Video gaming is a very diverse world. One dark corner of the video gaming world is the Player versus Player or PvP sector. Before we can shed light on PvP’s corner of the video game world, I feel the need to answer one question “What is PvP?
In the course of answering this question I plan to touch lightly on the history of PvP in video gaming. I then will talk about the singular technology advancement that led to the modern day PvP spectrum. Finally, in a later installment, I will outline what that spectrum looks like in our modern times.
Early PvP Gaming
In a simple description PvP gaming is anytime one player of a game is put in an adversarial relationship to another player of that game. Thus, we could look at board games like monopoly and card games like poker as forms of PvP. For our discussion today we are concentrating on video gaming PvP.
The earliest form of PvP would be found in the arcades. For those who don’t remember, or know, what an arcade is I will give a simple description. An arcade is a building set aside to house video games in standalone cabinets along with other games like skee ball and pinball. Most arcade video games allowed for one or two players and often encouraged those players to actively thwart each other. This would be the earliest form of video game PvP as seen in arcade classics like Pong and Mario Brothers.
Soon after arcades became popular there was a growing desire to bring the arcade experience into homes. This engendered the creation of the home video game console and the limited creation of games for the new personal computers or PCs coming on the market. PC gaming focused on single player gaming with a few text based programs allowing player interaction over email, chat rooms and list servers. Consoles however often included two controllers, allowing multiple people to sit down and play with or against each other. This allowed PvP gaming, but limited this interaction to someone sharing the same space with you. Games like this might include Street Fighter, NBA Jam, and RC Pro Am.
People came to enjoy getting together to play games and wanted to have more players involved. Console companies responded by creating peripherals that allowed more than two players as well as writing games that utilized this functionality. Games of this type included Star Fox 64, and updated sports games like NBA Jam.
While consoles were creating new ways for people to congregate and play together in one locale, PC game creators were looking to networking as a multiplayer option. As PCs moved into schools and other networked locations, Local Area Networks or LANs became available. LAN gaming became very popular among those who had access to a network and the equipment necessary to run the games on that network. LAN gaming still required everyone playing to be present on the same localized network, and often resulted in the somewhat hilarious scenes of people dragging entire towers, monitors, and peripherals from one “LAN party” to another.
The Breakthrough – Gaming Networks
The major change in global PvP came when the LAN concept was morphed by game manufacturers into gaming networks. For LANs to work the location providing the network had to maintain all the server and other technology personally. This meant that most LANs were restricted to schools or other large institutions. As computer technology became smaller and more space efficient, game designers came up with the idea of hosting their own server and technology centers that remote users could network into with games on their home computers. Large scale gaming networks were born.
The first gaming networks were notorious for lack of reliability. The technology would often crash cutting games off in mid activity. The first stable gaming network I experienced was Blizzard Entertainment’s battle.net. Battle.net was created to support multi-player gaming over vast distances for the newly released Star Craft and Diablo II gaming titles. Battle.net was reliably stable, until Ahn’Qiraj that is, and became the foundation of Blizzard’s online multiplayer offerings from its inception on. This network demonstrated to the gaming world that global gaming networks were not only possible but highly desirable.
Social functionality in early global gaming networks was limited. Chat channels were the primary communication medium. I remember when playing Star Craft that there was no game provided way to create player groups or as they became known “Clans”. If you wanted to be part of a player clan, you put the clan abbreviation in front of your user name. Hence, KOA, leftover from my time in Star Craft’s Knights of Aiur clan. With gaming networks becoming more and more stable, games utilizing the technology became more complex. One result of this increase in complexity was a blossoming of social options.
Modern gaming networks are omnipresent in the gaming world. No multiplayer game on the PC is released without having gaming network capabilities. The prevalence of PC gaming networks has also been adapted by the console gaming creators and so multiplayer console games also share this reality. Now gaming networks are the bread and butter of most gamer’s lives and for some the very method with which they live those lives.
A Short History Closes
I have endeavored to share with you a small window into the history of PvP gaming. This style of game has of necessity grown along with gaming in general. In today’s gaming world, global PvP is a universal constant. PvP can become a career in E Sports. Creating the next great PvP phenomenon can make a software design company’s name. A PvP flop can break an existing company’s ability to stay on the market. PvP gaming has been with us since the inception of the video game and is here to stay. That is the best reason I can think of to start a journey into the wonderfully chaotic world of global PvP.
Continuing the Journey
This ends my history of PvP gaming, but doesn’t entirely answer the question of what modern PvP gaming is. In my next post I will endeavor to categorize and illuminate the modern PvP gaming culture and play options. Until then, I wish you a fun journey as you continue down life’s path.
May All Your Matches Be Legendary