In the context of the history of and the current usage of online gaming, how can the online gaming service be explored from an artistic perspective? In order to explore this, we must understand that, although online connectivity in videogames is a major step forward in the advancement of videogame culture, there are still a lot of problems with online gaming–not in terms of technology, but as a social medium.
One of the major problems with this medium is the normative reliance on competitiveness in gaming. Multiplayer gaming, as a form of social interaction, can be enjoyed in a wide variety of ways–most commonly, we can enjoy these games with friends and family, for entertainment. On the other hand, multiplayer games are, every now and then, regarded as a form of “electronic sports”. That is, to say, that games are regarded in the same light as popular sports, such that organizations as the MLG exist to officially regulate and organize gaming matches in the same vein as real life sports matches.
This perception of gaming, while largely unknown to the mainstream, is actually quite normal. Historically, videogames such as Quake have been quite useful as a means of electronic competition. For instance, consider the 1997 Red Annihilation tournament, a Microsoft sponsored tournament in which the winning contestant won John Carmack’s (The creator of Doom, Quake and a key member of id Software) personal Ferrari 328 GTS. The tournaments themselves can also be regarded as a form of entertainment–the EVO 2004 match between two players, Justin and Daigo, in Street Fighter III: Third Strike; is one of the more memorable tournament-level matches, particularly in the final moments in which Daigo utilizes a seemingly nigh-impossible technique to win the match, much to the amusement of the audience.
While these types of events effectively demonstrate productive usage of videogames in other forms, they have also developed a competitive atmosphere in general gaming, which has carried over into contemporary online gaming. In some cases, kids are even allowed to drop out of high school for the sake of videogames. In others, especially in the context of online gaming, many players utilize the social medium to “perfect” and “refine” their skills at specific games.
This is, more often than not, at the expense of casual players who are only looking for personal enjoyment–however, the competitive nature of gaming has become a norm, such that online gaming, in its struggle to maintain some sort of balance between casual and competitive gamers, has no choice but to segregate the two. For instance, XBox Live allows its members to define their “gamer zones”, which effectively establishes a user’s preference and personal views on gaming, allowing them to search for and play with other gamers in the same zone.
Another major problem in online gaming is griefing/trolling, the act of presenting an annoyance or a hindrance to a game, usually through obnoxious behaviour, exploiting videogame physics, cheating, and so forth; effectively causing grief. “Griefing” is not actually anything new–What makes griefing easier online than in the real world is the shield of anonymity, which enables the user to torment his peers without the danger of imminent repercussion. Although online gaming services like XBox Live and PSN are more than capable of punishing the user for griefing, this never actually seems to deter the incentive for griefing.
The following Youtube is a sort of performance by a user named Diamond Milk in a game of Garry’s Mod. Assuming the alias “Hubert”, Milk portrays a character of poor social skills; and seeks to form an online friendship with complete strangers. Despite “Hubert”‘s seemingly benign intentions, Their treatment of him is that of the typical attitude towards griefers.
Although amusing, do I really want to do something similar to this?