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URL: http://www.loonygames.com/content/2.2/pipe/


Vol. 2, Issue 2
November 19, 1999

Down the Pipe

Birth of a Gamer

by Russell "RadPipe" Lauzon

I  want to call today’s column, “Birth of a Gamer”, because it fits in more way than one, but I think Heather Haselkorn would lop my head off. She owns the rights to that title here at loonygames and that’s fine. You go, girl.

Here’s why I wanted to use the aforementioned name. My son Zachary is a gamer. He’s been a gamer for over a year now. He plays games such as Total Annihilation, StarCraft, Quake, Quake II, the Unreal Tournament demo, and a host of others that I’ve dragged out of my archives for his enjoyment. Now, he’s not the greatest gamer in the world, and he has more trouble with RTS games in general because of the high level of concentration when it comes to resource management, but I think he does dang fine for his age. Oh and by the way, he’s a little over 3.

I remember the day when he sat down at the computer and with utter bewilderment, made the astounding leap of intelligence and noticed that when you move the mouse a little to the right, something on the screen changed. Same thing when moved to the left. Then up. Then down. I had been waiting for this moment for a very long time. Quake II was loaded and he was sitting at the start of Base1. (Instinctively I knew that the connection would occur faster if he were looking at an environment that felt familiar). Next was the first mouse key, which would fire that badass blaster in his virtual hands. That was an easy one. When he got used to looking around the place he was in, and shooting the blaster until all the walls, floor, and ceiling were quite dead, I showed him the Up arrow key. He never looked back. He was 2.

Thus, my story about Zachary is a true Birth of a Gamer story, in more way than one.

I quickly found that Zachary wasn’t fond of running around levels with monsters (they scared him), but I got lucky when I showed him Capture The Flag. Facing players just like himself didn’t seem to bother him at all, plus the maps were of simpler design. And he loved being on a team. It took him a while to figure out what it meant to capture the flag, and when he did, he almost ignored the objective. I’m not sure why. To save some grief over connecting to the Internet every time he wanted to play (plus dealing with the confusion of dealing with real people coming and going), I downloaded the Eraser bot with the funky front-end loader. I created a batch file that would load him up with q2ctf and 6 bots per team. Zachary knew which desktop icon was “Zach’s CTF”, and after that I didn’t even have to turn the computer on for him. He could spend hours playing the game and I wouldn’t once have to check on him.

Now I’m sure every parent is proud of their kids, and Zach’s playing Q2CTF may not seem all that special, so let me get to the real point of this column. I consider myself old school because I’ve been around the community for a while. Anyone who says he played First Person Shooters more than 8 years ago is yanking your nose. So what am I talking about? The next generation of gamers, of course. These are our kids that rise up learning everything we teach them about games, and showing us what we’re doing wrong. Because they’re confident? Egotistical? Heck no.

Kids that age don’t know how to be egotistical. Zach plays for love of the game. I see traits in him that I see in great gamers. He tries things just for the heck of it. He sees straight through problems to simple solutions. I remember once in Q2CTF, he had grabbed the flag and was heading back to base. I stood behind him saying, “Run! Back to your base! Run!” He stopped right in the middle of the map, despite my urging, and started flipping through his weapons. “What are you doing?” I cried. He switched to grenade launcher, resumed running, and started laying a path of grenades to catch the enemies in his wake. Shut me up pretty good.

I often come across Zach playing a game, completely oblivious to what is going on in the game around him. He’s played for hours upon hours with the grappling hook, seeing where this odd device will take him. I’ve found him sitting on wall lights, on other players, on small outcroppings that can’t be seen unless you’re standing on them. I once watched him play for over an hour using nothing but the railgun. He was missing almost every shot but it didn’t bother him at all. He just kept shooting. I’ve only see dedication like that in hardcore gamers. Me, I’ll use the railgun for all of 5 minutes before giving up in frustration and returning to a weapon I can actually use.

I loaded up the Unreal Tournament demo and was very pleased it had a system for loading bots much like the Eraser. Zach loves it. And it kills me the stuff he comes up with. He can show me something I didn’t know almost every day. For example, when you use the Shock Rifle and secondary fire, it shoots an exploding ball of, um, something that looks like electricity or plasma. Bud did you know, if you quickly switch to primary fire (which shoots kind of like a railgun) and shoot, you can use it to detonate the ball before it hits? I came across Zach using this technique just other day. There was an enemy shooting out of his line of sight, so, he shot the ball, then exploded it after it passed a corner. It makes me want to shout, “Kid, you’re only 3 years old! Who do you think you are? Stop it already!”

There’s no fanfare. No bravado. He doesn’t jump and shout, “Look what I can do Daddy!” He doesn’t gather his friends around so he can gloat on some technique he has learned. He does it because it works. He does it for love of the game. And he moves on.

Where does it end? I came home the other day and found Zach checking my e-mail. He can’t read, and can’t make heads or tails of what’s coming in, but that doesn’t matter. He dials the ISP, loads e-mail, clicks “Send and Receive”, and watches it come in. I have to be careful and stop him before he starts trying things, though.

I know what you’re thinking. Can he whup me? No. The reflexes of young children are nowhere near as refined as adults or teenagers at such an early stage. My 8 year old can show some resistance, but he’s got a ways to go too. I own them every time.

How special is Zach? As I said before, I’m a parent and so I’m proud as all heck of my little boy, as I’m sure all parents are. So I’ll give the masses the benefit of the doubt, and it’s why I talk about the next generation of gamers. If our kids are all like Zach, what’s in store for us? Will we one day fall prey to our little tykes, as they jump online and “own” us in droves? Will we one day start all our stories with, “in my day...” while we watch the next generation inherit the online community? I dunno. I bet this is how it starts.

- Russell "RadPipe" Lauzon is currently exhausting all his free time researching Beer Goggles.


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