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The State of Gaming: February 2015

It's time to talk about the elephant in the room...

Online Gaming

I think the one I should start with is the one that I love to play the most. That honor goes to GTA Online.

This game has it all for a group of friends that want to kill some time. You can steal cars, planes, boats, helicopters... it doesn't matter. If you want to roll around gunning down other online players that's okay too!

With missions, level unlocks, and new updates coming throughout the games' life, it would seem like GTA Online is the perfect online solution.

Unfortunately, GTA Online has one crippling issue... it doesn't work.

That is probably a little bit of an overstatement. I mean, as long as my friends and I stick to missions we're usually able to get through a few without problem, but soon enough we'll get disconnected and then the cycle begins. It goes something like this...

Me: Are you in the online mode?
Friend 1: No, I got kicked back to the Campaign.
Friend 2: I think I'm in an online session... just not your session.
Me: Can any of you join me?
Friend 1 & 2: No! 

Typical Night of GTA
After a few cycles of this, it's already time for the group to go to bed and  we spent more time looking at "alert" screens than we did actually playing an online session.
Of course, you might be saying something along the lines of, "Well, if you hate the game you shouldn't play it!"
That couldn't be further from the truth! We love the game. It's an absolute blast to play and we are constantly trying to get together to make it happen. The agony of not being able to make it is where my complaint originates. Ultimately, I love the game so much, I would have been more than eager to buy up some of their game money cards (real money for fake money) just to buy some of the cooler planes/cars that I could use in the game, but we're so infrequently able to actually play together in a lobby that it just wasn't worth it. I've got to believe that Rockstar is aware of the potential losses that their issues are generating, but then again... maybe they feel like they're already making enough.

So then... there's the actual service that all this runs on, which is required for any online console gaming to work at all.

To say that I am disappointed with Xbox Live is an understatement. On more than one occasion now, when I finally fall onto the couch and crank up a game with my friends, I am not surprised to find that my Friends list has gone down, party chat doesn't work, the dashboard locks up, or sometimes... if I'm really lucky... a combination of all the above!

On top of that, my latest interaction with LIVE included an attempt to purchase the video game Evolve to play with my buddy online. The Xbox Store replied with "Thanks, but no thanks." That's right, they wouldn't let me buy the game. It just wouldn't purchase. Their support acknowledged a problem, which then stretched on for over two days. I ended up buying a digital code from GameStop and then entering the code into my Xbox to download the game.

In the past 9 years of gaming online with my friends, only in the last year has my default response to someone asking me to play changed from "Sure!" to "We can try!"

But don't worry. There's enough vinegar to go around!

Mobile Gaming

What in the world is happening with mobile games? Sure, the "Free to play" mentality has created it's own genre of games, some of which work to great success (here's looking at you Clash of Clans), but what good are these games when they fail to load or function on my devices?

I present to you, the great sadness of Skylanders Lost Islands. It's a free to play game that revolves around "building" a villages and buying up new islands while unlocking your skylander characters to level up and unlock new powers. It's a great game and interacts well with the physical toys that have made Skylanders into one of the top grossing video game franchises in the world.

I head over to the Google Play store and grab the game, waiting patiently while the App downloads to my Nexus 6. When it finally finishes I am greeted with the knowledge that this game can't get past the developer's splash screen before it crashes back to the home page. That's right! The game is literally unplayable for me. Logic would dictate that this must just be a bad install. Add in my wife's Nexus 6? Same result. What we've got here is a situation dangerously close to the GTA online nonsense that I have to deal with on my gaming console. It's a good game locked behind what appears to be some backend issue that prevents me from reaching the actual functionality of the game itself!

For the past week, my gaming experience has mostly been me spending a half hour or so trying to get a game to play and being met with only failure on every end.

Now, I am able to play Skylanders: Trap Team with Amanda without any kind of game crashing issues and I'm sure that there are plenty of other games out there that work just fine despite my horrible failings with the games noted above. I guess I'm just confused as to why I am running into these problems more and more with each new gaming adventure I undertake.

*SIGH* Okay... I'm done with my internet rant. I doubt there's an answer to my pleading questions, but I hope that other gamers like myself are seeing this problem and that in time it may resolve itself... maybe?!

--Oh, side note: Xbox Dashboard revamp. PLEASE!

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