After recently acquiring an XBox 360 (which I should have done a long time ago), I was compelled to take a ride out to the video store to see what games I could find to satisfy my needs to drive really fast and shoot things … in high definition. Yeah, the obvious choice was the new Grand Theft Auto, but I felt that since I was renting, I wouldn’t have enough time to get the full effect. So I went with Burnout Paradise and Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga.
Lego Star Wars has always been a staple to my video game collection because I get to interact with two things that have brought much joy to my life – Legos and Star Wars. The game play is great and the story is always fun to follow. I’d give it a 7.5 out of 10. Not too shabby. Burnout Paradise is a far cry from the previous Burnout games. It has done away with individual races that you get to pick from a main menu and has unlocked the entire city to drive around at your own leisure. This fact alone immediately led me to love this game. To add to it, the graphics are stunning, and no detail was left to mediocrity. Every sign, tree, lamppost and car was given a great amount of attention, and it really shows. When driving up a parking garage, I tapped a parked car that was tucked away in a corner and the car alarm went off with the lights flashing. There are lots of very cool little details like that in the game that I keep noticing more and more as I play. The physics engine that is used is also stunning. Every crash is different, and every time I think, “Wow, it doesn’t get more real than that.”
Some of you may be thinking, “Well, duh, of course these games are going to be awesome. What’s your point?” My point is that these games are becoming the ultimate form of social gaming. When I run out of things to do in Burnout and find that the bots that I’m racing against get too predictable, I can just plug in my Ethernet cord and suddenly I am racing against 16 people just like me who are totally unpredictable. The same holds true for GTA and Madden Football.
Just think, how often do you play video games by yourself? For most of you, probably not very often. It is an inherently social activity. It makes it so much better to score a touchdown against your best friend and be able to see the look of anguish on his face than to score against a machine. There’s no emotion in that. Gaming is all about interaction. Not interaction like Scrabulous, either. Anyone can make a work and then say, “Your turn.” Social gaming is so much more than that. And when you have two or more people wandering around a city with sports cars and rocket launchers, no two games will ever be the same.
So next time you’re playing a game online, think about the interactions, and pay attention to how different it is to play with a real person instead of a bot. I think you’ll start to understand where I’m coming from.
What do you think about social gaming? Does it really add to the experience? Let me know!