Reviewer Rodeo: Online Beginnings

Welcome to the ZTGD Reviewer Rodeo. Each week, we’ll grab on to the hottest issue, hold on for dear life, and wrassle it to the ground.

Everyone knows last generation was the major beginning of online play for consoles. This generation is all about jumping online with your friends and taking down a big boss together or taking each other on in versus matches, but I want to go back farther. What are some of your first or fondest memories of online gaming? What were some of the first games you ever played online with other people?

Kelsey “rinelk” Rinella
I first played against human opponents on networked computers during a summer program at Skidmore College in 1988. Net Trek allowed one to pilot a Star Trek spaceship with realistic (if two-dimensional) velocity and acceleration. My vague recollection is that weapons were underpowered and the map was far too large and featureless, but it still seemed like magic. Once the program ended, networked gaming would be unavailable to me until college in 1993, all the more effectively building its mystique.

Counter Strike is still one of the most played online games.


Once there, essentially everyone had a Mac, so you could easily get a game of Bolo, Minotaur, or Spectre going with friends on the hall. My fondest memories from this era are of running around a dungeon killing friends with Mjolnir or Excalibur or some other mythic item in Minotaur. I can’t imagine what a pest I must have been to get people to play just one more round.

I wasn’t until grad school that I finally got a PC, and entered the modern age of online gaming with Half-Life and the mods Team Fortress and Counter-Strike. Playing them with my brother is probably still my favorite gaming experience.

I have a certain sepia-toned, soft-focus affection for these memories. Happily, I’m not yet so old as to fall victim to the illusion that things were better then. Every one of those games would be totally unacceptable by modern standards, and while I am thankful to have had the opportunity to play them, the games I want to play these days are the Mass Effect 3 multi and, on iOS, Ascension. I hope it’s less than a decade before I look back on my current favorites with affection tempered by the recognition that they fail to meet my lowest standards.

John “Dubya” Whitehouse
I have never really been a massive online games player, but there have still been times when I have descended into that dark and murky world. It wasn’t until the Xbox 360 launched that I got online. I did have an original Xbox, but never really felt the need to use that functionality of the games I was playing.

Call of Duty 2 was the first game I played online, and at the time, it was rather hit and miss. Broadband was in its infancy, and I lived in an area that had very slow speeds. Therefore, most of the game was spent watching lag! As time and technology progressed, the experience benefitted greatly, to the point where I have no problems in playing the fastest of games online.

As for my favourite moments, I kinda don’t really have any to think back to. There are a few that stand out, like playing Gears 2 for the first time with the ZTGD crew (before I was part of the team). That was awesome and was so much fun, even though I wasn’t very good. There is also the feeling you get from having a great round on Call of Duty, although that doesn’t happen too much for me these days!

The Call of Duty craze started long before Modern Warfare.


Justin “KillerWolverine” Testa
My very first online memory was when the first SOCOM game came out for the PlayStation 2. For those of you that may be too young to remember, you needed a network adaptor add on to play online with the PS2. After picking up the game (that came with a nifty headset), I had to shell out another $40 just to play it online… yes, it was $10 cheaper, but we didn’t get any extra stuff like DLC or anything like that. Anyway, after installing it to the back of the PS2, I popped in the game and was ready to play my very first online game! Only, it didn’t happen. SOCOM was a highly anticipated game that it boasted online play, a feat that was not yet accomplished by video game consoles (minus the Dreamcast). It seemed that everyone was trying to get online to test out this cool new thing. I remember trying to connect to a session for nearly two hours to no avail. So, in one last effort, I prayed for just 5 minutes of game time. I tried again and actually got into a game! For 5 whole minutes!

A while after that experience, Xbox announced they were releasing a beta for their online service, Xbox Live. So naturally I was excited and signed up. After only a few days of painful anticipation, I finally got word that I was accepted. And soon after that, I got the Live kit and was on my way to testing what would become, arguably, the greatest video game online service available to date.

My fondest memories of playing online are vast, and I can’t really pinpoint most of them because my memory is fading in my old age. I can remember that I had a good bit of fun playing great games with some great friends. One thing is a certainty when I play online: I am bound to lose my temper and get a bit angry. I have several holes in my wall and broken controllers that can speak to that.

While a lot has changed since I first started playing games online with most of the people I know getting married and becoming dads, and work and school consuming ever more time, we really don’t have as much time to jump on and play a lot anymore. But we try to as much as we can and I look forward to those days so I can yell at the screen and tell the folks I am playing with that the game is cheating.

Read about Drew, Jeff and Ken’s oldest online memories on the next page…

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