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At the age of ten life seems simple, it's all about running jumping and climbing trees. By eighteen you have discovered the opposite sex, alcohol and nightclubs. By twenty five you are your own person, confident and full of life. Suddenly you hit thirty. You find yourself questioning your choices from the years that have past, feeling slightly left on the shelf, wondering where your life is heading, juggling family and friends and faced with ever aging parents. You are not alone, welcome to 30 years and countinga sideways look at life in your thirties.

Feeding the trolls on the Xbox Live Monday Musing

In the online world of the Internet there are two basic rules. Firstly rule #34 which states; if it exists there IS porn of it. Secondly, never feed the trolls. While I have never put the first of these rules to the test this week I did with the second one. Each week on Xbox Live gamers are invited to write a short opinion piece to be considered for publication on the Xbox Dashboard. This week I threw my hat into the ring and the results were interesting to say the least.

So like I said the Monday Muse is published every Monday (funny that) on Xbox Live. It is basically a short opinion piece about something gamer related. Here is what I wrote this week:

Having been a gamer for twenty odd years now I have seen many changes in the computer game industry from those early days of the 8-bit machines of the eighties. Yet despite huge leaps forward in technology, control methods and complexity of gameplay one thing has remained since these fledgling days - games have remained linear. What I mean by this is that the structure of games has remained the same since programmers first put fingers to keyboards. No matter what genre or style of game they all follow the same format, namely you start at level one and work your way up to level 10 or whatever it so happens to be. Your progression through the game and ultimately what content you are able to play and see is limited by your skill as a player. So if you get stuck on a particular level or mission and despite days of button bashing you still can’t beat it you don’t have an option to skip it and move on. You are stuck there until you get the job done.

Although linear gameplay is something we have come to accept in games oddly we don’t accept it in any other media format. If I want to listen to track four of my new CD I can skip to it, if I want to watch an action scene in a movie I can jump to that scene, if I find a chapter in a book boring I can thumb through to the next one and so on and so on. We have the choice of what content we want to access and when. Certainly in the past when games were loaded level by level from formats like tape this sort of linear design made sense but with the introduction of discs this notion of you can only play the content you are good enough to progress to is surely a rather dated idea. While story progression and rewarding players with a sense of achievement is obviously important at the end of the day I paid my £40 or so for the contents of a new game shouldn’t it be up to me if I get to see it rather than the gamer designers?

A thought provoking and well written piece I am sure you will agree. Well not everyone did. The first thing that happened was my Xbox inbox (try saying that fast) went mad. In less than 2 hours of it being published I got about 150 messages from other gamers. Three days later and I am still getting them come through at the rate of a few an hour. Basically I was the most loved or hated guy on Xbox for a few days.

So what then did all of these fellow gamers have to say for themselves I hear you cry. Well they pretty much fell into four camps.

Firstly there were the idiots. You can spot these people a mile off. Clearly they had no idea what I was writing about and left me some delightful messages calling me gay. I guess the very fact that these people thought that calling me gay was an insult says it all about their mental capacity really. I also got several “you twat”, “you’re a prick” and a couple of “you fucking cock eat shit and die”. Funny enough most of the comments of this nature came in the form of voice messages. Clearly these people were baffled by the concept of the written language or were too busy throwing around their own faeces  to have a free hand in order to type. Unsurprisingly these idiots were quickly dispatched to the “File a complaint” list for the Xbox Live team to worry about (can you believe they let these people breed?)

Next up I got the group which I like to call; “You are crap at your job”. These people I might add were also idiots and clearly had failed to understand what the Monday Musing was about . Instead they decided that I clearly worked for Xbox Live and proceeded to send me loads of messages about problems they were having with the service or asking me when a given game was coming out. Being the nice guy that I am I sent back a message saying I had no idea and couldn’t help. This then usually resulted in these people joining the brainless idiots in the “You’re gay” group as they sent me message after message telling me how crap my customer service skills were, how shit I was at my job and that Xbox should fire me. Unsurprisingly after the first few messages I gave up trying to be nice and started to just hit the delete button.

The third group of messages came from gamers who at least made some effort to engage in an adult discussion. I call this the “You noob” group. Unfortunately they had completely misunderstood the point of my musing and proceeded to talk about how crap I was at games and if I couldn’t complete them I should go play some kids games instead. For most of these people I suggested that they go read my musing again and if they still didn’t understand come back and I would explain it. Most of them of course then joined the growing group of twats in group one but in fairness a few of them did come back to me. They still didn’t get it however. I went on to explain that my musing was actually about gamers rights as consumers. The point I was addressing was if having paid our hard earned cash for a game should sections of it be restricted from us on the basis of a players skill level?  In other words if you get stuck and can’t progress any further should the rest of the game, which you did pay to see after all, be closed off to you? Likewise should you be forced to replay a game multiple times just to get access to a given weapon, track or mission? With many games now taking 30+ hours to complete not all of us have the time to do this but does this mean we don’t have the right to see that contents? Certainly being able to skip ahead or unlock contents at will might ruin the storyline of a game but isn’t it our game to ruin? Just because the option is there doesn’t mean you have to use it. Games are filled with a load of options these days to tweak just about every aspect yet the one missing is whether or not you get to see all of the contents you paid for. It is not about difficulty or skill but instead a gamers’ right to access content they own rather than being told by the developers what they can play with and when.  Anyway the upshot of all of this was that these now enlightened people either jumped straight into group one with the rest of the primeval sludge or they joined the faith restoring group which was group four. The “I have a brain and I either agree or disagree with you” group.

Finally the last load of messages came from decent, intelligent people. The kind of people who have a brain. I am happy to say that this was about 80% of the messages I got. These people offered a range of informed opinions and were happy to discuss them in a friendly open way. It was these people who made it all worthwhile. One or two of them even made it on to my friends list which is rare because I am not in the habit of adding random strangers; see groups one, two and three for the reason why. Anyway to those people in this last group who took the time to voice their opinions I am grateful.

That then it what it is like to be famous on Xbox for all of ten minutes. Basically it is a world of decent clever people mixed with some rude stupid ones and a few who I suspect need to cut down on their chemical intake. So was it worth the effort? I would say so. I have already sent off a follow up musing for consideration so lets see what that brings if and when it is published. Probably more of being told I am gay followed by a load of question about DLC for COD:MW3 I suspect.

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