6th October 2009 - Since the inception of XBOX Live and the new experience, community play dates have been a staple way for websites to reach out to the community and connect with a like minded audience. Through the Events blade people can find weekly matches hosted by well known or otherwise new video game websites. Depending on the type of game and the month, play dates may draw from a wide range of people or not attract many at all.
Last Friday, the staff here at All Age Gaming hit a double play of sorts. Not only was it our first foray into community awareness, it was also the start of the school holidays and a long weekend to boot. We were unanimously overwhelmed with support and people wanting to play. Almost 100 odd players logged on to participate, but in hindsight we present: 10 things you need to know before joining a community play date.
1. Do your homework
Call us newbie’s but the staff was rather under prepared by the mass number of responses and messages and invites we received. As we lick our wounds and pull the sticky plasmas from our hair, it was great to meet so many new fans and people interested in the site. I personally had a couple of conversations talking about what we do and how it came about, but: How hard is it to look on the events page and see what time it starts? Half of the messages we received were about the time and even the place…
It’s great when your friend invites you but make sure you know when it starts and how it works. Check the forums, the sites and XBOX Live before hand. We poor website people were swamped.
2. Is this Spam for real?
Speaking of which, I think in the spirit of community people need to realise that the event only had 5 people hosting. Now you probably have 5 friends. Each of those 5 friends sends 5 identical messages to the 5 staff. If every person has 5 friends and sends 5 messages then suddenly that’s a whole bunch of messages spamming my inbox! We are only human and as much fun as camping the corner excepting friend requests is…. … once the play date has started, it’s probably too late.
More over, party up and let ONE person in your party friend a host, then you can find us through them, because for the most part my friends list was clean the next day.
3. Impossible odds
As much as we try to be friends with everyone, the aforementioned method of communication is probably the best. Case in point: ODST only has 4 player co-op so it is very unlikely that everyone was going to be able to play with everyone else. In the end the ridiculous LAG made Fire fight mostly unplayable so larger Halo 3 parties were organised. That said, if you know a play date is coming up, get in early and don’t wait until after 8pm to start spamming for friends. Chances are we are already playing. Further, commit to play. Once in don’t leave because half my time was spent in fire fight where people left and no one got to finish.
4. Share the love
Don’t hog the host, find some friends party up, play a match and move on. The other half of our messages was related to achievements and campaign. To be fair, if it’s promoted as a Halo 3: ODST night; I’m not going to have time to play Gears of War 2. Campaigns are usually better but take away from the other 70 odd people who want to just muck around and have fun. Achievements are also costly and can be easily interrupted by LAG and dropouts. A lot of fun can be had, but don’t take things too seriously and relax.
5. Flame bait
In other words, don’t enter the night expecting to be first, favorite or in control. Sure the majority of players this time around were 13-15 yr olds with gamer scores under 1000 but everyone deserves a fair go.
Wireless Microphones are great, especially for shooting the breeze in the bathroom while everyone argues in the lobby, but if someone from the site is hosting; let them do their job. Halo 3 is notorious for being hard to manage, when no one knows what team to be and there’s 20 people all talking at once, but that’s the point where I mute you and go make a cup of tea. Eventually we got a few games going, captaining the pink team, but it’s really nice when the players know more than you and no one can agree.
Accept that the event is free; community based, hosted by newbie’s and in the spirit of fun, not fan boys. As the website grows, and forums fill we hope that regulars come back and we can make some new friends.
6. Split the difference
Someone should really make a rule: One entry per console. A community play date is not regulated and no entry is required. If you have 3 mates on split-screen at home, then in theory you are all welcome. Three people on the one console though means your internet is being sucked three ways and the result is either LAG or a friendly boot from the game. Back in the old days seeing Johnny69lulz and then Johnny69lulz and  meant someone was using bots to hack your connection so I was all ready to call foul when a bunch of them turned up. It’s great to see everyone involved but even on the best TV; four player split screen?
7. Let it go
Keep an eye on the time. If the play date ends at 11pm expect the next game to be the last. The host will leave and despite some of the wilder fantasy, most of us have lives. There’s no office and we weren’t all sitting in the same room. In Fact I was sitting with my cat eating a bucket of KFC. If an event starts at 8pm on a Friday, chances are I’ll be busy until then. I do enjoy playing with people and helping them achieve things, but firstly check out my gamer card before you message. If I’m half way through an epic adventure in Mini Ninjas on a Wed afternoon, or about to finish the last level of Marvel UA:2, I may not reply straight away. Spamming me messages and then an invite and then an invite with a message, is not going to get my attention faster.
8. Don’t call back
I was pleasantly surprised when one random asked me why I would delete him as a friend the day after the event and why I couldn’t help him get every achievements in every game, as pro as I am! lol. Unfortunately I didn’t know him, and that is where forums and the site in general steps in and takes over. Enjoy the experience; don’t expect too much from the hosts and everyone will get along just fine. Find out what the site is that is hosting and go join the forums. For every play date we add new friends and if you keep coming back we are bound to remember you eventually.
All Age gaming is growing at a fast rate and it would be great to see you grow with us.
9. Be flexible
Once you’ve joined the site and met some people or connected through the forums, it becomes less about the game play and a lot more about social interaction. Last Friday was an interesting lesson for someone who thought they knew a lot about games, I was schooled on ODST and also met some interesting people who thought I was pretty cool.
In all honestly working for a games site, you need to flexible and pick up any game at any time and play it. After failing my pink team in Halo 3 I can say I’m definitely not the best around but I pwn with a chain gun. As we try new things for the community; like the proverbial bullet- we’ll keep spitting them out until something hits.
10. Party up
Whoever invented the ‘Grunt Party’ skull whereby headshots result in confetti is a genius because it typifies what you expect a play date to be. Some memorable moments were had, including glitching a banshee in firefight so we could try to steal it only to melee it to death and having a teabag competition with the pink team.
The next community play date is for FORZA 3 on November 6th. Party up and keep coming back. There won’t be any guns and the type of people who are interested will probably vary, but if you’re reading this, then get into the forums, join the community and have fun!
If you were an unwilling participant in our first attempt at hostage negotiations last Friday and have memories of being run over by a guy in pink amour, let us know below.
Article Written by Ian Crane