Playing: Team Fortress 2 on Xbox Live

My feeling with games in education is that it’s important to actually get out there and play them to understand best how the elements that make them so engaging actually work.

Having done the Portal thing, I was ready to move on to other games in The Orange Box on the weekend and given that I’d (finally) managed to get hooked up on Xbox Live, the online platform for playing Xbox games with nerds from around the world, it seemed like the thing to do was to jump into Team Fortress 2.

(Yes I realise that it was a nice sunny weekend, I was just excited about being able to connect the 360 to my computer and also the web for the first time)

So anyway, TF2 is an online only game which looks a lot like something out of The Incredibles. It consists of 6 locations (or maps) divvied up between a red and blue team of up to 8 people each. There are a few variations on the missions involved – either to capture territory markers by standing on them for long enough or to break into the other team’s base and steal a briefcase full of intelligence. (All the while trying to blow nine kinds of crap out of your opposition with your various weapons.)

I had hoped to be able to play the game offline separately first, giving me a chance to wander around the maps and get an idea of where to go. This not being an option, the best bet was generally to just follow the other guys as they hare into the other base – although I did realise later than some of the maps have gigantic flashing arrows in your colour that tell you where to go. (But it’s easy to miss the subtle things 🙂

I’d heard horror stories of people playing Halo 3 having to deal with snotty 13 year olds pouring out unimaginative streams of invective, generally involving the words fag and dick, on Xbox Live, so I was mildly wary of putting on the headset (which allows you to chat to anyone on your team) but all was fine. Given that it was daytime, I think I was mainly left with the older stoners in the U.S playing in the small wee hours, when the bratz are in bed – or maybe this game inspires a higher level of classiness.

What I got instead was mostly the usual chatter you hear in networked games – there’s a spy in the base, I need a medic, I’ve set up a turret/someone take out their turret, etc. There were the occasional exuberant cries of “did you see that – I’m a god” from time to time as well.

Is it overly sad that this reminded me of some research into games in education that looked at the way that players help new players learn and that these kind of online gaming experiences foster the development of collaboration skills?

This is what the game actually looks like.

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I had been expecting this kind of online gameplay to absolutely chew through my broadband download allowances but all up I think it only used around 70Mb for a solid 3 or 4 hour session – peanuts really.

Lots of fun – moreso now that I’m getting more familiar with the maps and actually manage to live longer than the time it takes me to walk out the door of our base.

If you’re on Xbox Live and feel like a game, just say hi to me – Singo the Dingo.

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