One of my favorite things about playing video games nowadays is playing with other people. And since 99% of the time there's no one over my apartment to play with, the only other option I have is finding people online. Which I'm totally fine with. A fair number of my friends play on Xbox Live, but more often than not I'm playing with strangers, or at the very least, people I've never technically met in real life. But isn't that really cool, when you think about it? I'm meeting, conversing and coordinating with another human being who I otherwise would never associate with in any way.
Sure, there's an absolutely fantastic amount of douche bags out there that I have to weed through before I find someone worth playing with, but once you do, it's actually pretty awesome. Lately I've been doing all my friend-finding in Gears of War 2's Horde mode. I let matchmaking do its thing, and once the match gets going, I quickly realize who are the people I like (people who have a mic but don't abuse it, are looking to coordinate tactics, and sound older than 12 years old) and the people I don't (everyone else).
I've never been a part of a sports team where A) the games were remotely serious and B) I wasn't picked last or very last. So this is kind of making up for something that's been missing my whole life. I actually wind up as a leader in most scenarios, and I find myself barking orders (which, by the way, I love) to my fellow soldiers. And more often than not, once a game ends I find myself getting friend requests, which is the most praise you could get from anyone you play online with.
I got a few "YOU'RE BACK??!" and "HE LIVES!" from some people who noticed I wasn't around for a year, which was nice (they also didn't simply erased me from their friends list, which was even nicer). And I even have a history with some of them - I met "The Hellian" years ago playing Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow (along with Chaos Theory, one of, if not the greatest, most rewarding online multiplayer games to ever come out) years ago, when he was still in high school, and maybe it was just a little weird to spend so much time chatting together. Every game worth playing we played together. And it always heightened the experience. To play alongside someone else who enjoys the game as much as you makes even a mediocre game a pretty fun time.
Any time you seen an article written about people playing video games online (or in general), it's a terrible, sad story. Someone died from addiction, spouted some awful racist banter, or someone fooled someone else into giving away their password, getting molested, or whathaveyou. But hey, guess what? Some people playing out there are decent, cool people. And playing games with them makes the precious time you spend in front of your tv that much more enjoyable.
-Matt "RC Jester" Shafeek
Currently playing: Gears of War 2 (Just beat the campaign with my buddy Slow Jones!), Geometry Wars 2 (Just beat "Sequence," and thus, the game last night!), Braid (beat it, amazing), Assassin's Creed, The World Ends With You, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and of course, lots of Rock Band 2 (I have to justify spending $50+ on downloadable songs!) Looking forward to the Resident Evil 5 and Halo Wars demos in the next few weeks...