I think about a world to come where the books were found by the golden ones, written in pain, written in awe by a puzzled man who questioned, "What are we here for?" All the strangers came today and it looks as though they're here to stay.

-David Bowie "Oh! You Pretty Things"

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Postcard 2010: PC Gaming

I had been to my share of LAN parties where a network cable was all I needed to connect my computer to a bunch of great friends and play video games for hours. I would spend hours playing video games and then I would go the rest of the year without thinking about starting up Warcraft III: Frozen Throne or Counter-Strike: Source. Meanwhile, good friends like Stephan, Adam and Joe were playing video games all year round. The difference in skill level between me and these other boys was gigantic, and quite often it just made playing certain video games no longer fun.

At the end of 2009, the digital content delivery service known as Steam had its first big post-holidays sale. Interesting games I'd seen friends playing in Stephan's basement were now available for incredibly low prices. I could play the same games that my friends were playing only it would cost me 20 to 40 percent of the price. At the holiday LAN of 2009 I had made up my mind: 2010 would be the year when I went gung ho into PC gaming, and particularly first person shooter. The week prior to 2010 I spent stockpiling fantastic video games for dirt cheap.

While I found myself playing a whole lot of different games, Team Fortress 2, Bioshock, Left 4 Dead, and Left 4 Dead 2 being among my favorites, it was the quirky FPS Borderlands and its brilliantly crafted DLC Zombie Island of Dr. Ned, The Secret Armory of General Knoxx, and Claptrap's New Robot Revolution that made it easy to make good on my promise to get into PC gaming. I could start up the game in Fort Worth, Texas, hook up my head set, and find myself in the company of my good friends Adam (College Station, Texas), Derek (Grand Rapids, Michigan) and Stephan (Corpus Christi, Texas). While gaming, the world that I had known prior to leaving Michigan wasn't all that far away any more.

LANs became different. I could keep up with my friends, both when it comes to computer hardware and game performance. Over Christmas, I played a CS: Source gun game mod with six or seven friends in which I was neck in neck with Joe, who had probably logged more hours of gaming in 2010 then everyone in the room combined. Rather than simply forgetting about PC gaming after the holiday LAN, I found myself trying to deal with difficult gaming quandaries such as which game to play after Borderlands (no good answer yet) and whether to subscribe to DC Universe Online or Star Wars: The Old Republic in 2011 (hopefully both, but at different times).

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