_A couple months ago, I acquired an e-amuse pass. [Funny how the term “acquired” has a much different flavor to it than it did 10 years ago, isn’t it? I actually did legitimately buy one though. Also, I once called my e-amuse pass an “e-amuse card” and had someone correct me. I didn’t say anything, but I honestly was in shock. There’s no difference. It’d be like me asking someone for someone for a piece of paper and being told that it’s actually parchment or stationery. I don’t care, I just want fucking paper.] E-amuse passes are basically little portable Konami arcade machine profiles. You get one, set up your passcode, and when used in e-amuse connected Konami arcade games, it saves shit. It saves high scores, earns you unlocks…all that kind of jazz. It’s pretty neat…except that since it’s an arcade thing, you don’t see much support for it in the US. But, through various means, the US now has its own limited support e-amuse network. And now that we do…I’ve found myself addicted to it.
_The e-amuse network is actually more than just scores and unlocks…let’s take Beatmania IIDX, the primary focus of US e-amuse support at the moment. In IIDX, I get to customize my player avatar with various fun clothes to give them a unique look, exclusive to me. Does it bear any relevance to anything? No. None whatsoever. But it’s like 360 avatars or Mii’s. It just makes everything feel more personal. No longer are you just a name people see online. You have a look and a feel. With every customizable feature you’re given, the more your character becomes a part of you. Sure, it’s all superficial, but there’s a reason why so many people spend as much time as they do in game character creation.
_Another great aspect is the ability to have online rivals. Thanks to the mighty power of the internet, not only can you save and see your own personal hi scores…you can see your rival’s scores from the song selection screen. Suddenly, a strictly single player game just became a ruthless game of “Squish competition.” Have you ever played Geometry Wars 2? It’s the same kind of deal. The game selection menu in GW2 isn’t JUST a game selection menu…it’s a testament to how good or bad your friends are in the same modes. Virtual dick-wagging is no longer “Oh yeah, I scored a million points in Geometry Wars.” Virtual dick-wagging became “I just beat your score on my friends leaderboard by 5 points, asshole. Have fun trying to recreate your best to try to beat me =D” A high score leaderboard is like the business world. If the scores are just being done by one entity, there’s little reason to better yourself. But when there are other people gunning for the top, it drives you. The competitive spirit within us kicks in and motivates us to improve. Self motivation is hard. Motivation from outside forces is far easier.
_These are the reasons why online gaming has taken off this generation. Think to many of the things we call “games” outside of the video variety. Board games. Card games. Children’s games. Party games. Organized sports. It’s all competition. Board games are the best example. Everyone plays for fun, but everyone is trying to win. If your opponent isn’t any good, they’re not that fun to play since you don’t have to put any effort into it. In a game like Monopoly, everyone has their favorite piece that they want to use. It doesn’t matter, but people want to use the ship anyways. If you’re playing Trivial Pursuit, you’ll probably want to pick the wedge-holding thingy that’s your favorite color to be your wedge-holding thingy as you adventure across the board. If you’re playing Clue, you want to be Miss Scarlet cause she’s the hottest piece of ass to solve/commit crimes with in the game, or Mrs. White because she was played by Madeline Kahn in the movie. Anyways…while we all play these games for the sole reason of having fun, the secondary feeling of wanting to win always persists. We know that it doesn’t matter in the long run, but when you win, for one fleeting moment…you know you were the best at that table. It’s a good feeling. That’s the appeal of online gaming.
_But that’s just the competitive aspect of online gaming. I’ve personally found myself as more of a cooperative gamer than competitive, despite…oh, everything I’ve just brought up about the competitive juices. But while it can be pretty fun to conquer your friends in various leisure activities, joining together with them to triumph over anything is just as fun, if not more so. Think about how often one gets together with friends to actually work towards something. We go to the movies, go out for a meal, get together to shoot the shit…we don’t often join together for a specific goal. Cooperative gaming gives us a virtual sense of camaraderie, of forming a team, all with a specific task in mind…and it’s not something like “Helping your buddy move.” It’s games, so everybody actually wants to do it. Some would argue that cooperative games are more fun when done in person, everybody in the same room…I’d agree. But the online experience gives us the chance for something more spontaneous. Getting everybody together in the same room usually involves some kind of planning or everybody having enough free time to go and from a specific location and spend enough time there to not have it seem like a waste. If you have 30 minutes to play something, 10 minutes to and from is out of the question. But if you hop online and see some of your buddies are on, all it takes is a quick query in a message to get the gang together. The physical experience of all being in the same room is awesome, but the convenience of online really does give it an edge.
_Sure…all of this is just my own personal experiences. But I doubt I’m the only person that feels this way about the marvels of online gaming. It appeals to so many base aspects of human nature, it’s really hard to not like it.