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GameSetWatch.com is the alt.video game weblog and sister site of Gamasutra.com. It is dedicated to collecting curious links and media for offbeat and oft-ignored games from consoles old and new, as well as from the digital download, iOS, and indie spaces.

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Column: The Game Anthropologist

Column: The Game Anthropologist: Team Fortress 2: Radical Departures

June 16, 2008 4:00 PM |

TF2_Group.jpg [The Game Anthropologist chronicles Michael Walbridge's ventures into gaming communities as he reports on their inhabitants and culture. This time round, he takes a look at Valve's seminal Team Fortress 2.]

Darn FPS Kids And Their Language

It is no doubt or secret that the first person shooter genre and its communities are highly steeped in the competitive spirit. If playground basketball has its ball hogs, FPS has its kill hogs. The team, for all its necessity, can shove off. This usually isn’t considered a problem, though; it’s what we expect, right? We’re shooting at each other. FPS servers are, after all, playgrounds. A player being the Kobe Bryant of the team is the least of your worries.

In concrete life, when an adult goes to observe children in their element, the children do not act the same. Social science research is often rife with hand-wringing—“how can we study people scientifically when the object of study changes simply because of its being studied?” More than one researcher has lamented. Plunk down a random adult in the back of a high school classroom and the kids act differently. In the digital realm, though, kids don’t care that you are there.

Those who look for scapegoats blame the games. Those of us who play games have a better memory of our childhood; young males, adolescents, children are depicting animalistic humanity and lack of development while online and on Xbox Live because they’re just that: kids. While research and artistry can show us much, we don’t have to look far to see it for ourselves.

All Grown Up

In Team Fortress 2, a game which has been sold to at least 2 million people, showboating, kill-whoring, and brazen, crass insults are a rare sight (on non-modded servers with standard maps, anyway). This is puzzling for many reasons. Not only is it an FPS, it’s a quality, competitive one that is only available from Steam. (Counter Strike kids are different from Halo kids, but not in the way you would hope—many of them are hopelessly vulgar.)

Each character has a taunt for each weapon; that’s 27 animated taunts available, including the verbal ones your character automatically utters upon killing. Not to mention the fact that any time someone kills you 3 times in a row a big “NEMESIS” gets planted next to that person’s name.

When you die, the game zooms in on the person who killed you. Big fists appear over him so you can tell who keeps shoving you back to observing your teammates. Failing to get revenge? Here’s the third shot of your ass being handed to you by some kid from Iowa. But the kid says nothing. Rarely does.

Column: The Game Anthropologist: Defense of the Ancients: An Underground Revolution

May 30, 2008 4:00 PM |

Dota%20heroes.jpg [The Game Anthropologist chronicles Michael Walbridge's ventures into gaming communities as he reports on their inhabitants and culture.]

If you've played Warcraft III on Battle.net lately you'd feel like more people were playing Defense of the Ancients, popularly called DOTA, than the actual Blizzard game it’s based on. In fact, DOTA is likely the most popular and most-discussed free, non-supported game mod in the world, judging by the numbers. (It's also been a notable inspiration for the plethora of Tower Defense Flash games in recent years.)

Over at the “official” DOTA Allstars forums as I write this, there are 800 people logged in and over 100,000 total topics and over 23,000 topics in the general forum in the last month. By comparison, Warcraft III, the game it is modded from, only has a few thousand topics at most over on the Battle.net website.

Competitive RPG Action the Way We Want It

The game itself is technically played in RTS format but is often described as “RPG combat.” Many players were disappointed by Warcraft III; some were disappointed it wasn’t more like Starcraft, and many found that the heroes system watered the game down into an experiment that was interesting enough to play, but not fun enough to worship.

Warcraft III match strategies are centered around the selection, leveling, and gearing of heroes, with all units simply being support for the hero. Turning points, victories, and defeats are hero-centered. DOTA turns Warcraft III’s hero system on its head—instead of playing an army with an important leader, you simply play the important leader while the computer takes care of the army.