Say what you will about casual games and party games. God knows I have
. The fact is, now more than ever, games and technology have the means to bring people together, who wouldn't normally have a reason to cross paths.
Recently, I became hooked on a local social network (as seen by my lack of activity around here lately), due to the fact that I know the crazy mo'fo that runs the thing. It took quite a bit of coaxing as I figured local social networks had no point since they could easily form their own corners within the larger networks that I frequently whore myself out to. Nevertheless, the challenge of helping an online social network grow within my city, intrigued me, as well as the fact that the initial core group of people knows how to have a good time.
I offered up my services just to see how I could help out. He was in the beginning stages of trying to plan out the weekly event centered around Monday Night Football. He happened to mention a local bar that had just recently opened it's doors. It's your typical sports bar - spacious, plenty of TV's, pool tables, good drink specials. This bar also happens to have two isolated TV viewing areas, one of which has a NES and an SNES hooked up to two of the TVs. Before I could think, my inner-geek spoke up and said, "We should play Guitar Hero at half time." For whatever reason, he gave me the benefit of the doubt and said, "What the hell let's do it."
We had about a week before the first Monday night game, and honestly, I was doubting my idea. Here's a new group of people I'd just been introduced to, most of which just enjoyed drinking and dancing with people they already knew. None of them struck me as gamers, casual or otherwise. These were social people much more interested in interacting with people in real life, rather than through a TV screen. Apparently, I'm a self-defeatist gamer, who assumes most normal people wouldn't enjoy my favorite ways of passing the time.
I was quite wrong.
Even before the Heroing commenced, I noticed that the main man running the event may have a bit more in common with me and my fellow techies than I originally thought. Here we are during Monday Night Football, 30 or so people in the bar, playing pool and this party animal/social moth/extroverted opposite of myself, is at his table on his laptop on IM and multiple forums chatting with people, while drinking with his friends. Not exactly the common occurrence when enjoying the nightlife in the Midwest. I laughed to myself since earlier I had felt like a nerd by having my laptop in my car, you know, in case I needed it. Then, here he is "keeping it real" on and offline at the same time. I stepped outside to get the Heroing gear.
We took over the party room and set up the 360 with two guitars, hooked to the LCD TV on the wall, and readied the rock. I demoed Guitar Hero 2 with a girl that had played before and the buzz began to start around us. By the time the first song was over we had about 12 participants ready to try, 10 of which had never played the game, and more than half of those had never even heard of the game before that night. The consensus among them was that they didn't like video games at all, but this looked fun.
I just sat back and enjoyed the show. Filmed a bit with my "bar camera." Needless to say, no one watched the second half of the football game. Later, I hastily put together a quick compilation of said lead mo'fo as we started to promote Week 2 to get some actual competitions going. Based on the reactions, we will be taking over the main room in a few weeks and will probably have to bring a few more 360's before I introduce them to Rock Band.
I'm sure this isn't an unfamiliar story given the success and reach of Guitar Hero. It was still pretty cool to watch it all come together first hand, and I'm always humbled when my initial predictions about non-gamers and people that I don't know end up being way off.