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Monday, September 21, 2020

Cross-play support gave me my gaming friends back

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If you’re like me, and you’ve been gaming from a very young age, you’ve experienced the gaming industry slowly but surely become more and more divided as the years go on. Console ecosystems and platform exclusive games have made way for tribal fanbases and the establishment of completely separate gaming realms divided among console manufacturer lines. For most people, this is okay; a large portion of people end up choosing a platform and sticking with it, becoming a part of that community and that ecosystem, for better or for worse. You can communicate and connect with your like-platformed gaming friends whenever you wish and all is good.

But then there’s the people like me, the people who have delved into multiple ecosystems, both at the same time and over the years, and made friends across each one; some exclusive to one platform and some who’ve also branched out. Back in my late teens and early 20’s, I was all about Xbox. My Xbox 360 was my pride and joy, and everyone that I played with played on the Xbox with me. It was that circle of gaming friends that you could pop online and instantly have 3 or 4 party invites to various games, and have your choice of what you wanted to play that evening. You never think that you’re taking something like that for granted, until it’s too late.

As the years went on, my interests faltered and I started gravitating towards my very first gaming platform; the PC. I’d not properly gamed on a PC since the days of Blizzard North’s cult classic Diablo II, (they days of Pentium II processors and integrated graphics), so my PC game was a little rusty. But once I put together my first real gaming rig and got that rush of accomplishment while playing at 70+ frames per second on something that I built with my own two hands, I was hooked. The skies seemed the limit, and my Steam library exponentially grew with the help of Summer and Holiday sales.

But there was a problem: all my friends were imprisoned on their respective game platforms; namely on the Xbox 360/Xbox One and PS3/PS4. Gaming, which I used to consider a lively social time with my closest nerdy friends, had suddenly become a time of isolationism and long nights watching YouTube videos on my second monitor while grinding away Paragon levels by myself in Diablo 3. I had joined the Master Race, but at what cost?

I still hopped onto my console(s) every now and then to hang out with everyone. I wouldn’t just abandon them outright, but at the same time it felt like a betrayal of my time to be playing on my console when this machine that I’d spent so much time and money on was sitting dormant. But eventually a couple years down the line, the socialization won out and I ended up spending more and more of my time teaming up with friends on my console as my PC sat by the wayside collecting dust.

As years passed and we’ve gotten older, many of them have fallen out of the gaming habit, adopting more worthwhile expenditures of time like family and school. I’ve always been what I would consider a “hardcore” gamer, so I always try to balance some gaming time into my schedule, no matter what else is also going on. But this also means picking and choosing very careful what I spend my precious little bit of gaming time on, and more importantly, where and with whom.

At the beginning of 2019, I finally gave my gaming rig the update it so desperately needed (the only thing I had updated since my initial build in 2013 was my GPU), and decided outright that that was where I would do most of my gaming. But the problem still persisted; most of my gaming time was spent playing alone. How could I remedy this issue? Enter cross-play support.

It’s something that gamers have opined about for years now, but had always seemed to be a pipe dream; game platforms working in harmony and allowing players to cross enemy lines into the other side’s servers? Absurd, would never happen. But over recent years, pioneered in large part by the widely popular and successful battle royale franchise Fortnite, we’ve seen consoles lower their barriers more and more to the idea of players playing across console lines with one another. My first real experience with it was playing on a Minecraft Realm on my PC with my wife, who played on the Switch. We spent months this way and had a blast with it. But now more recently, my interest has turned to Warzone on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, which has 100% cross-platform support.

The end result? I feel like I’ve gotten my gaming friends back. They’re not the same people I knew ~10 years ago and played with regularly, but they’re people that I knew played games who I was separated from across platforms. It feels now like I’ve gone back to the days where I can sign into my game and have people immediately invite me to play with them, and it’s a great feeling, especially as we’re getting older and have less and less time to devote to the hobby that we love. It feels like I can finally socialize with these people again in the way that I feel most entertained by. And I am ecstatic to see more and more game developers jumping on that bandwagon and saying outright that they 100% support cross-play in their games, even if it isn’t the top priority.

I can only hope that it becomes the absolute norm in the future. Friends shouldn’t be separated by artificial barriers based on their preferred platform to game on.


NOTE: The views expressed in this EDITORIAL do not necessarily reflect the views of Old People Gaming, Fan Driven Media, or a majority of its writers, and should not be misconstrued as such. The views contained within are the views of the author and the author alone.

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