When Games Matter is a weekly exploration by Drew Dixon of meaningful moments in games. Operating under the assumption that games do in fact matter, Drew seeks to highlight those moments that have much to say to say about who we are and the world we live in.

Growing up my brother and I were always really close. When I was young, I wanted to do everything he did and most of the time he would let me. We played all kinds of games together–cowboys and Indians, ninjas, and of course war (of all kinds but usually we were fighting the nazis).  My brother and I were always on the same team and it was a blast playing with him. We also played videogames together: Zelda, Mario, Contra, Double Dragon just to name a few. These videogames never replaced the imaginary games we’d play, in fact if anything they gave us more ideas. I thought he was the coolest and I still do–my brother is a great guy.  As we grew older and my brother left home to go the University of Oklahoma our relationship changed. Mostly because of distance but also because we were just older and our interests were changing.  For better or worse, it just wasn’t the same any more.

When my brother finished college, he moved to Chicago for a job as a regional manager for a fuel company.  He was out on his own with few friends and little to do other than work.  At some point during this time, my brother bought a Playstation 2 and SOCOM: US Navy Seals and began to play fairly regularly. When he asked me to play with him online, I immediately went to the store and bought the game. I didn’t have anything to consider–it was an opportunity to spend time with my brother.

When we first started, we would play on the same team against random opponents online. We were terrible and we lost a lot of matches but it didn’t matter. We had headsets so we could talk to each other as we played, we would work together planning our attacks and warning each other of potential threats. It was like we were kids again fighting to save the world from Nazi invasion. My brother and I were connecting again, in our game sessions we would talk about all kinds of things but mostly we would laugh and commiserate about how terrible we were.

We each had good friends who played the game and eventually we started playing 2 v 2 private matches. These were epic matches. My brother’s friend was really good and SOCOM is not like other shooters which allow you to respawn into the level each time you die.  In most SOCOM matches, when you died, you had to wait until the game was over and a new match began to get back in.  This made every movement feel important.  It required team work, vision, and strategy.  It didn’t necessarily matter who was the most dexterous with a PS2 controller, what matter was who was sneakier and smarter.  My favorite mode required one team to sneak into the other’s base, set a bomb to detonate, and then escape.  You couldn’t make any mistakes along the way or you were sure to lose.

Our SOCOM matches were intense. It was the team with the best strategy that most often won–you had to work with your teammate or you were sure to be watching the rest of the game as a spectator and leaving your teammate out to dry. These games felt epic–partly because of the way SOCOM was designed and partly because I was playing with my brother. Sadly my brother no longer plays videogames very much but I am glad he did if only for a short time. I don’t ever want to forget what it was like growing up playing games together.


  1. I’m 33 and my sister is 29. She’s never really cared for games much beyond the NES we received as a joint gift in 1987. I played the most, but occasionally we’d sit together and I’d help her get to the warp tunnels or find the Master Sword. Beyond that she lost interest.

    But recently she surprised me by wanting to play Left 4 Dead (zombie kick!). She really struggles with the FPS controls and we struggle to make it through a scenario on easy. She doesn’t seem to believe that I don’t care if we don’t make it and have to start over, but it’s all a blast for me.

  2. I think I know exactly what you mean. I have similar experiences playing Little Big Planet with my wife. I think is better at it than me sometimes but when we finish a level she will get upset if I have more points than her–and I really don’t care–I am just relishing playing with her.

    So you have Left 4 Dead 1 or 2 or both? I was thinking it would be fun to resurrect some L4D matches if we could get a group that would be interested.

  3. I have it for pc, got it for like $5 on one of those steam sales. Looks like I could get it for about $20. If there was a commitment to the idea that would be worth doing. Otherwise, we should stick to what we know I guess or all commit to getting Battlefield 3 at launch ;)

  4. Can’t wait for Battlefield 3. In the mean time, I’m playing Bad Company 2. Can’t stand Call of Duty.

    Left 4 Dead beats out both in terms of raw fun, especially when playing with others in the same room. I wish I could get my bro into it, but he’s too scared of zombies!

  5. Sorry for the double post, but I forgot to mention Portal 2. It has brought me and my brother closer in a way that only solving the hardest of puzzles can. I don’t know if that feeling can be experienced outside of video games.

    My Steam ID is dtk241, if anyone’s interested in a little L4D.

  6. @David I will add you next time I am on Steam. I only have L4D2 though, I don’t have the first game.

    Are you playing Portal 2 on PC? I got it for 360–mostly because I had more friends interested in playing it on that system.

  7. @Drew

    Doh! I got if for PS3 because it came with a free version for PC and Mac, only to find out all of my friends got it for 360.

    And yeah, I’m just as happy to play L4D2 as L4D.

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