Monday, September 15, 2008

Last Year's Best Video Games

I am not cutting-edge when it comes to games - understand that now okay?

Having said that, I am also not shy about playing a new game, I am just shy about spending the $60 to $80 you have to spend to buy a new game, because what if I do not like it? Unlike cars, video games do not retain their value once you leave the store with them - in fact they go from being worth $60 in the store to around $20 on eBay (if you are lucky) and much less than $20 if you want to trade them at Blockbuster or EB Games. You see my point?

Playing Games

I own a Play Station 2, an Xbox 360, and a Nintendo Wii - oh and a Nintendo NES, a Nintendo 64, a Play Station I, and an Xbox regular, not to mention a few Nintendo Game Boys - a couple color versions, the original GB, and a GBA-SP as well as a DS. The point to that is that I have no shortage of gaming potential, I have most of the consoles and that doesn't even touch on PC games - yes I have some PC's too...

Right so here is the thing - I like to play games. Most of the games that I play however are online games - like Star Wars Galaxies, Everquest II, and Final Fantasy XII. These games take up a lot of gaming time and give excellent gaming satisfaction - but they are not what you would call the most popular games of the year. Normally that would not be an issue, but then I bought my Xbox 360 and suddenly it was.

A Different Sort of Online Gaming

The problem started with the Xbox 360 and my subscribing to Xbox Live. If you don't know, Xbox Live is the subscription-based interface that allows you to play your Xbox games online with other people - ones you know and ones you don't. Now if that was all that there was to it, well there would not be a problem, because I know people who game and I like to play people I don't know. The thing is there is a system put in place by the Live dev's to help other people decide if they want to play games with you - and it is completely dependant upon two factors:

(1) How many people have said that they prefer to play games with you; and

(2) How many Achievement Points you have.

This requires some explaning I fear; it is a Catch-22 situation, so bare with me while I run it down for you...

In Xbox Live you earn "Acheivement Points" for doing certain things in a game or completing specific requirements - these are different for each game and generally involve normal game play anyways, so if you play games you will earn points. The thing is that a LOT of the other players on Live judge you - often harshly - on your present point score.

So if you don't have any points, or say only a few thousand, it is not easy to get people to play some games, and in some cases, you can't get them to play at all!

The Solution?

The easy answer is to play games and rack up some points - and you may be tempted to do that by getting a lot of low-priced games out of the bargain bin as many people are, but that would be a mistake. You see the other players are hip to that, so having what they call "Twink" games on your games played and points list can actually hurt you worse than having no points at all.

For instance the Madden NFL games are widely viewed as Twink Games *if* you have ALL of the points from them, because the assumption is that you told the game to play itself - you can do that apparently - and so you did not *earn* the points. God forbid you use kids games to score points, because those are mega Twink!

The Ultimate Path

In the end you are better off just playing the games that you like to play and letting the points come when they do. There is a measure of respect that is given to the folks who are picky about the games that they play, and that helps, but in the end what this is really about is *time* played. Online the folks that are serious about playing you want a quality match, and they judge that by the effort you have already put in it seems.

And So...

I am presently playing last year's two "Games of the Year" and having a blast! The games are Bioshock and Mass Effect, and I cannot believe that I ignored them for a year. In my defense I point out that the blurbs I read did not make the games sound as good as they actually are... Yeah, I know, they were voted as a tie for Game of the Year and that should have been notice enough to me that they were worth playing, but I remind you I am really tight with my gaming money... Poor excuse that that is.

Thanks in part to these two games I am close to breaking 10,000 Achievement Points on Live - which should change things I hope. We shall see...