Down the page in the comments section of my Eve piece, Lithilk has posted a comment about the importance of finding decent people to game with. I wrote a lengthy reply, which was eaten by the Internet. Thanks, Internet.
I said something (excruciatingly clever) about how you have to work at net-based relationships if you want to make the most of online gaming. Sure, these online people can be switched off a lot easier than relationships formed in other contexts, but they need to be cultivated nonetheless. Having people to play with online can completely change the topography of the net for a casual player. The State guys are, I’m sure, playing more and indulging a wider range of experiences because they have worked to create a community.
I’m acutely aware that my own gaming experience is enhanced by having loads of acquaintances, on and offline, who are into gaming. Whatever I want to play, it’s likely that one of my friends will be there already, or ready to join me at the drop of a credit card.
Most gamers, though, still don’t really understand this world. They are, in a certain sense, socially constrained by gaming. They don’t see it as a medium for developing a particular kind of relationship, and as a result their gaming experience will never as rich as those who do. I grew particularly close to the European gaming community back in Quake III days and I still see names I recognise cropping up in games now. As each new game comes out, so familiar names (amongst of the ten of thousands of Dutchmen called De4thlord) make an appearance. Just as I recognise and get on a nodding and/or chatting basis with lots of people just by virtue of living in the same town for many years, so I’ve begun to encounter the same people in quite different games over the years. An old Quake III captain was in Ironforge in Warcraft just last week, and at Christmas I spotted a name I recognised from (gasp) Kingpin. It was a friend from when I played on Wireplay. I messaged, and yes, it was the same guy, still using the same handle. After our rival fleets had beaten the hell out of each other, we had a bit of a reminisce.
“Ah, nothing beats Quakeworld, but I’m getting a bit old now…”
What was my point again? I forget. Anyway, whether she realises it or not, Alice is one of the old names I recognise, a regular on pick-up Quake III. She wasn’t half bad, either.