For many years, a large part of my online life has been devoted to an online forum, a discussion website focused around an excellent gaming server for a fantastic video game. A demo, no less. One level, over and over again, hour after hour, day after day. There was something about it though, that made it such an enthralling time consumer.
When I was unemployed and not really looking for a job, it filled the hours very nicely. When you’re spending a considerable amount of your time playing video games, you take notice when one appears on your internal schedule more and more often than the others. At first I couldn’t understand what was so good about it; it was just a demo and only one level at that. The thing about this game though is that instead of running around, shooting people, dying and then respawning again like most shoot’em ups, once you died you were out.
On The Great Milenko’s, I spent half my gaming time as a ‘ghost’, floating around the remaining minutes of the game observing the actions of my teammates and their attempts to win the round. This is an objective game, you see. The blue team runs from the helipad on the roof down through the office window, the elevator or the cargo area. The red team starts in the kitchen and moves to defend at the main stairs, the conference room or all the way to the south office. The blue team’s objective is to grab the briefcase in the conference room and return to the helicopter on the roof; the red team’s objective is to prevent the blue team from achieving their goals.
As a result of constantly dying early, you spend a lot of time chatting with your teammates, talking about the game, strategies, stuff going on in the world, anything that provides commonality between strangers. Server performance is another hotly debated topic in these games. Each server that runs a game is unique in it’s own characteristics, ping times, game settings and other such incomphrensible-to-the-non-gaming-community topics are discussed with great vigor and seriousness. As preferential servers are established (and there are many to choose from when a new game is released), names become recognized, friendships are formed, and intangible community is formed. Milenko, the administrator of TGM, decided to provide a forum for the people who were enjoying his gaming server. It all snowballed from there. I’m not really going to go into any details because once a community reaches a level of trust, the communication becomes incredibly honest, very intricate and impossible to summarize in any way that gives justice to it’s impact on those who are participating in it.
Over the last two years, this forum has been a large part of my life and now it’s dying. The signs are all there. Used to be a time that you were never browsing it alone, now every time I check it I’m always alone. The new posts have decreased dramatically; they now mostly focus around the status of the server and the forum. The server is expensive to operate and doesn’t run as much or as well as it used to. The game is over two years old and hardly finds new people anymore. Veterans are getting bored or finding more fun in newer games. The strongest thing holding it together at this point is the strength of the relationships between the players. It’s hard not to over-stress the power of the relationships in these games; everything is a social structure which just reinforces the value of the game by making it more real.
Still, there’s no denying the death of this forum. It may turn around, it may rot in the depths of the Internet, unseen or unread. I don’t like either of those options. One of my concerns with it’s death is a purely selfish one, I must admit. I value everything I’ve ever written as a little part of me, and I want as much of me to survive for as long as possible. I know others feel the same way. Everything we ever write is a record of our life, a bit of information about how we thought or what we felt. It is entirely unique to the individual perception of the person in question. I’ve spent a lot of hours composing comments, short or long, funny or angry, a little bit of me and my Universe. I’d hate for those hours to disappear with the wiping of a harddrive, the disconnection of the Internet. If that happened, I’d lose a part of myself, and my selfishness dicatates that as much of me should exist for as long as possible in any way, shape or form.
I know I’ve gone on about TGM before, but it is a large part of my life and it is slowly dying. I’ve started using other forums, No Tag Gaming (the veterans of TGM migrated), and my own personal favorite 😛 WinnipegForums.ca, plus whatever else comes across my path. I guess what I’m saying to you is that if you get the chance, if you can find a forum that seems populated with like minded people, then you should take the opportunity to invest as much time there communicating with other people as you can. You will be rewarded. Trust me.