Come now children, sit down by the fire and let old Uncle Steve tell you about the wondrous world of online gaming. A place of death, loss, dismemberment, and good wholesome fun for all ages. Now, the first rule when playing games online, against other people all over the world, is this – you can shoot them, stab them, blow them up, run them over, drop a building on them and violate them a million ways from Sunday. But you should never call them “n00bs”.
That’s just being mean.
Keeping this in mind, “Pwning N00bs – The PC Gamer’s Guide” makes two rather glaring mistakes just on its front cover, the first obviously being the name. Nobody over the age of 15 (that boast full mental faculties) actually uses the terms “Pwn” nor “N00b” unless it’s some kind of humorous self-abuse. The reason for this is fairly simple – you sound like an idiot and it’s just not sporting. By definition, we were all newbies once, and in more mature gaming circles, using the term as an insult is a fantastic way of getting shunned/kicked.
Furthermore, the scantily clad lady pointing a gun at prospective buyers is more than a little tacky. Again, obviously aimed at the younger/shallower end of the gamer-pool. I only draw these to your attention because it furthers a stereotype of the average gamer that does none of us any favours, and I would quite like it to stop. Now, if possible. Cheers.
Now on to the actual book.
“Pwning N00bs” is a guide to gaming competitively, written in a pleasantly down-to-earth ramble slightly akin to an uncle talking about golf. The first half centers around building a respectable gaming-PC that can maintain performance, without spending the defence-budget of a small country. In this, it just about succeeds – a huge number of gamers today, particularly in my generation, feel the need to throw money at insane rigs that house the kind of hardware that could fly a starship AND make a cup of tea with ease. Thousands upon thousands of pounds are burnt on the alters of the frame-rate-gods with almost no measurable benefit other than bragging rights and a monstrous electricity bill.
And it doesn’t help sell the platform to those console-gamers who see the PC as a big, expensive monster that they will never afford. Times have changed, and a mid-range PC at the moment isn’t nearly as pricy as they used to be.
The book goes over most of the basic hardware concepts – CPU-bottlenecks, adequate PSU wattages and the like – and gives you some do-it-yourself know-how on which to build a modest, yet powerful(ish) system within a budget that won’t kill your bank manager. It does a pretty good job of pointing out a few of the pitfalls associated with system-building, and is written (mostly) in a fairly easy-to-read, easy-to-understand fashion. I would gladly give a copy to an older relative as an introduction to upgrading his PC. If it weren’t for the cover, I mean. I’d get such a slap…
The second half dedicates itself to the actual gaming. Tips on how to go about learning a new game, musing on the ins-and-outs of online etiquette, and making me look like a total fool in front of workmates as I repeatedly yell “BOLLOCKS!” at my Kindle during a tea-break. There is some good stuff in there though; there is some very sound advice about tunnel-vision and how to prevent frustration from ruining things as you move up the ranks. My personal issue, and the reason for the inter-work outbursts, is something far more fundamental than basic gaming-methodology – it’s almost all about Battlefield and Call of Duty.
The words “Most games have…” come up a lot within these pages. What games have a real squad-team function where the squad leader can issue orders? Ghost Recon? Battlefield certainly, but that’s TWO. Not “most”. Spotting enemy players? Er, I don’t think you can spot in “most” games, very few in fact. It also goes into detail on player-roles in FPS games, all four of them. Okay, so it isn’t talking about Battlefield 2, only 2142 and onwards… The book’s description of kit-unlocks is almost exclusively Call of Duty, though. There is a brief mention of Counter Strike round-respawns in there, but it is all very heavily focussed on Battlefield and Call of Duty.
What about racing games? Is the term “pwn” so rooted within the FPS niche that us wheel-lovers don’t get some love? Or what about the RTS crowd? The only place left to hear the word “n00b” thrown around casually is within the halls of the MOBA sub-genre… I mean, yes – they are a nasty, smelly bunch, but don’t they deserve a little acknowledgement? A lot of the mental discipline stuff can be carried over to Starcraft 2, too. Yet, every single suggestion, thought and scrap of advice seems to be attached to a FPS. For a book titled “The PC Gamer’s Guide”, it misses the vast majority of actual PC gamers and genres.
Never the less, there are the nice tips regarding hardware and mentality when approaching the world of competitive online gaming. It’s a tough place in which to be “the new guy”; loss and frustration are the biggest turn-offs for most of us. And despite my opinions on the vulgarity of the terms, you will most likely be called “n00b” and other nasty words. You will lose and maybe even leave – put off by the brick wall of hurt you have to scale to get any better. For that alone, this book is worth the three quid it costs for the Kindle version. Just try not to grit your teeth too much when reading the huge number of quotation-marked slang.
“N00b”? “Pwn”? “Leet”? Damn, I’m getting old.