Now with fewer admonishments!
I have a friend who enjoys sex. A lot. So much so that one may be tempted to label this person a nymphomaniac, as indeed I have on a number of occasions. One could easily say that sex is this person's hobby, just as one could say the same about gaming and me. And like with gaming, sexual encounters can be had with one or more players, as my friend is constantly pointing out in great detail.
One night over a bottle of tequila, my friend and I were debating the virtues of multiple-partner sex versus the more common "Two-to-Tango" variety. My friend's main argument for group sex was that it offered a more intense and varied experience. My main argument against it was that it opened the door to far too many individuals with whom I would not otherwise care to consort. In essence, it was your basic single-player versus multiplayer debate.
And now let's introduce a statement meant to shock and alarm: despite what many of you may believe, neither multiplayer gaming nor sex were invented by the current generation of 16–24 year-olds. Both have been around for quite some time. The evidence for the prior existence of sex is like a Rorschach painting; you either see it or you don't. The evidence for the prior existence of multiplayer gaming can be summed up in one word: backgammon.
Recognized as the world's oldest game, backgammon requires two players. And everyone knows that two is a multiple of one. Even the very first video game (a decidedly basic effort created in 1958, which was similar to what would become Pong) required two players and was therefore a "multiple-player game." Still, from the days of ancient Babylon up until the late twentieth century, multiplayer gaming involved only two actual players and as many spectators as would fit inside the local ziggurat (or Pizza Hut). Advantage: group sex.
When video game consoles hit the market, a few of them came with four controller ports, thereby expanding the definition of multiplayer video games to include up to four players. But the majority of multiple-player gaming sessions through the early nineties were still comprised of a half-dozen kids huddled around the TV watching two people play. A session of Epyx's Summer Games for the Atari 2600 (otherwise known as "The Destroyer of Joysticks") often blurred the line between group sex and multiplayer gaming. If you weren't there, imagine the aforementioned huddle of kids rapidly swatting and jerking the joystick back and forth in order to make the tiny Olympian run, swim or jump faster. Yes, it often looked as lewd as it sounds, and caused the death of more joysticks than you can imagine. At this point the lyric "Shake it don't break it baby"…" from the 1986 Cinderella hit Shake Me is now playing in my head and I'm going to end this digression right here and now.
The rest of this capsule history is known to all. Video games took an amazing leap forward in style and technical awesomeness in the nineties and, coupled with the advent of low-cost internet access, the definition of multiplayer games expanded to encompass a seemingly unlimited number of players. Advantage: multiplayer gaming (unless you can afford to rent the Astrodome for a day and have enough lube to go around, in which case group sex still holds a slight lead.).
To date, multiplayer games have become so stunningly popular that industry wags have erroneously proclaimed the death of single-player gaming no fewer than one hundred times, and every gamer has an opinion about it one way or the other. Yet whatever you may think of multiple-player games, the fact remains that people need people and gamers need games. Thus, multiple-player games would seem to fill an obvious role in some circles. Much like group sex. And like group sex, I am of two minds about it.
I do occasionally enjoy a good deathmatch, but afterwards I always feel a little bit "dirty." As if I'd just shared my mind with ten or so complete strangers. Some of whom I didn't like all that much and who used the word "bitch" as if it were "Aloha." It has been suggested that multiplayer gaming, like group sex, may be an exercise for the young, and the fact that I care less for either as I grow older would seem to support that statement. Whether or not my nymphomaniac friend will ever settle for one partner is unclear.
What is clear is that how we spend our time, and with whom, is entirely up to us as individuals. These days I find much more gaming fulfillment on my own. Thus my hobby has become less of a shared experience and more of a solitary pursuit of perfection. Like with sex, I no longer feel the need to play with everyone in the world. Now if I could only teach the Xbox how to make a perfect martini, I could bring this analogy full circle, accept my Pulitzer and go home.
But for now you'll have to settle for"…
Fletcher wrote this.