Under Pressure?

Being something of a lazy gamer I tend not to buy new games all that often. I think it’s a combination of so many years with a lack of funds, being married to a non-gamer who pretty much saw them as an extravagance not to be indulged (which, when coupled with a lack of funds, is almost impossible to overcome), and a level of apathy where ‘fandom’ just doesn’t penetrate. I don’t have a favourite genre or franchise as such, though I was drawn to the Need For Speed games after randomly buying Need For Speed: Underground (on the original XBox) and being quite taken with the ease of the controls and the whole idea of being able to upgrade and replace your car with a better model to rinse and repeat.

Over the last year or so, I’ve realised that nearly all of my game purchases have been a result of friends’ recommendations and the lure of playing online multiplayer with them. The first of these pressure purchases was Burnout Paradise – my first foray into the Burnout series. The level of detail in the game really impressed me, along with the amount of things you could actually do. Races, billboards, drifting, stunts, crashes, jumps and the simple beauty of pulling off a Super Jump and having a snapshot of your vehicle appear as it flies through the air. Add to that the free roam nature of Paradise City itself and I was hooked! In fact, I think it was Paradise City that prompted me to buy my first Xbox Live subscription so that I could join Markuz (and eventually Lorna and Rook, among others) online in order to complete the multitude of challenges on offer. I have no idea how many hours we spent tearing through the city trying to complete timed challenges and barrel rolls or just literally crashing into each other and calling each other names. Hours well spent, in my opinion, as I honestly do think that kind of gaming can enhance a friendship and make it stronger.

From Burnout Paradise, then came Borderlands, Red Dead Redemption, Left For Dead 2… all games I probably wouldn’t have bought if it hadn’t been for that element of peer pressure and the lure of social gaming. Now, you might think I’m a little easily swayed by others or that I have no real opinions of my own but that’s not true. Well, not entirely!  My gaming life has expanded a lot since I bought each of these games, and while I’m way behind the curve and usually late to the party, the GL Gaming Night has become a part of my regular habit.

There’s a whole lot of fun to be had driving around Paradise City smashing into other players’ cars, listening to your friends curse you and then trying and get you back. Natural leaders shine through or back seaters show their colours. There’s always at least one person who knows the map or game inside out that you can follow so as not to look like a complete n00b, as well as the folks who constantly try to take you down in various ways. Distractions are many too as people try to get the best flat spin score or biggest air time and jump distance. And then there’s Peggles… we won’t talk about Peggles here.

Borderlands took up huge amounts of time, playing co-op with Markuz… night after night, we’d hit Pandora and blast our way through bandits and Crimson Lance…I say blast, usually it was Mark banging away with his cool Thanatos pistols and me hanging back and sniping, before rushing in and getting shot to hell and having to wait to be revived. It was Borderlands that made me realise I wasn’t one for taking leadership roles, being content to follow along and take enemies out from a distance to help my partner(s) reach the current goal.  Not to mention sitting in the passenger seat of a Runner or Monster and firing the rockets at things while the driver runs down skags or spiderants, because, let’s face it, my track record for driving on Pandora isn’t great. Everyone finds their role within a game like that and by its very nature, nobody is left out. Unless of course you happen to leave your partner to kill all the enemies while you run to a red crate without thinking because you can’t wait to see what goodies are inside! Kid? Candy shop? Moi?

The latest instalments in this new lease of gaming life have been Red Dead Redemption and Left 4 Dead 2. More often than not, in RDR, I find myself respawning and having to trek back to where people are chasing each other around, only to get a blown to pieces by Kat’s dynamite or molotovs, or have Ben ride past and shoot me in the head. It can be frustrating whilst trying to get used to the controls and build up experience, but oh so much fun! The other new one for me is Left 4 Dead 2. Not a game I thought to try first time round, as (and you’ll have to forgive me) Zombie games aren’t top of my non-existent list, but it’s turned out to be much more fun than I had anticipated and a million times better in multiplayer. Being tongued by a friend, or ridden into danger is hilarious; being the one doing the riding, tonguing, tanking or charging is even funnier as you hear the yells of your victim over Live as they shout “INCAPPED” and their teammates scrabble around to revive and heal them.

Whatever game you’re playing, with whatever challenges it brings, you soon get to know your abilities in relation to others and it brings your own level of gameplay up as you try and match or beat them. Shooting people in the Versus games in Red Dead Redemption whilst trying to avoid those molotovs certainly is a skill you can take back to the main game itself, just as much as playing the main storylines in these games can enhance your skill levels within the multiplayer sections. The possibilities for mayhem and mischief are endless.

All in all, I don’t regret a single purchase of the games that peer pressure has directed me to buy. I don’t really see it as pressure at all when it’s just a way of being included in a growing community like this one. I’m a confirmed social butterfly, so it stands to reason that I’d want to join in on these things and, as you know, you can’t play if you don’t have the game people are currently playing. Call me easily led if you like; I prefer to think of it as supporting my friends in their gaming lives and expanding those friendships through shared trials and tribulations with a bloody good giggle along the way.




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8 Comments

  1. Rook says:

    So are you saying you also bought Hannah Montana as you did assist in co-op for that game right? :)

    I rarely venture into multiplayer but have made a few exceptions, Burnout and Borderlands being the common games. I’ve clocked a serious amount of driving time in Paradise City. Have you picked up any games under recommendations that are single player games only? Or is it all about the multiplayer?

    Good read Pete.

  2. Samuel says:

    I can relate to this in part. I buy a lot of games on my own, have a lot of franchises I follow anyway, but in the last year or so some of my games choices have been the result of seeing what other people on the site were playing and not wanting to be left out.

    Burnout Paradise kicked it off. I stumbled across a badly labelled copy on eBay, which was misspelt so badly that as a result nobody else bid on it and I got it for next to nothing. Even so, I hadn’t been looking for it and probably would have ignored it, if not for seeing almost all of my friends list on Live playing it the week before and talking about it on the forum.

    Borderlands followed, then Grand Theft Auto 4. Most recently Halo: Reach made it not only into my collection on the basis of anticipating it being a big feature of games night, but into my pre-orders even, rather than waiting a while until I started to feel left out.

    On the whole it’s more or less worked out for the best so far. But it has led to my buying at least three games I would probably have never considered otherwise, so eventually there’s bound to be one that I don’t get on with at all and are stuck with on my shelf, not being played and actively defying me to break my personal no-selling-old-games policy.

    Interesting article Pete.

  3. Kat says:

    *clears throat*…

    Haaaloooo! Halo Halo Halo. Halo Reach.

    After that subliminal hint for Pete to absorb… good read! When it comes to the 360 I’m 90% a multiplayer gamer anyway and some purchases come about because my friends will be on them but they’re mostly choices I make myself as I know I want that game. The hype and excitement of looking forward to playing with mates is great. I think so far one of the only multiplayers I haven’t been bowled over by was Blur. It wasn’t brilliant but at least I got to natter away to people while playing.

  4. Pete says:

    I have considered Halo Reach Kat :D Haven’t played ODST yet though and I bought that weeks ago ;)

    And no, I didn’t buy Hanna Montana :P It was bad enough being made to watch it being played on a visit to GL:HQ by another guest ;)

  5. Edward says:

    A great read!
    Though if you know there’s going to be a lot of friends to play multiplayer centric games, that’s a better excuse than any I can think of for indulging in online gameplay :)

  6. Lorna says:

    I think that the only game I’ve played after folks have chattered about it and wanted to play multiplayer was Left 4 Dead 2. Usually not a game that I’d touch, but it is actually pretty enjoyable when there is a full lobby of us arsing around :D Other than that, I usually resist peer pressure and skulk around for months playing the hell out of the same games :)

  7. MarkuzR says:

    Multiplayer schmultiplayer! Yeah ok I’ll concede… it’s quite a lot of fun teaming up with folk and kicking some butt or tonguing someone to death. I think it depends entirely on who your team mates or opponents are though, as I HAVE played multiplayer online with total strangers (Lost Planet, when it first came out) and was subjected to all sorts of verbal abuse for… shock horror… doing what I was supposed to and actually killing them!! They hated that they were being killed by me and so, rather than step their game up and take me out, they just got annoyed and left the game with me picking up negative feedback. Anyone who knows me at all understands that I don’t DO the first person shooter games at all, and am not very good at them… so the fact that they were being killed by me speaks volumes really.

    Playing with friends is different though, I see it very much as a social activity… much like going “down the pub” if you’re so inclined, or nipping out to the cinema to beat up noisy patrons. For me, multiplayer gaming is just that… getting together with friends for a few hours to have a laugh, chat to each other and oh yeah… play a game at the same time. I’ll never conform to peer pressure though… that’d just be ridiculous.

    What we playing this week??

  8. MrCuddleswick says:

    Here here Pete, here here. Sorry for seemingly picking on you in L4D2. Your team kept running off without you.

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