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Online Gaming: Future or Fad?

Feature Article by Erich Becker
March 25, 2000

Doom. Mention the name and any gamer who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past six years will know what you are talking about. The Doom series introduced us to something that was present before the game’s release, but this game brought it into the mainstream. The "it" I speak of is multiplayer gaming over the Internet through a network, modem or LAN.

DoomSomewhere over time, the single-player element of games has taken a back seat to the multiplayer aspect in gaming. Games are now being developed for the sole purpose of multiplayer gaming. Doom was never big on story or plot, but the single-player aspect of the game was nothing to be ashamed of. Challenging levels, decent AI and deadly monsters kept you on the edge of your seat, but it was the multiplayer gaming that kept you in that seat till the early hours of the morning.

I know there is a big debate over this, and I could receive a lot of hate mail from politicians, but there is something about fragging friends in a multiplayer game that gives more satisfaction than actually beating the single-player aspect. Where Doom introduced us to the deathmatch, Quake revolutionized it. That was 1996. Where has the industry gone in the last four years? Some would say nowhere; others would say forward; and still more would say backward.

With the recent buzz caused by the online RPGs over the last year, is gaming taking a dangerous turn into the unstable world of online? It depends on how you look at the whole situation. Most first-person shooters are released with a multiplayer mode at boot, and some are added in later (System Shock 2’s Co-op mode patch). Some are spectacular (Quake) and others are letdowns (Unreal).EverQuest Not since the release of EverQuest last year (and Ultima Online before it) has the recent fad of online-dependent games made their way to the store shelves. I use the word fad, because right now that is all this is — something that got really big really fast, and could be destined to bite the dust hard. Remember Tamagochi? No? That doesn’t surprise me. Fads are never remembered too much longer after they aren’t cool, and sometimes it’s good we don’t remember (the ‘70s, anyone, with bell-bottoms and tie-die?).

Could multiplayer gaming be in for a major crash, due to this recent fad? In all reason, yes, it could happen. With the success of Ultima Online and EverQuest, Microsoft has already released Asheron’s Call and has another massively multiplayer space sim, Allegiance, in beta testing now. It was recently announced that they could be doing a Star Wars and a Star Trek mass multiplayer experience. Now companies aren’t only milking out licenses, but genres as well. When you get too many of something, you are bound to get bored, and the more you have, the faster boredom shifts into full gear.

UT and Quake3Still, I could be wrong about the entire multiplayer aspect. With the recent releases of Unreal Tournament and Quake III: Arena, new life has been introduced into the ailing genre. The impending releases of Team Fortress II: Brotherhood of Arms and Duke Nukem: Forever (It’s sure taking forever — Ed.) could further the genre into new territories.

Multiplayer could be the future of gaming. As more and more people get faster connections that enable lower pings and less lag, online gaming could take off into a whole new direction. More and more companies could jump into the genre and we could have tons of quality products entering the race. As we have seen with the online gaming networks, there is money to be made in this part of the industry.

Personally, I would love for multiplayer gaming to be the future of PC gaming rather than a passing fad that we will have forgotten in six months. Still with opposition in the faces of developers and publishers because of the recent events in schools across the country, many politicians see killing your friends online a barbaric act of violence. That is why we don’t call it killing; we refer to it as fragging.

As I see it now, multiplayer gaming could go either way. Future or not, it is here now, and for the time being it is here to stay. Multiplayer gaming joins people together. I have made many friends playing Asheron’s Call on MSN’s Gaming Zone. People from different ethnic groups, different nationalities, and different races meet each other online on gaming networks. It is more than a good time, it’s a gathering place and an opportunity to express yourself in a non-violent way.

Agree, disagree? I want to know what you think about the status of multiplayer in today’s gaming industry. Send me a line at


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