M for Mature
Playing a round of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 can feel like old times -- like those traumatic playground moments when the kids surrounded another one for a good beating, verbal or otherwise.
In February, blogs lit up when Xbox Live gamer iTzluPo released a video accusing Xbox moderator, The Pro, of unjustifiably banning people. An audio message from the mod threatens to ban every account and console iTzluPo has ever used. It caused Microsoft to reply officially to the video, and another video surfaced showing who The Pro banned moments earlier -- a player spewing enough profanities to make a sailor blush.
Salinas native Sgt Cougar (name withheld), currently living in Redding, wanted to create a place on the Internet for the gamer who wanted to represent respect for self and the fellow gamer.
"When I get online to forget about my day, to relax, or meet up with friends the last thing I want to hear is some unsupervised kid spouting off every racial slur, and profanity known to man," he wrote in an email interview.
"The beauty of A-Gamer for us is we are all adults. Some with families, a couple A-Gamers are grandfathers, I think, which is cool. You know hearing stories about the war why you are getting taken advantaged of in MW2 ."
Bring your A game
"While wrestling with my then, two-and-half-year-old daughter, she was working on her trash talk telling me to bring my A game. After laughing I thought, 'Hey that just might work.' "
At one point Cougar ran a side business creating websites for clients until he realized how distant he'd become in his relationships with friends. Balancing family and hobbies lead him to use his skills to build something for that would help him connect with others on several different levels.
"There is just never enough time in the day to be a boss, a husband, a daddy, and a gamer. So I take advantage in whatever gaming windows of opportunity come my way which is a big reason I formed A-Gamer."
On the site, registered members talk about upcoming games, post funny videos, and plan online events. Most discussions have centered on the Xbox 360 console and its games, but the group didn't hesitate to talk about gaming's newest platform, the iPhone, a topic "which was insanely popular right out of the gate."
"High-five when you're done"
On a typical "Frag Night" when A-Gamers meet up online for some CoD:MW2 team games, the players open up spots for friends of members to join. The gamers make it a point to represent themselves as mature players focused less on winning as they are on being honorable competitors.
Cougar hopes that membership will rise with friendly gamers swelling the ranks. Making the site a cash cow wasn't the purpose in his creating of the site, though he does explain that it costs time and resources. "I would not mind if the site grew large enough that through merchandise sales and donations it was self sustaining. So far this year, the site has earned close to $10.00 to put towards annual hosting fees."
Apart from budget concerns, the rewards from having an active community that actively comments on news stories as well as questions about health concerns have given the members of A-Gamer something more than a casual or corporate club that doesn't aim for the heart of these gamers.
"We have a melting pot of talent and experience ranging from 'Xbox called, and they want you to buy a board game' to 'I think this guy is a developer.' The beauty is everyone helps each other, and no one takes themselves too serious. If you can’t make fun of yourself who can you make fun of?"
In the end, Cougar sees the site as something worth keeping alive.
"I get the feeling the group will rally at the end of the year to cover costs, or I will pay out of pocket, I have too good of a thing going to let it die after only one year."