The Futurist: Let the Games Begin

Contact-The Futurist-Brian Van Eerden

Sunday afternoons will never be the same. They can't be. Ever since my team got eliminated by the Ukrainians in the final bracket of our championship baseball tournament, we can't seem to hold our heads high. Well, that is if we could see each other's heads. I remember that first day when our avatars met on the practice field to decide who would represent the United States in the fifth annual Google World Series of Gaming. The sponsored team jerseys were so cool. We even customized them with a team logo we designed ourselves. All my friends from my buddy list had been watching the game from the stands. This latest loss was a huge blow to all of us.

Thankfully, the rising number of video game sponsorships helps to offset the cost of playing.

Now that every game is streamed directly from the central servers, there is no need to pay for downloads, and brick-and-mortar stores like Gamestop are a thing of the past. Gaming consoles don't even come with media drives anymore. Just a small discreet black box rests under the TV, a faint reminder of the days of hardware upgrades and trips to the rental store. The yearly updates of new peripherals always keep things interesting. Some add smell to games, while others let you feel the shock of bullets hitting your body. It is all enough to keep the adrenaline pumping though your veins, like driving a semitruck into a brick wall.

Subscription fees do take a toll on the average man's pocketbook; still, it is cheaper than going to the movies. The seamless integration of social media and gaming makes it even easier to spend hours hooked into the system. The credits generated from my branded avatar are a welcome supplement, as well as the conversation tracker that pays for each time I make a brand reference with friends. It is good to know there are advertisers that can deliver on things I really want. From virtual spaces where our avatars gather, to supplying additional levels to the greatest games available, it's a welcome change from having to pay for the additional content. Thank goodness for Universal Content Code: This allows me to transfer my avatar's assets from game to game. I spent so much time customizing it to look just like my favorite movie character, although I still like to occasionally swap out the shirt for the vintage Dr. Pepper T-shirt I have. All my friends keep asking me where I got it.

There is no lack of new titles this year: plenty of fighting, music, puzzle and racing games to keep everyone entertained. Real racing is quickly becoming the new national pastime. Controlling a real car from a gaming console is the ultimate test for any gamer. The queue is usually a little long, but it's always worth the wait. The Friday night events hosted at the track have become infused with celebrity appearances and some impressive prizing. Racing is one of my favorite genres. I have been delivering some quick lap times this past week, enough to give me bragging rights among my friends.

Ever since the majority of daytime tv gaming shows were replaced with a national gaming interface, the quality of competition has significantly increased. Anyone can now participate in the seeding process from home, and a lucky few with the chops to compete are rising to the top. Some are even gathering a cult-like following on the Web, broadcasting their every move out into the digital blogosphere.

So it's back to training for next year. I feel so confident. Luckily Halo season starts soon, so I will have plenty to keep me busy. The guys and I plan to register for some competitive gaming tournaments this year. The million-dollar purse helps ensure everyone's involvement.

I often think how funny it is that people now can make more money playing simulations than people who actually carry out these jobs in real life. The top Rock Band earners cash checks much larger than many of the bands they practice playing all day long. I'm hoping that with the extra cash from the tournaments, I'll be able to put down the deposit on a new place. Living in my parents' basement doesn't carry the same amount of mystique as it once did.

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