"...The flight of BSD bombers I was escorting
attacked a Japanese supply convoy and its destroyers. I watched the
planes in singles and pairs attack with very accurate steep dives.... I
could see the bombs hurtle toward a destroyer ... the third plane
scored a hit on the stern, which started a fire, and I watched the
-- Carl "Enforcer" Gould
a World War II veteran recalling his harrowing days of combat for the
History Channel, and the combat action he describes never occurred in
the Solomon Islands. The scene took place in Microsoft's online video
game Combat Flight Simulator 2, and Carl is one of thousands of avid video gamers who inhabit a vast online gaming community.
you think video games are about pre-teens plunking quarters into a
machine and playing a few rounds of Pac Man, hold on to your helmet;
the depth and breadth of today's online gaming world is downright
amazing, and it ain't just for kids.
From MUDs to MMORPGs
multiplayer games aren't new. They've been around in various forms for
almost 20 years, way before the Internet or the World Wide Web. Some of
the earliest online gaming communities grew around Multi-User Dungeons,
or MUDs -- text-only, fantasy/adventure-themed role-playing games that ran on early university computer systems.
Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) like Everquest and Ultima Online
are direct descendants of MUDs. Everquest and Ultima Online feature
huge, ongoing, online fantasy/sci-fi worlds that support hundreds of
thousands of players at a time. A quick check of the Everquest site
shows more than 135,000 gamers logged on. Thanks to today's powerful
computers, you can experience EQ or UO in three-dimensional,
full-color, graphical glory.
The basic gameplay for EQ and UO
is similar in that you don't "win" the game. There are no set
objectives other than to explore the world around you and to improve
your character's attributes by acquiring money, spells, weapons and
Probably owing to their complex social
environments, MMORPGs have attracted female players to the role-playing
ranks. Marilyn Bonomi, a 57-year-old English teacher and mother, surely
doesn't fit the popular image of a video gamer. She has been playing EQ
for more than a year and estimates about 10 percent of EQ players are
"The cooperative nature of the game is as appealing as
is the lack of visible gore," she says, although her daughter says EQ
is "namby-pamby" and prefers shoot 'em up games like the Quake series.
Combat made fun
slaying ogres or interacting with pixies isn't your cup of grog, EQ and
UO aren't the only games in town. First-person shooters (FPS) like
Valve Software's Half-Life, Id Software's Quake series or GT Interactive's Unreal Tournament have spawned their own intensely loyal online gaming communities.
a 38 year-old graphic designer, says Half-Life gets every player
involved. "If you're willing to learn, you can customize every aspect
of the game to suit your tastes," he says. "Plus, you can freely
exchange ideas...with every other H-L player in the world over the Web."
meeting and interacting with other players is what online gaming is all
about, the social structure in many online gaming communities is
surprisingly rich and organized. Players have assembled virtual teams
from all over the globe, many with leaders, chains-of-command and some
with strict admission requirements and their own Web sites. Teams
battle against other teams in international tournaments and help new
players learn the ropes, meeting both in the games themselves and in
Web-based chat rooms and message boards. As Carl Gould says about the
Combat Flight Simulator community: "The talent and knowledge of these
people amazes me, and I've yet to have any of my questions go
Calling all newbies
There's so much to consider, where should a newbie begin? Good places to start are gaming sites such as Games Domain and Computer Games Online, both of which review the most recent titles and keep review archives. How-to sites such as BarrysWorld Guide to Online Gaming
offer helpful guidance to the beginner. Visiting the FAQ (frequently
asked questions) pages on game developer Web sites can answer basic
questions about game features and system requirements; you can also
look there for links to message boards and forums. Although some online
gamers like nothing better than to harass newbies, on the whole,
veteran players are eager to help newcomers to the games they adore.