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Nerducation: Online Gamers Pt. 1

A Furby, your constant single-player companion.

Nerducation: Online PC Gamers

Part One: Single Player Games

It is my understanding through recent and old conversations that one of my specialties is 'nerd education', which is (I think) the simple explanation of nerd phenomena to people who have the luxury of not understanding them, but still want to. Never has this been more apparent to me than when I'm approached by a parent or someone who needs to expand their nerducation (and for the record, I do not feel good about using that term) and requires a simple, logical analogy for understanding the actions or behaviors of us nerds. One of the most frequent questions I've been asked is why it is so difficult to tear someone (say a child, spouse, or a contumacious employer who just assigned you a permanent assignment that requires information above your pay grade because he is 'busy') away from online computer games.

To understand why these games can seem so urgent to a person, you first have to understand the difference between online games, as they will invariably affect the outcome of your attempts to pull attention from someone. I have crafted three analogies for the three 'general' types of games as they pertain to online experiences: multiplayer, massively multiplayer, and single player (offline). I'll go over one a day for the next three days, starting with the good old offline games.

Keep in mind, players, these are not justifications for outright neglect of family or responsibilities. This isn't solely for you gamers out there. This is also for the people in your life who wonder what's so fascinating behind that screen. Feel free to read on, or share with others if you agree with my suggestions. This is what works in my household.

For point of reference in this series, let's start out simple. Everyone has played single-player games. Most games released these days have an offline single-player campaign that pits the player against various computer opponents. For a real-world parallel, imagine that your gamer is attending a birthday party, and the only people who showed up are Furbies. There's movement and action and squawking and one would certainly hope that there is cake at the very least, but as most single player games come with a 'pause' button, it is not unrealistic to assume that you could grab the attention of the gamer no matter where in the level he or she is.

One of the problems with single player games is that a person can get wrapped up in them, much like a good book. Unlike a good book, eye strain can set in, and in extreme situations, one can forget to blink. It may be difficult to get your gamer to put the game down if they have just entered certain types of moments in a game. If there is an intense dogfight that may not benefit from a break in action at the moment, or a story arc may have just begun that will be difficult to follow with a break, or two of the Furbies may have engaged in mortal combat, and under these circumstances, good luck. The good news is that games are paced, typically not offering an abundance of non-stop action, story, or Furby fisticuffs, and so an appropriate pause should never be more than ten minutes away.

Sometimes, a gamer is simply looking for an excuse to put the game down for a few minutes. People do occasionally need to be rescued from Furbies, just like the nineties. Be persistent, but not overbearing if you need to get the gamers attention. Just as with a book or a movie, interruptions can be antagonizing, and if there is no need to be pushy, don't be.

Tomorrow, I'll discuss online games such as Left 4 Dead, which use in-game lobbies to bring you into a game with multiple players online.

For more info: Click here to read Part 2 of this series.

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