Monday, February 9, 2009

On the world of XBOX 360 LIVE...

So, recently I have been introduced to the world of online gaming. Clearly in retrospect, buying an XBOX 360 console without the intention of gaming live, is kind of like buying a Cessna to park in your driveway, with no intentions of learning to fly. It simply wouldn't make sense.

I will grant you that initially, it can seem a bit daunting. After all, it's not like you're simply going to be playing against a few lads from your neighborhood. You're playing against the World... People from the US, Europe, you just never know who is going to be showing up on your squad or in the enemy camp. I've been cutting my teeth on Battlefield: Bad Company, along with my son-in-law. Most of us enter this etherworld knowing full well that there are legions of players who have been honing their skills for a long time.

They are intricately familiar with the maps that we initially stumble around almost blindly in. They know all the hidey holes, the great sniper vantage points, sites that offer optimum cover. They even know where the re-spawn zones are... But that's okay. I didn't want to go online with any artificially-inflated numbers, any outrageous list of accomplishments. I wanted them all to see me as a weak, little newbie, unschooled in the ways of cyber-warfare. I didn't want them to take me seriously at all...

They are skilled in wielding the engines of war: helicopter gunships, tanks, BMPs and are merciless in their cunning, stealth and lethality. Let's be completely honest here, the first few games are abject lessons in humility. You will, in no uncertain terms, have your ass handed to you on a silver plate. Again and again. But bit by bit, you learn the maps. The layout... the bases and structures, the guardhouses and towers. You learn your opponents' strategies, their habits and their weaknesses.

You learn which routes offer the best covert passages, the best cover and vegetation. Which maps are a nightmare for employing armour and which are best travelled on foot. You will learn where your habitual nemesis' set up camp, where their favorite ambush spots are, which ones double back to your camp in order to pick off your teammates as they re-spawn into the game after being killed. You will learn which ones loiter around the artillery pieces and which ones take to the hills.

You will learn which ones have become proficient in using a knife to dispatch their quarry. I don't care who you are, even in a make-believe game, there is something unnerving about hearing that a knife wielding attacker has just taken out a roomful of your mates. It kind of puts your teeth on edge. That's when you find an isolated room, put your back to the corner and wait for him to come stealing into your space. After all... only an idiot brings a knife to a gunfight. A dead idiot, that is.

You will become proficient in selecting your weapon suite, depending on whether you are an attacker or a defender. You will become skilled at swapping out magazines and knowing the best time to do so. You will come to appreciate and use cover to the fullest extent. You will learn to refrain from charging across an open field, as you will have by then already experienced being a bullet-magnet for some twenty or thirty itchy trigger fingers.

You will learn not to peek over cover to see if that really was a sniper that you thought you saw. Trust your eyes... IT WAS!! Handing him your head as a practice target will not get you far in the game. You will develop your stealth and your patience. You will learn that a couple of well-placed shots are far more effective than spraying a full mag in the frenzy of battle. Be aware though that as you become proficient, you will earn the rancor of your enemies. Some will take their demise at your hands very personally and will make it their newfound mission in life to exact their revenge on you. You may fully expect to have gunship helicopters, tanks, armored carriers, snipers as well as artillery and mortar barrages hurled at you, just you, in an effort to end your miserable existence. Yet by remaining calm and resolved, you will once more outwit and outmanoeuvre your foe, leaving his twitching carcass in your wake as you forge ahead to wreak further mayhem.

I myself had some degree of real-world knowledge to bring to the fray. However that is something I keep from my opponents. Not that any of them would have known at any rate. This makes their recurring defeat at the hand of this 'unschooled newbie' even more stinging. Even more ignominious... This leads them into foolish mistakes, where their ego takes the place of their sense of caution, making them even easier targets. I seek only to complete the mission in the most expedient manner possible, while exacting the heaviest toll imaginable on the enemy forces.

It's probably more fun than any of us should be permitted to have... I'm hooked!

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