Thursday, October 20, 2005


So the new Fifa football game on the Xbox comes out, right? Aside from all the usual graphics, sound, gameplay and roster updates.. we have a very interesting new feature. The Fifa Lounge.

I'll avoid making this a long rant about a videogame, and will instead focus on the human element of it all. To give you a bit of background, the Lounge is a part of the game where you and a bunch of friends can enter an on-going league that tracks all the games you play against each other. Every person has to sign themselves in for a "session" (as its so appropriately called on the game menu) and the stats just keep on piling. As it stands, I'm on top of the rankings having played 60 games, won 43, drawn 7 and lost 10. Impressive(ish), eh? The rankings are decided by a "rating" number that fluctuates depending on wins and losses. As number 1, if I beat a team below me 1-0, I get +6 rating points. If I lose by the same scoreline, however, I'm down by around 25 rating points. It therefore rewards the lower teams far more than the teams higher up, which makes being on top a very difficult position to maintain, since you've got much more to lose than to gain.

All of this added competitiveness makes it all very interesting. If you've read my previous post entitled "Videogame Session Dynamics", you'll understand how testosterone-fuelled this can all get. Bragging rights used to be temporary, a 5-0 win will earn you a few hours of taunting, but then eveyone will forget and the next time we all got together to start a new session the slate would be clean. A 5-0 win now over your closest rival will equal a +50 rating swing in your favour that will probably drop him down a few places in the table. Not only is his pride injured by such a heavy defeat, he's now officially worse than some of the other guys. You can imagine how shitty he must feel.

Of course, the Lounge system has also added an interesting "fear" element, the fear of losing rating points. As I've detailed before, good players have a shallower learning curve than their fellow gamers. This means that I've raced to an early ratings lead that has widened the gap tremendously. A few others are now snapping at my heels after the initial period of acclimatization has passed, but as the bottom feeders start getting to grips with the game, they assist my position by challenging (and occasionally defeating) my rivals. So after I win a few games against small fry, I can sit back while they give the other contenders a run for their money. Being in a position where they stand to lose so much, they get aggravated during the game and lose their focus, which naturally leads to unfavourable results.

This teaches you a lot about your friends. Aside from the fact of determining once and for all who the best gamer is, it also shows you who can withstand the pressure and who cracks under it. Some games you get unlucky and lose a bunch of rating points, but its those who can dust themselves off and come back with the confidence of being the best who eventually top the table. This confidence is boosted by a solid record, and the way the game lets you view your statistics helps a lot.

A new word has been added to our dictionary. On the way back from a rough day at the hospital, all one person has to do is to suggest that we all "Lounge". Instantaneously, all plans are cancelled and we congregate in front of a square black box and a tv screen to spend the next few hours on a rollercoaster ride of emotions.

Seeing that we're all going to become doctors soon enough, this can be dismissed as childish behaviour that we'll leave behind when the time comes. That last statement couldn't be further from the truth. The videogame industry has reached gargantuan proportions over the last few years. The amount of money spent in that sector is starting to rival the kind of cash being poured into Hollywood's movie business. Videogames are starting to dominate popular culture and are no longer a domain for those who are in their teens. They're targeting us, the kids who transformed into grown men (physically more than mentally) and who happen to make their own money. We the generation who grew up with Mario and Sonic.. the Atari, Commodore 64, NES, SNES, GameBoy, GameGear, MegaDrive, N64, the original Playstation and now the Xbox. We're the ones who will soon be running your corporations and conglomerates, investing your money, treating your illnesses, fighting your legal battles, flying your airplanes, ruling your world..

So we play games. Its not so bad.. we can't spend all our time being serious now, can we?


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home