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Good Games need LAN

Posted by chathaway on Aug. 22, 2016, 1:39 p.m.

I've been known to dabble in video games every now and then; I play all types of games, from turn-based strategy games (like Chess) to first-person shooters (like Paintball), role-playing games and turret defense games. One of the most important part of gaming, to me, is the social element. Playing these games with my friends, have a good game that makes everyone shout in rage when someone wins by hitting an air transport with a tactical missile (for those of you who play Forged Alliance, you know that that is nigh impossible).

But alas, games in recent years have failed me in this regard. With the exception of MOBA's (which have a different set of issues), very few recent games have been able to capture the attention of gamers for more than a few weeks; and even fewer will still be around in 5 years.

Social Video Games?

Often times, we mistake video games as an activity that puts us on the autism spectrum; the people who play them are socially inept, can't function in regular society, or just hate people (but don't we all?). This is totally, and completely, false. Many people who play video games think differently than people who just consume TV, and so interact differently, but that hardly makes them socially inept.

Playing video games with other people forces you to communicate, to problem solve, and to work together. Although the sandbox is limited (for example, you can't knock down a tree to create a bridge to avoid fighting the other team), it is more open than most other forms of entertainment. Besides; the rules are what make it a game. How much fun would soccer be if you could put the ball into ANY goal?

By encouraging people to work together, instead of just consume made-up drama in a fictional universe, video games have the potential to bring people closer together in a non-superficial way. I say potential, because we need to be wary of games that lose the key element of encouraging group problem solving in favor of pretty visuals and TV-like storylines.

The problem with "modern games"

Overwatch is a team-based FPS game where each map has an objective, and the two teams work against each other either in attack-defense or to capture the same control point. It is very similar to Team Fortress, which has been a staple of computer gaming for the last decade or so.

Overwatch, like so many other games, will be completely irrelevant in 10 years. The company which made it, Blizzard, has made some very good games (Diablo 2 and Starcraft are STILL on sale in Walmart, 20 years after their release!), but recently has had some trouble. They did well with Overwatch; it is fun, fast paced, and brings back the social aspect I mentioned earlier.

So why will it be irrelevant? Because the moment Blizzard no longer sees a profit in keeping up the servers, the game will die. This has happened to many good games over the years; Majesty, The Guild, Stronghold, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes... Some games, like Diablo II, have survived, and even have active servers. But most of the games that survived, including Diablo II, did so because: - They weren't super strict about sharing. You could have 4 people play with one CD; as long as everyone is in the same room and can pass the disk around - They don't rely on an online server to launch the game - They had LAN SUPPORT; players could play with each other without internet, without a remote server

Without these features, games lack the future proofing required to make them playable beyond the month that the game is the new hot thing. Here's the trouble though; game makers have little reason to include these features, and plenty of reason not too. Why allow players to circumvent their servers, when they won't get paid any more the ability to do so (FYI, the cost of adding a "direct IP connect" feature is technologically trivial, since all games do it behind the scenes)?

The Problem

So here's the unifying problem; without LAN support, modern video games discourage communities of gamers from inviting players to try their favorite game to try their hand at it. Furthermore, they effectively set a kill date on the game, which means that it won't live on the hearts of some person who needed that game at a crucial point in their lives.

Please, big game companies, stop being jerks. Let the developers add a direct connect/LAN options, even if it's a console that I type "-connect 192.168.0.10" into!


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