The Gamer’s Conscience 12.30.02

Sweet Buddha. You know, there are only certain events during a gamer’s tenure that he can look back on and with a serious feeling of elation and awe. I can remember playing Super Mario Bros. for the first time and being blown away at how damned fun it was to jump on turtles and angry mushrooms. Street Fighter 2 was groundbreaking game in the sense that it showed us that bragging rights do indeed change hands fast enough for you, only fueling your need to get them back. But a not-so-seemingly-far-off time ago, I had my run in with something that had been present in console gaming for some time, yet is really overlooked. I speak of the bliss that is linked console gaming.

It was a fairly cold day (quite ironic for a Sunday) here in sunny Santa Monica when a good friend of mine called me up, babbling something to the extent of “Yo Fred- D and I are going to B’s house.” Routine? Yes. However, this day was different. “D’s bringing his X-Box and Halo, and B’s got the same setup too- dual X-Box action. You down?” Now let it be known that I’m no X-Box fan whatsoever. The controllers are too damned bulky this side of the Pacific (which was remedied, however), and unless I hit the lottery sometime soon there’s just no reason to buying a console that doesn’t have Armored Core or Zelda on it. But the allure of multi-player Halo, on two linked consoles no less. I ask candidly: could I really say no? Resistance was indeed futile.

We got to his house, the three of us, and met up with the two of them. Following some pre-game trash talking and the ritual decor citations involving shag carpeting and dead plants, B proceeded to hook up the Boxes to an already existing USB network. Would you believe it? No snags in the network at all. I was shocked to see that a Microsoft product worked on the first try. But alas, the games! You’re here to read about the games!

The setup itself was maddening. With 2 TVs and 2 X-Boxes, with 3 controllers in one and two in the other, we beheld the two-room-spanning breathing behemoth known as “a networked game.” Sheer madness indeed. And as much as I hate to admit it, Halo played like a dream. But the real kicker here was the pure energy in the game. The level of smack being talked back and forth over the gab between the rooms were staggering as one of our guys would capture the flag and take it over to us. We rejoiced over the slightest kill, and our lungs went dry laughing at each other’s ineptitude. Sure, you can experience this on a two-player level, but the sheer thrill of having more than two people in on the action can’t be discounted. The game took on a new dimension because we all knew the dude sitting next to us was as involved in the game as the next one.

With this in mind, there will definitely be a repeat session when we can reschedule it. This brings my message to you: if you’ve got the games needed and the required amount of hardware for some linked play, by all means try it. Maybe you’ll bust a hernia disc trying to move a TV around, or perhaps some cable shortage keeps the “long distance” gaming at bay. But in only in four words, it’s damned worth it. If I can experience this much joy with a few friends on a game like this, think of the possibility that you and your friends can have. They program features like this to be used- and it would be a crying shame to see stuff like this go to waste. My friend picked up an iLink cable explicitly for Armored Core 2, which up until recently has been a solely two-player affair between myself and anybody that thinks they can go toe-to-toe. Now that Winter break is in effect, with it’s post-final euphoria equally in effect, there will be more time than ever to set up stuff like this.

This far into the column, you might be thinking something along the lines of “This is all well and good, Fred, but what about online gaming? Online gaming, you ask? This supposed next great steroid for gaming itself? The next phenomenon that will bring you that much closer to gaming nirvana? Well, I’ll be honest: online console gaming for this columnist however is still an enigma. Maybe, if the good capitalists on eBay decide to pick up some Audioslave promo material I’ve got stored up, or some idiot living below the equator wants my sealed copy of NBA 2K1 for more than 30 bones USD, then the good grace of titles like SOCOM and TMB: Online won’t be so foreign in the near future. However, if it lets me down like the Power Glove for the NES, you’ll all read about it here.

In the meantime, though, there’s nothing else that really compares to a good linked game to get some multi-player fun off its ass and into your palms. If the resources are there, then manifest them into taking advantage of a feature that most shrug off without regard. When you’re gazing at a split screen of Halo while at the same time hearing your opponents wail in positive delusion about their skill, you’ll forget about the pain in your back from moving the TV or having to play without the Controller S. Trust me. It heals up quick.

Bringing the pain to more than one friend at a time brings fun by the truckload- especially when they’re literally within striking distance.
That’s the Gamers Conscience.

And now for a couple of almost completely unrelated items!

  • Despite overwhelming sentiment to say otherwise (and an operative guilty conscious), Jerry Cantrell’s Degradation Trip: Volumes 1 and 2 is more disappointing than the prior release; one which Jerry called “the Reader’s Digest version.” There are some noteworthy tracks to speak of, but nothing that calls out for writing home. I really expected more from this integral component of what was Alice In Chains, but for some odd reason I was let down. Maybe after a couple more rotations. Perhaps the guys over at Music agree?
  • In what will probably become a future topic for The Gamers Conscious, what I’m hearing in the background from the TV is absolutely ludicrous. It’s roughly 10:17PM PST, and Dateline NBC is playing back THE MOST HORRENDOUS EXAMPLE OF TRIPE pertaining to THE SALE OF VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES TO MINORS. Fuming, am I? In-f*cking-deed!
  • And last but definitely not least, a big thanks goes out to the 411 staff for the warm reception. Here’s to the present, guys, and to only great things for the future!