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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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What About Your Friends?
Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Two things that most people wouldn’t think connect in any way shape or form happened over the weekend. Paris Hilton went to jail and I bought a new (used) video game (I never buy new-new games). All of you are probably thinking, that’s great Adam, but what on earth do those two things have to do with each other? Well, after looking through literally hundreds of video games and finding only a handful that were two player I realized something, the act of playing a video game has become like Paris Hilton’s jail time, a solitary activity, and in the case of video games, to quote The Critic, “it stinks!”

When purchasing a new (used) video game there are a few important things I look for. First it has to be fun. I’m not down with any of this player’s manual nonsense. If I can’t figure it out with just the instruction booklet, or less, it probably isn’t going to be very fun. Second, I make sure the game has a two player feature. Back in the day almost every game was two player because we’d all get together to play. I mentioned this to the guy behind the desk at EB Games and he gave me a slightly depressed look of “yeah, I know how you’re feeling” and told me the kids today are all about the online play. So in 2007 kids have traded in having real friends for playing against DorkOverlord89, and video game companies, rather than encouraging kids to make actual friends, are forgoing the two player option for most games (sports games being a noted exception) in favor of linking people up online. When the kids who are playing these games go off to college they’ll figure out how unappealing they really are. If you can’t stay up until four in the morning binge drinking while simply switching who’s playing against who with the rest of the people in your dorm (which is something I remember doing with everything from Super Mario Kart to Tekken to the ultimate classic, Tecmo Super Bowl) it’s a pretty safe bet the game will gather dust.

Another thing about new video games that I’ve come to dislike is the realism in game play. Sure, we now have a billion plays for each football game, but it was really much better when we only had four running plays, four passing plays and eight respective defensive plays. Tecmo Super Bowl anyone? Where else could you have a player run out an entire quarter on one play like Bo Jackson was programmed to be able to do, or have any QB have the arm to throw the ball from one end zone to the other? Games lasted a total of ten minutes, at most, and you could play an entire season in a night. It was FUN.

I also remember games like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II and III bringing kids who didn’t even know each other together at the arcade because of the four player function. Pop in a few quarters and all of a sudden you were fighting Shredder with some kid you just met that very second. Someone who might turn into a real life friend, but even if he or she didn’t they’d at least be more than a screen name. The same could be said for NBA Jam, still one of the best sports games ever made. Multiplayer, and with rules that had very little to do with real life basketball, NBA Jam was a phenomenon when it came out. Then there was Street Fighter II, where kids would be lined up to take on whoever was kicking everyone’s ass on that particular day.

Maybe it’s a generational thing. Maybe my generation is simply a more fun loving one. Back in college we had our video game systems, people crowded around my place when I had the old 8-Bit NES up and working, there’s just something about the classics, but even with the then new systems, Sony Playstation and N64, the games of choice were Bond, Super Mario Kart, Twisted Metal 2 and Madden, because we could play against each other. I don’t see kids today having those options thanks to the supposed glory of online play.

We’ve had a shift in human activity over the years and it’s a shift for the worse. Kids are being encouraged to sit at home and be online rather than focusing on making friends and interacting with real people. In the end this will hurt them greatly as their social skills will be stunted to new lows. The ability to interact with other human beings is the single most important aspect of living in society, if one can’t do that they really can’t do anything. So for the sake of the future let's get the kids some two player games, or at least break out a Monopoly board for them, you have to have real people around to play that.
posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:53 AM  
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