There was a time when gaming was frowned upon by the mainstream media and culture as being a very solitary activity a la world of Warcraft addiction and now, its swept the world by storm and is now considered a relatively social activity that can be enjoyed by the whole family.But I’d like to go back to a time before the Revolution that is the Wii and the DS to a more simpler time of which we remember from our childhood.
Most of us grew up with some sort of gaming system in our household, whether it be the NES, Sega Genesis, PS1 Atari or any other platform, we all remember how we got into gaming. I really started gaming after getting a copy of Star Wars X-Wing vs Tie Fighter for the PC and spent countless hours playing it as a kid and played the hell out of Pokémon Blue. Although those were single player games, there was no real internet back in the mid to late 90s, just crappy dial-up. We would share tips and tricks on how to beat the next boss and how to get past dungeons by word of mouth, so there was a sense of community and belonging within the gaming community.
Games back in the 90s and early 00s rarely had much of an online multiplayer presence before games like CounterStrike and World of Warcraft. Back in the days where we only had dial-up internet, any sort of calls, coming in or going out, while trying to play online games were deadly! People would purposely call your home phone just to cut your internet so that the game would disconnect and would need to restart with a clean slate if you wanted to play some more. It was always funny to recollect on those times.
On the topic of the lack of non-dial-up internet, multiplayer back then meant that everyone was in the same room playing off the same TV. Those countless afternoons and nights playing GoldenEye, Super Smash Bros and Mario Kart with other people and the shouting and all the name calling (in a friendly manner of course!) were what made the whole thing fun and helped solidify these friendships.
Now to take you to the arcades of the 90s where many of us grew up. I think I probably spent quite a few hours playing games like Dance Dance Revolution and Marvel vs Capcom in these arcades and probably watched my friends play it for many more hours as well. Even though arcades are now all but extinct here in North America, I think those of us that had spent many hours in them appreciate the roots that gaming had in these places and recognize the social connections that you could make with others that played in arcades and had an appreciation for these places.
Flash forward to current times where we now have relatively reliable high speed internet and multiplayer is brought on board to the interwebs and has become somewhat disconnected from what it used to be. The friendly trash talk that used to happen when everyone used to be in the same room has been tarnished a bit by people that are behind TV and computer screens that just see you as another avatar or another character to add to their kills tally. I still do play online multiplayer, but it seems that this detached feeling of playing with some random people that I don’t know that have the tendencies to either teabag you or rage quit. And also that there is a small vocal minority that just doesn’t know how to control their tongue in the chatrooms that really throws me off, but thats besides the point. On the times that I play online and I do like some of the communities that are on their for online multiplayer even though I usually play with friends and chat through Skype.
Moving onwards to the revolution with Wii Sports, Wii Fit and Mario Kart, that brought the casual crowd and I use that term very loosely, that brought them into the fray of gaming. Whether this brings them into gaming for the long run or not, it has definitely brought gaming into being accepted in the mainstream culture even though the media still has some qualms about it. I think this is great for all gamers, whether they are seasoned veterans, social gamers or anything in between because it means that there are more opportunities for developers to make a mark in the world of gaming and shape it. This social movement or revolution as you may call it was thirty years in the making from its humble roots of playing Pong on the Atari or Super Mario Bros & Duck Hunt on the NES to playing GoldenEye on the N64 to playing Wii Sports and the plethora of online multiplayer games that are available to us. Gaming is a social activity and is here to stay for a very long time.
This is true.
Even a game like Zelda can be social. I have countless friends who love to sit and watch me play, and we discuss the characters and plot as I do. I just played Mario Kart Wii last night with a friend and a brother. Wii is a great party tool as well. New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Mario Kart Wii, Wii Sports, Mario Party 8…you name it.
I remember my first video game I remember, Super Mario 64. Played the hell out of that. Still do on occasion. Better now then when I was a kid, heh. I also remember when Pokemon was huge, everyone, and I mean everyone, knew about it. We’d sit on this bench at the private elementary school I went to, and sit and watch someone play. Then we’d give tips, like how to find Missingno. Also went to my mall’s arcade at times.
I remember playing this old vector based tank game on my Mac as a kid and we would huddle around the computer and take turns to see who could get the farthest before running out of lives. And yeah pokemon was a pretty big deal at my school too! People would gather around gameboys during recess and lunch breaks to see trades and poke-battles go down.
At my old high school, there was a hallway by the caf that was aptly named the DS hallway since all the 5th year students aka victory lap students (myself included) gathered there to play mario kart, tetris and just hang out there. There was always someone in the hallway playing DS and it made time spent at school that much better!