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Tavendale
5:58 PM on 07.05.2009

Everyone has that close little group of friends who play together, or more often multiple groups which occasionally overlap. In my case, regardless of what game Iím playing, I can count on my two closest friends to jump in and help me out, or to shoot me in the face with a rifle-grenade.

Itís an awkward number, three. We canít split ourselves in to even teams. On consoles itís always Ďwinner stays oní and any game that pits the three of us against one-another is subject to alliances which last until one player turns his back long eough for another to stick the knife in.

Recently, our main games to play together have been World of Warcraft (though two of us have kicked the habit), Call of Duty: World at War, Sins of a Solar Empire. Iím going to talk briefly about each, and what makes them so suited to our 3-man party.



I started playing WoW about a year before the first expansion and it took me almost all this time for my first character to reach 60. I just wasnít that into it. I had a few alts, I didnít invest all that much time, and I was beginning to wonder why exactly I was continuing to pay a monthly fee for a game I just didnít play all that much. I was quite close to just leaving it, until one of my friends (weíll refer to him by his WoW name, Puncho) decided to give it a go and got very into it, levelling to 70 with me very shortly after the release of the expansion. The other (henceforth referred to as Gilius), soon followed and although he didnít invest as much time in the game, we formed a solid team.

Three players in WoW doesnít immediately sound like the ideal setup. Most things outside of dungeons can be done solo, and you need five for an instance run. However, we found that with our good healer, tank and DPS setup, it didnít really matter who else we brought in. We could pull most sub-par DPS through any dungeon. As is the way with WoW, we all three became hopelessly addicted. Despairing of por leadership in the first guild weíd ever joined, we moved on to start our own one, with our three characters forming the core of our raid team.

We stayed with WoW until eventually clearing all of the Wrath launch content. Weíve tried Ulduar, but two of us had rather lost interest already. Puncho is still in the game, however, and has cleared Ulduar.



More recently, weíve taken to playing Call of Duty: World at War. Gilius and I had been paying CoD4 on-and-off for a while, and it was the Steam weekend deal for World at War which brought Puncho into the series. We started off finding empty servers and agreeing on set 2v1 challenges or free for all bouts. It was good fun and although we often visited busier servers for bigger games, we got quite annoyed when people burst in on our smaller, Ďprivateí matches.

This frustration led to us renting out our own server. This gives us the flexibility to play our private free for alls or to open the server up to more people when we want to. Iíve actually been quite surprised by how quickly the server fills up when we open it. With such a close-knit little group, it gets very competitive, with much shouting, taunting and personal vendettas! Weíre even starting to see regulars show up on our server, really establishing an Ďextended familyí feeling to our games.

We all have our little trademarks too. Gilius loves controlling the tower in the Roundhouse level and hates anybody using machine or submachine guns. Puncho canít stop himself groaning at the stupid catchphrases and taunt that Gilius come out with, and gets rather pissed off when caught by one of the Bouncing Betty mines.



In the past couple of weeks, weíve added another game to our repertoire. Sins of a Solar Empire is a game that Gilius and I have been playing infrequently for some time. Puncho recently picked it up and weíve taken to playing some incredibly cutthroat matches. Iím particularly notorious in our tryst for being a tad untrustworthy in strategy games, so Iím usually betrayed mercilessly as a pre-emptive maneuver.

The most recent example was the other night. Puncho and I had held a strong alliance for the whole match and we had formed a casual cease-fire with Gilius whilst we finished off some computer-controlled empires. Having done this, I agreed with Puncho to end the cease-fire and to take on Giliusí fleet whilst he (Puncho) attacked Giliusí planets. Needless to say, I was double crossed. I crushed Giliusí fleet, but not before Puncho had ripped through three of my own planets. As an aside, I still won that game, which made a nice change.



Iím sure you all have such anecdotes, and that many will be more interesting than the examples Iíve given, but I do have a point. Gaming with my two closest friends is what really keeps me in the hobby. Itís what made gaming interesting in the first place, competing with them in Worms and Street Fighter 2, working with them to finish off Super Mario World and Sonic 2, and running clans and guilds with them in WoW and Gunbound. I really take objection to the outsiderís view that gaming is an antisocial pursuit as, without gaming, I would never have really gotten close to my best friends and more recently, when we all went our separate ways for University, we would most definitely not have stayed in touch to the extent that we did.

We would have phoned one another, sure. Weíd have had Skype and MSN, but I donít think that would have done it. The reason we stayed so close was our shared love of gaming, and making time a couple of nights a week to sit down, connect to Skype and blow the shit out of each other on various online games. Thereís no way any of us would spend a solid three or more hours on the phone, talking about our day, the latest news or gossip, or just random crap without the interface of a game, a shared activity we all enjoyed.

Essentially, despite the scaremongering Jack Thomson and all the other anti-gaming advocates, I thoroughly believe that I owe the two most enduring and rewarding friendships I have, to gaming.



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