Friday, March 7, 2008

Column for this week, with edits for clarity and the columnist cut

Age Life Ratio

Every day, millions of adults mingle with teens and pre-teens online because of a mutual interest: video games.

Games such as "Call of Duty 4," which has a live voice-chat function, are rated M for mature. But parents must have an internal blind spot when it comes to buying these games for their children.

The other day, my brother and I were playing an online headquarters match on "Call of Duty 4." One of his friends recently obtained the "gold cross" status, which means he's played the game to the point where he can't level up anymore. We were on a team with some young know-it-all who camped out in one spot the whole game, shooting people who stumbled into his line of fire.

This young one, seeing our friend's rank, started making fun of his "kill-death ratio." Put simply, this measures how many people you kill versus how many times you die. Some players, like body builders who kiss their biceps while staring into a mirror, are obsessed with this.

My brother spoke up: "You know there's more to playing this than killing people. See, we're losing because you could've been capturing the headquarters this whole time instead of camping on the edge of the map. But, you know, at least your kill-death ratio looks good."

While the sarcasm was appreciated, wouldn't it be better if we didn't have to deal with Internet trolls like young know-it-all? Adults playing these games shouldn't have to navigate these relationships.

Thankfully, there will be no quest for harmonious common ground, no attempt at understanding or mentoring the young'uns. Infinity Ward will soon release a massive downloadable patch for "CoD" on the PlayStation 3. (It's already out on Xbox 360.) It will allow you to simply mute the little punks.

The other night, I talked about the patch with some other online "CoD" players.

"Wow," one person in the game lobby said. "I'm going to mute everyone under 18."

Bomberman Land

Another of the Nintendo Wii's more endearing qualities is the ability to download old games. One of my first purchases was "Bomberman 93" for the now-defunct TurboGrafx-16. "Bomberman Land," the latest in the series, reminds me of an essential truth about video games: Sometimes you can't improve upon a classic.

The story mode of "Bomberman Land" is a collection of mini-games where you don't really blow anything up. I ignored it, got some friends together, and dove into the battle mode. It's not all that different from "Bomberman 93." Players drop bombs to blow up tiles in a large maze, collecting items that enhance their bomb blasts while killing off other players. Last Bomberman standing wins.

What would've made this game much sweeter, however, is the ability to play anyone around the world via the Internet. I know very few people my age who would take time out of their day to play this. Once again, Nintendo has missed a chance to embrace the Internet. Don't ask me why.

I give "Bomberman Land" three buttons out of five.

No comments: