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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