Video games are smashing. Of course, I would think that, or I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this for you. And you probably agree with me, or you wouldn’t be reading this article on this site in the first place.
But I think there’s a certain factor which transforms video games from an entertainment medium into something much bigger than that. Something very special. And that’s when you share them with others.
Whether it’s enjoying a game designed with multiplayer in mind, or even just playing a single-player title together and sharing a pad – the memories forged when playing with pals are the strongest and least likely to fade.
Jennifer Allen wrote a great piece about this the other week, and I’ve been thinking about it since. So I decided to ask some Eurogamer staff for more of their most vivid memories from playing with others:
Christian Donlan, Features Editor
Game: Sim City
The thing about Sim City was that you could play it at school. You could play it in maths class. You could play it, if you had a decent memory, on the walk to school. You could do all this without hardware: without consoles or cartridges, without cables or controllers. You needed, what, a pad of paper if you were just getting started – or if you were really serious about detailing – and you needed a friend who also knew how to play Sim City.
In truth, neither Gareth nor I actually knew how to play Sim City. We’d seen a review of it in Mean Machines. It must have been the SNES version. Man, it stood out. In amongst platformers and top-down racers here was a game in which you were, who? A mayor, a bunch of engineers? A fleet of celestial bulldozers?
It was too much for us. We used to sit together in the library over lunchtime – I am revealing so much about us both here, I realise – and with a pad of paper we’d plan our city. We’d start with a few big ticket buildings, then we’d connect it with roads, and then we’d ponder which colour pencil to use for electricity and whether we should bother with plumbing.
We were so different, Gareth and I. He was neat and clever and slightly totalitarian. His parts of the map always had very straight lines and a grid and a huge harbour that he would eventually stock with warships loading up on tanks. My parts? Messy and smudged, and often I would lose focus and turn the smudges into flames and set the nuclear power station on fire to keep things interesting.
Looking back now, I think we were both expansions. I was disaster, obviously – natural and unnatural, because I already had a thing for UFOs and bigfoot. He was military. Eventually he would draw so many barracks and so much fencing that he would section off a corner of the page to draw a cross-section of the earth around our city. He would say: Look, we can drill down and put in these padded balloon things – we can float out to sea and our city can be an entire state.
Johnny Chiodini, Video Editor
Game: I don’t remember
It feels strange to say that I don’t remember exactly what game I was playing during this, my most memorable experience of playing video games with a friend, but stick with me and hopefully you’ll see why. Apologies in advance for getting heavy.
On the 20th of September 2005, just twenty days after he passed his driving test, a friend and classmate of mine, Michael – or Mike, as we knew him – pulled out of a junction in the wrong gear and into the path of a speeding lorry, which killed him instantly. The next day was one of the worst I’ve ever experienced. Not only were hundreds of children suddenly having to deal with the death of one of their peers, but it also happened to be the day on which an annual fair rolled into town. The high street (on which I lived at the time, offering no escape) was packed with fairground rides and burger stalls and everything in between. Of course everyone involved was just trying to earn an honest wage and even at the time I couldn’t begrudge them, and yet every single one seemed like an affront to what I, seventeen years old and sad and scared and so, so, angry, was trying to process.
Enter Ben. Ben’s parents, at the time, ran the pub across the road – I washed dishes for them on Thursday nights and the occasional Sunday. In retrospect it probably didn’t take much for him to realise I needed to get away from the flashing lights and excited cheers of the fair, but he brought me up to his room and challenged me to a game. I’ve done some googling and at my closest guess it that was either Pro Evolution Soccer 4 or FIFA Football 2005, assuming he had the latest release, but the important thing was that he supplied his own commentary. He screamed it, in fact, yelling everything that was happening at the top of his lungs with such triumphant shouts of GOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL that, for a few blessed moments, I forgot myself and laughed for the first time since realising that one of my friends was gone forever.
I don’t remember who won, or why, or even how many games we played while Ben screamed the house down, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget how safe I felt, nor how good it was to take a break from that emerging grief.
Chris Bratt, Video Editor, Traitor
Game: World of Warcraft
It was the shoulders that did it. Back in the Wrath of the Lich King days of World of Warcraft, players who achieved a high enough rating in the arena (the game’s most competitive player vs. player mode) were awarded a big pair of daft pauldrons. And I wanted them, real bad.
The problem was, I was naff at fighting other players. I didn’t know my Psychic Horror from my Psychic Scream and that’s an issue when you’re playing a character who can get killed in about four hits. I needed a mentor; someone that knew the ropes. That’s when I met Montaro, or Mustafa as I’d later know him.
Back then, WOW’s servers were self-contained enough that you’d know of some players through their reputation alone. I’d heard Montaro was one of the best PvP players on the server and so I asked him to teach me. For reasons I still don’t understand, he agreed. Imagine a Rocky montage, but instead of watching the Italian Stallion punching things with his powerful hands, it’s me learning to cast spells using my keyboard rather than clicking on them with my mouse. Exhilarating stuff.
Hundreds of hours later, we’d made it. With a very respectable arena rating of 2300, we stood triumphant outside the gate of Orgrimmar wearing ridiculous, over-the-top shoulderwear. Along the way, a friendship was built from opposite sides of the world. We were from very different backgrounds it turned out: he taught me about what it’s like living in the Middle East and I introduced him to the idea of Staffordshire Oatcakes (they’re much tastier than they sound, I promise).
Neither of us play WOW anymore, but we’re still pals. I went to his wedding last year and we reminisced of a time spent in another world, fighting warlocks and paladins. It was a wonderful day and a memory I hold very close as a reminder that gaming communities can be so much more than angry Reddit threads and YouTube reaction videos. We’re all just… people? Who knew!
Do you have any stand-out memories of playing games with pals? Leave them below!