Online Gaming - quite simply put, a massive form of entertainment. There are many, many games that attract millions of players every day of the year. Games such as Half-Life, Diablo, Starcraft, Black & White and, of course, Red Alert 2, are some of the most popular games played online. Some, probably the majority in fact, of people play games online simply for enjoyment purposes only - they don't care about what their rank is. But then there are those fanatics, nut-cases, whatever you want to call them, that take online gaming a little too seriously.
The whole point of a ranking system is either to encourage people to play a game online more or to separate the 'rest' from the 'best'. Any of you who have played Blizzard's popular RPG, Diablo 2, will know, probably, how the ladders inspire you to attempt to 'level up' your characters so as you can see your name on it - and you may spend many hours increasing your level in order to see your name on that ladder. Now you may think I'm going a little bit off the topic title here, but I'm merely attempting to show how ranking or ladder systems turn many people plain silly. They make them spend hours and hours attempting to better their rank - but for what? What is it that inspires a person to spend hours sat at their computer clicking away? Is it love of the game - or is it, to put it bluntly, for want of respect? If you ever check the Official Red Alert 2 Rank Ladders you will instantly notice that the majority of the top 50 players play a lot of games. A month or two ago one person achieved the feat of playing over 600 games online in one month. Think thats a little over the top? Is any computer game worth playing over 600 games online for? Now this guy either seriously wanted to win the month's prize, obtain a good rank so he could show off, or likes the game a little too much.
Over 120,000 people play Red Alert 2 online every month. Some people play a game or two, others a hundred or two. People can't really say that they play on WOL for the prizes - because, lets face it, a mouse mat isn't something that you would have at the top of your Christmas list. Hence people play for the two previously mentioned reasons, respect and/or passion. Gaming is becoming increasingly geared to multi-player gaming. Let's face it, consoles are now trying to do the same - they are basically evolving into PCs, with internet, keyboards and mouses. Online Gaming is still in its infancy in my opinion, only the lucky few with high speed connections can truly sample it. Games such as Earth & Beyond will change online gaming for good; they will make it even more popular. But, ultimately, as anyone who knows anything knows, the clincher is connection speed. Until the majority of the bigger countries in the world all have high speed connections available country-wide, online gaming will never realise its true potential. But there is no doubt that over 120,000 people playing a game online in one month is a hell of a lot of people. It shows that many people want to play online, but WOL has many problems in terms of cheaters, hackers and lag. People moan when WOL goes offline (well some anyway) - it's not really that important is it? Some people seem to live on the servers to put it bluntly. To play over 600 games, even if you are a rusher, in one month is the equivalent to living on WOL.
I personally have only ever been as high as 337 in the ranking ladders, that was a few months ago and I played around 90 games in that one month. But at the end of the month I realised that I had been playing so much because I wanted to beat people, not because I was playing the game for the simple enjoyment of it. If I got disconnected I would curse BT (British Telecom) for their inability to make ADSL available in my area. Then I realised that I was just being stupid to put it simply. I have hence never played on WOL again in order to just obtain a good rank. I merely play for enjoyment with people that I know (and I only play on WOL very, very occasionally now - I prefer LAN play). One has to ask themselves why they play so many games online - do they do it for enjoyment? Or for kudos? When I was ranked 337 my friends at school thought I was a God (slight exaggeration), but I certainly did gain some form of kudos - even if it was for being good at a computer game. I no longer think that playing online for ages in order to secure a good rank, in order to secure kudos is, hmm.. what's the word? ..human.
I suppose, at the end of the day, people will always do what they want. But many people have gone to pathetic lengths in order to create online trainers/hacks etc - what do these people get out of cheating their way to the top? There have been countless threads in the official forums, where I have seen well-known RA2 Community members barrage each other with a series of insulting comments - usually along the line of "xxxx uses a map hack everybody!!!" The thread then grows, and grows and grows... until it is several pages long and not far off challenging the length of War & Peace. What makes a person spend hours trying to prove that a person uses a map hack, or trying to make people believe that they use one when they don't? Any half-decent player will be more than familiar with the last minute message of "You're a cheat! I'm going to report you to Westwood! There's no way you can build that many tanks so fast!". There are some skilled RA2 players, skilled beyond belief almost. These players know the game inside out and are quite simply put, elite in their field. Some people do actually believe that their opponent is cheating when they throw several tanks at them within 5 minutes of the game's beginning - and that's fair enough. But some people know that the other player isn't cheating, they then fill in the good old official cheat reporter form and try to discredit the player who crushed them fair and square.
Another slightly disconcerting fact is that people become very angry and upset after being beaten. Quite often you will find players become increasingly hostile towards the end of the match when their defeat is looming. I could list some of the various explicits used but I will forego them for the sake of our younger readers. Getting angry or upset at losing a computer game is stupid really. Those two emotions are totally different from disappointment - if you have being planning a match for a few weeks with, for example, a friend from school and then lose you will obviously feel slightly disappointed - but that's all part of the win and lose syndrome.
So, to sum it up, some people will spend hours and hours and go out of their way to secure a good rank, for many reasons. But, at the end of the day, one has to realise the fact that Red Alert 2 is just a computer game - it isn't real. There is no way that anyone can justify playing over 600 games online in one month in my opinion, although I do strongly believe in the principle of people doing what they want to with their own lives. But, to answer the question, "WOL - Do some people people take it too seriously?" - the quite simple answer is yes.