to smooth things over that great camaraderie we had is gone. We don't laugh and tease each other as much. We play quietly. We keep to the necessary game communications and go about our business.

If this only affected my Chromehounds play it would be easier, but the tension and hurt feelings can be felt when I join those ex-squad mates in a game of Gears of War. Fortunately we've played Gears for so long and with other people not brought into this messy situation that those feelings are getting back to normal. I know I'd love to have both guys back (and another one that was going to join soon) but I don't think it's going to happen. Our squad leader said we'll just play a match against them sometime and get it all out on the battlefield.

I guess that's better than some other violent alternative, but I have to wonder why we can't just all get along?

Monday, July 9, 2007

Where's the fun in cheating?

Where's the fun in cheating?

I mean. Seriously. I play to have fun. Sometimes I enjoy the defeats just as much the victories. The more spectacular the better. I'm not saying I'm a saint now. In the early days I needed a little help otherwise I would have quit and never looked back.

I don't know how many nights I was left frustrated on some level in Super Mario for the SNES. Usually the water levels. There are warp pipes available and when I saw them I took advantage. After all if the programmers didn't want you to use them why put them in the game to begin with? But with other games I need just a little bit more help.

Then I discovered Game Shark. Actually my brother did and pointed me in that direction (like a lot of my video game choices as well). I would be stuck in a room with no exit . . . or up against a boss with no apparent weakness . . . and I would just want to quit the game and never play it again. After loading up the Game Shark and then the game I could get past that one hiccup to me fully enjoying the game. But after awhile it just got to be too much trouble for what little gain I got out of the experience.

I like that feeling of exhilaration after beating a particularly difficult part of the game. Using a cheat code well . . . cheapened the experience. Even if I beat the game I didn't feel like I won. A little part of me always knew that the effort involved wasn't all mine so neither was the victory. So I just pushed through those stubborn spots and got better.

Soon I found that those little Game Shark cards and dics were collecting more dust those fluffs of whatever that seem to collect under my bed. It might take me longer to beat a game . . . and I might even put it aside for longer periods of time when I get stuck . . . but the victories are all mine.

I finished my first Xbox 360 Arcade game a while ago. Jewel Quest. There are times in the game after you've lost a level for a couple of times that a message box pops up and asks if you want to move on to the next level (at the cost of one life). As tempting as the offer was I knew when I got to the end the victory would be hollow. So I declined the offer and played every level. Some levels took 8 or more lives to get through . . . others only one. But when I finished I knew I had beaten the game. All me. No one else. Those 200 Achievement Points were all mine. It felt good.

So why do gamers want to cheat? What glory do they get out of finishing a game or being #1 on a leader board if they know they didn't do it all on their own?

I will never be able to get some Achievements in ChromeHounds for the Xbox 360 because there are players and squads that cheat. It's called boosting. Instead of playing against other humans or the AI they play against a second account of theirs where the enemy just sits there. Yes, it's a legitimate battle in that they haven't circumvented the rules of the game but it doesn't take much skill or effort to beat an opponent that doesn't do anything. They get another victory. More experience. And a boat load of renown to dominate the leaderboards. And the corresponding Achievements to go with it.

Take those same players and put them in a match with real humans to play against and they'd probably get their butts kicked. Where's the fun in that?