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Out of Sync

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I am feeling a bit out of sync gaming-wise. On Tuesday, while the entire gaming world played Titanfall, I was playing Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare. Also a great game, but not this week’s news. In fact, I was trying to catch up to my sons who are now level 20 or 30 in PvZ GW. Much like Titanfall, Plants vs Zombies is suffering from connection issues. Titanfall’s server problems seem to be from the crush of players trying to get on. The issues with PvZ seem more sporadic.

In any case, as a parent I am happy to see my boys playing Garden Warfare. It is a breath of innocent fun. It makes the transition from 2d to 3d while maintaining the spirit of the original. Although I allow my eldest son to play more mature games including Dead Rising 3, I appreciate that he prefers Garden Warfare. Dead Rising 3 is a sick but fun slaughterfest and there are few substitutes when you are in the mood for that type of game. But some scenes, especially those of the psycho boss battles include material that is truly deviant and I am happy that he did not play those sections.

My copy of Titanfall should arrive tomorrow and I will undoubtedly spend untold hours playing online. It seems as though the entire gaming world is turning on Call of Duty. Years of complaints about lagging, modding, cheating and unrealistic gun capabilities have added up and created a frustrated gaming population. Perhaps the situation is simply that there is an enormous audience of people who want to play the premier first person shooter and despite Battlefield‘s best efforts, COD ruled. Until now. Titanfall certainly has the developer pedigree and the right backstory, but it’s time to see how real the claims and hype truly are. I hope they don’t disappoint.

Titanfall Beta

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The Titanfall Beta will end tonight and we will all have to wait a few weeks for the game to come out on March 11. It has proven to be a big hit with my friends and colleagues. It has fared well in the inevitable comparisons to the Call of Duty series. This should come as little surprise as the game’s developer, Respawn Entertainment, was the developer of the Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2 editions of COD (as Infinity ward), two of the series’ best loved games.

Unlike COD and Battlefield in which users benefit enormously from past play and specific experience with maps, weapons and combat techniques, Titanfall is easy to pick up and quick to advance. As there is no prone position and no auto-aiming, there is little camping and no quick scoping. For those of us who enjoy a “run and gun” style of play, this is huge. The increased mobility, both two and three dimensionally especially when combined with the enhanced speed make for a fun and thoroughly engaging experience. Playing with my twelve-year old son is also a better experience than online multiplayer COD as the audience is not as openly rude if you happen to forget to mute everyone. Although the game is non-stop action and is as violent as any other FPS, the inclusion of the Titans and the style of gameplay somehow make the killing less ultra-realistic and somehow by proxy less horrific.

For an excellent in-depth discussion of the beta and the game, please visit Gamespot’s Titanfall: The Pros Weigh In

The Calm Before the Storm

Bordelands 1000OK, its true. I have been a bit obsessed with Borderlands and Borderlands 2 and although they are fantastic games, I must admit that one cannot survive on badassitude alone. Mind you I am not stopping until my current character, the Mechromancer, is at least level 50. I have already played the Siren and Commando to levels 40 and 35. But I need something else. So why not play Grid 2? I have made it through four seasons and the game difficulty level certainly has stepped up. The competition online is always fun as well. I was really enjoying World of Tanks until the beta servers had issues last week and the game came to a screeching halt. It is back online now but all settings were reset and progress erased. And yes, there are several game apps that still keep my engaged, The Simpsons Tapped Out and the new Plants vs Zombies 2, not to mention Scrabble of which I am a true devotee. But it’s not the same.

But we all see the big wave coming. The new consoles, whichever you choose or especially if you get both, will start a spending tsunami as it will be difficult to decide where to spend your money first.

I have preordered an Xbox One, so my game selections are all for this console. Call of Duty Ghosts, Battlefield 4, Forza 5 and Assassin’s Creed 4 Black Flag are all must-haves, since I have played almost every iteration of those games and they are amongst my favorites. Certainly there are many advantages and improvements that the new consoles are touting and that game developers are all exploring to make full use of the new technology. Each game has so many improvements that you really need to visit each one’s website and learn more.

Yeah, I can’t wait to try out the enhanced character customization in the new Call of Duty and look forward to advances like the dual focus scopes, but what I am happiest about are the dedicated servers that hopefully will do away with issues that plague the current game. This new one really does look good.

Battlefield 4 has many new features including the new Commander Mode which allows players to oversee and support their team from a console, tablet or PC. The environments are so rich and complex and the level of multiplayer combat that can be achieved is staggering. I also welcome the Battlefield series’ dedication to be more realistic than its competition, although I must admit that the inherent difficulty that accompanies this realism is not always something I wish to take on. Then there are the destructible environments or what they call “Levolution” which allow players to dramatically change the playable space by destroying skyscrapers and splitting aircraft carriers.

I have spent more time playing games in the Forza series than any other and as a true car lover I am getting Forza 5 on day one. Apart from being a driving simulator, probably still the best one too, this game allows you to be a part of car culture in ways that no other even seriously tries. I love both the Grid and Dirt series, but they do not feature the ability to collect and augment your car collection. Where else can I see a car in a film or on the street and run home and recreate it exactly on the Xbox? Or buy a design that someone else posted? Where else can I see the detailed interiors and exteriors of the world’s most expensive and exclusive cars? And with the level of detail available using the new console, this game will be even better. Adding the Spa Francochamps track and bringing back Laguna Seca prove that Turn 10 knows its audience. Throw in the Top Gear exclusives for insight and humor and the Forzavista mode for pure car photography that borders pornography and there is no way that car lovers can NOT buy this game. Plus the reveal trailer shows racing through Prague. Did I mention that I was born there?

I have played all of the Assassin’s Creed games and thoroughly enjoyed each. My personal favorite being Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood mainly for its amazing locations and for Ezio Auditore, of course, who many believe is the strongest of all of the series’ characters. Assassin’s Creed 4 Black Flag features seamless transitions between ship and walk/run modes which results in much smoother gameplay. The new environments take full advantage of the new consoles graphic capabilities. The attention to historical detail, a mainstay of the series and what make it so unique, is illustrated in everything from the characters to their weapons and clothing, the towns and islands and the ships. Much like reading a good novel, playing a game in this series always encourages me to learn more about that point in history. I can think of no other game that can make that claim.

Now for me, playing those four games is a given, but one of the games I am most eager to try is Tom Clancy’s The Division. The plot line of The Division may be familiar but the execution seems to be top-notch. The trailers that have been presented thus far show this to be another strong contender in the now crowded open-world RPG sandbox arena. The graphics look fabulous as does the attention to environmental detail. The ability for players to join in and play together in various ways and from various devices, similar to Battlefield 4’s Commander Mode, is also enticing. The user interface is beautiful as is the way players gain information from the environment. Add to that the destructible environments, impressive lighting and particle systems and the ability to run through a post-apocalyptic New York City and you have another game that I must have on day one.

And I haven’t even mentioned TitanfallDestiny or Ryse, all of which look amazing. I will save those for another post. You know what we really need? Borderlands 3. Do I really have to wait until 2015?

Frustration

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Gaming can be a great way to get a break from life’s frustrations. We can let our imaginations go free in worlds created by artists and developers and not be tethered by earthly limitations and shortcomings. It is therefore even more irritating when your games create the frustration that you were trying to shake. Sometimes it is the entire game that elicits the frustration due to its bad design or execution. (Yes, I am talking to you, developers of the Loony Tunes Acme Arsenal game.)

There are some instances where the game itself is brilliant but flawed by the execution of certain scenes. A recent shining example comes right to mind in Far Cry 3. I absolutely loved the entire game except for the final boss battles. Without spoiling the plot of the game (which is extensive), I can say that the beautiful and freeing feeling that you get from the open world design where you attack targets and select missions without the pressures of time and physical limitations is completely compromised by these boss battles. The controls are reduced to simple timed button mashing and the entire sequence is scripted and completely unforgiving. To make matters worse, the characters you are battling deliver lengthy speeches prior to each section, so as you make mistakes you hear the same monologues over and over. And you will hear them over and over as the sequences are designed so that the only way in which to know what to do is to have done it before. This same situation exists in several of the Assassin’s Creed games where the free traveling open world is suddenly reduced to scripted button mashing. Luckily in both of these games, the good greatly outweighs the bad.

In the case of Far Cry 3, while the boss battles are frustrating, it is not due mainly to the level of difficulty. In some games, however, that is exactly the case. There are instances that burn in my memory where I was caught in a scene unable to advance and nearly had to quit the game. In the case of The Simpsons Game (for the Xbox) the scene that gave me trouble was beating god at “Dance Dance Revolution“. The timing of the moves in this section nearly made me pull my hair out and certainly made me fight hard not to curse in front of my three sons who were much younger at the time. Eventually, my oldest son figured it out and we finished the game. The web is also a great asset when you get stuck but sometimes even knowing what to do doesn’t really help. After playing through Mass Effect 2, I thought it would be great to go back and play through the first game of the series. I did so until a certain scene where the characters are all trapped on a rising circular platform where I watched my teammates die time after time leaving me to battle a roomful of enemies by myself. I am sure that if I went back today I could find where I am going wrong and finish the scene and the game, but at some point it becomes much less attractive to do so.

Many games contain parts that appear to be much more difficult than the rest of the game. You find yourself questioning whether there was enough play-testing prior to the game’s release. Sometimes you find something that you missed that makes the scene much easier (again, use the web) and other times not. These issues are secondary however to the biggest gripe amongst avid gamers. While playing with my party last night I asked everyone what they considered their biggest complaint when it came to gaming. The unanimous reply came instantly – lag. All those who play multiplayer first-person shooters know exactly what I mean. The situation may exist in many games but the biggest culprit lately is Call of Duty Black Ops II where the effect is especially pronounced. The typical way that it occurs is during gameplay you see an opponent, aim and shoot and then they somehow squeeze off a few shots resulting in your instant death. When the kill is replayed it shows your opponent’s point of view and the action is completely different. They had plenty of time and hit you many times while your shots came too little too late.

There is no doubt that some players are much better than others at deathmatch style FPS games. It is also true that some players will go to extremes to beat the system. These included the use of “Modded” controllers that allow weapons capabilities that they don’t typically have such as rapid fire and auto-aiming as well as unsportsmanlike gameplay like playing on the opposite team and allowing your friends to rack up free kills on you and thereby earning points as well as killstreak rewards for their team. Most seasoned gamers agree that multiplayer FPS games are best enjoyed when they first come on the scene. It takes time for players to find the games’ weaknesses and exploit them. But once the games have been around a while, it’s the Wild West, anything goes.

My last gripe concerns peripheral hardware, and not for the new platforms coming this fall. There are already too many places where we can read about how disappointed people are with what is coming and why they can’t use what they already have. I am referring to the current generation of consoles. I have had great luck with third-party controllers, batteries and accessories. I wish that I could say the same for headphones. I have spent a good amount of time researching what to buy and spent a good amount of money buying the best headphones in my desired range only to be frustrated time and again. The issues usually involve the built-in microphones. I have returned several sets of headphones from two different manufacturers over the last few years when their mics completely stopped working. The headset that I currently use echoes my comments and occasionally others’ sound as well. I have read the instructions and consulted online help threads and not found the answer. The game sound is great, but the echo in the conversation is a constant irritation. And no one needs that when they’re playing.

Do you have a pet peeve that I missed? A game that drives you nuts? A scene that you just can’t get pass in a game that you otherwise love? A hardware or network limitation that is ruining the fun? I would love to hear about it and include it in a future follow-up.

Playing with Your Crew

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One night last week while playing Tiny Tina’s new Borderlands 2 DLC, I asked my sister and a friend what I should blog about next. They suggested that my next topic should be our communal gaming. Why not? We have put in more effort to playing as a team lately and with my boys away at camp for a month, this seems the perfect time to review what team gaming means to me and to my friends.

As I have mentioned in the past, until recently, I have been concentrating on single player games a majority of the time. When my boys are asleep and I play whatever I like, this is what I did most often. I admit, I did play quite a bit of Call of Duty multiplayer but those were all deathmatch-style competitions as opposed to the coop games I am currently favoring. My team currently consists of my sister, an avid gamer to say the least, her daughter who is no lightweight by any measure, and a longtime friend of theirs who knows his way around COD like the best of them.

This team has been playing mainly Fuse and the two Borderlands games lately and having a great time. There is nothing quite like the comfort and ease of playing with regulars. I equate it to a bowling league or local softball team where everyone know everyone and the depth of the relationships only adds to the sense of team and camaraderie. My sister and her friend have been playing together for a long time and I am actually the new kid to the group. Their relationship is the kind of success story that is the antithesis of the irritating and often abusive contact that one frequently encounters when playing with unfiltered opponents online. The fact they became actual friends who spend time together offline — from their online contact is really nice to see, but also probably rare as the PlayStation Gran Turismo racer champions who get a chance to sit behind the wheel of a real race car. But it goes to show that just as some of those online drivers end up being quite good at driving real race cars, sometimes you can make a genuine friend from online gaming.

Online, the world of prejudice and stereotypes is as skewed and muted as often as it is amplified.  Just as some players say things in multiplayer games that they would never say to someone’s face, others let go of the differences between us physically and rely instead on the quality of the interaction with another person to determine whom they wish to play with again. Idealistic? Maybe a bit, but true nonetheless.

If you think this dynamic is only true in the gaming world, you’re wrong.

Finally accepting a friend’s offer to meet for drinks with a group of local regulars I asked him why he continued the efforts to assemble at this local bar. To paraphrase his answer, he said that it was obvious — to get a group of friends together who could disconnect from their daily responsibilities, unwind a bit and share some stories. Not one of these adult men were gamers but it seemed that they all knew about “joining a party” to “chat”. I am not trying to convince anyone with the benefits or shortcomings of the social aspects of multiplayer gaming, they seem self-explanatory and to those who do not play games, they seems equally distant and unimportant as the games. To those who use these technologies, the interaction between players, both inside and outside of the game themselves, is a integral element and will only increase as the new versions of the game consoles are sold later this year and bring new levels of potential player interaction with the integrated Kinect and picture-in-picture apps for example.

Why and What We Play

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There are times when I don’t feel like playing games. There, I said it. But these times quickly pass. There is a good reason why we try to make everything in life a bit more game-like — it’s just more fun that way. Today, we gamers have an impressive array of choices of what type of game to play. There are excellent, stand-out games in just about every category. What we play and when has quite a bit to do with the player’s mood as well as other factors such as how much time is available for play. There are times when we are all charged up and want to drive 200 m.p.h. or take on the whole world in combat. Other times, we are in a more of a quiet mood or feeling a bit down. On a separate note, if you want to learn more about gaming’s role with depression, please watch “Video Games vs Depression” by Danny O’Dwyer on Gamespot. It is educational and makes some interesting observations.

Many factors go into the decision of how we spend our free time. If I have a few minutes to kill while I am waiting for something, for example, I might reach for my iPad or iPhone and play some Facebook Scrabble or The Simpsons Tapped Out. (Yes, I am a little obsessed with these two lately.) But if I have more time and am looking for a more immersive experience I sit in front of my Xbox. As I have mentioned in the past, I very much enjoy the single player modes of a wide variety of game types. Many times when I play this is my first choice. There are so many variations of these single player modes that there is almost no reason to look elsewhere. But limiting your play to single player modes ultimately makes you feel a bit antisocial.

Several of my friends and family members play online multiplayer games nearly exclusively and lately I have been joining in. The difference between playing with strangers and being in a party is night and day. It also typically effects what game you play. Often when I play  Call of Duty Black Ops 2, I play with strangers and usually due to the inane and irritating nature of the chatter, I mute the entire group. Lately, I have found myself with much less interest in leveling up in COD and it is not just due to the ever-increasing lag and tricks, both legal and hacked, that it seems so many players are resorting to these days. There are many reasons why we often focus on a single game for a while until we inevitably burn out on it and move to something else. Personally, my default has always been to play alone due to restrictions in time and interruptions that would ruin a time-sensitive, non-pause-friendly game experience like COD deathmatch.

L1020091-1000Over the last few weeks, I have been playing more with others on Xbox live, especially in parties. Surprisingly, it has not been in COD, but more co-operative games like Borderlands 2 and Left for Dead. Playing with family and friends is a completely different experience than playing with strangers. There is the opportunity for discussions about games or any other subject with people close to you with whom you too often let time just slip by. The connection of party gaming provides a very different type of space where casual conversation can occur naturally. With the reveal of the additional functionality of the new Xbox One, this sphere should become even more immersive. I am definitely looking forward to the addition of Skype and having a Kinect back on my system. I moved our Kinect to the second Xbox as that room had more space to take full advantage of the device and now have to resort to using headphones while playing in parties. I have had many issues with my headphones over the years. Currently, my Turtle Beach EarForce X42s add an irritating echo to anything I say. Others in my party sound fine and do not hear my echo but the result sours the experience. If anyone knows how to correct this problem, please tell me. The Turtle Beach website indicates that this is typically due to issues with the cable or the controller jack. As this happens with any controller, I can only assume that I will be taking these back for a new pair as well.

We have had two Xboxes for a while. We bought our first white Xbox 360 in 2006. Over the years, we have had the red ring of death three times and had each repaired or replaced. The last time it happened was approximately when the new black version of the Xbox debuted and I took the opportunity to purchase a second console. With three boys playing different games, this has proven to be a good investment. Over the past seven years, we have retired two controllers and purchased a few specialty controllers and replaced nearly all of the batteries. This is to be expected as batteries have a limited lifespan and it is hard to complain about replacing controllers that get daily use for four or five years. We definitely got our money’s worth.

Headphones have proven to be a different story. I have purchased all of the headphones that we use from BestBuy and I was lucky to be smart enough at the time to spring for the Black Tie Purchase Protection plan which allows you to swap for the same or equivalent product should you have any issues. This has proven to be invaluable as I have returned three or four pairs of headphones, just about once a year for the last several years. I have had different models from different manufacturers, all of which were highly rated by several sources. Ultimately, every pair developed some irritating problem, often with the microphones. Have you all had similar problems? If you have a solid set of headphones to recommend, please pass it on. I would be very grateful.

One last thing — I just read that the new Xbox One will not be backwardly compatible. While I can understand that the new core architecture doesn’t allow for the playing of Xbox 360 games, it seems more than a little ironic that the new system will replace your cable box and Bluray player, but not your existing game console.

The Multiplayer Experience

L1020022-1000The world of gaming is vast and offers a different experience depending on the type of game you play and with whom you play. There are so many fantastic single player games that are well-written and beautifully scripted that one can easily spend all of their time being the star of their own action film. But multiplayer games offer a different level of excitement and interaction.

I am a fan of the single player modes of the blockbuster series like Call of Duty, Battlefield, Assassin’s Creed, Mass Effect and Far Cry. I nearly always play the single player first, although I play the multiplayer modes before finishing the single player experience. There are games such as Battlefield and especially Call of Duty, where diving into multiplayer sessions becomes a daily event. This was also true for me with Mass Effect 3 for a while, but as much as I love them, for some reason not with Assassin’s Creed or Far Cry.

Racing games are another situation completely. As I have mentioned in the past, I am an avid player of the Forza, Grid and Dirt series and even try my best at F1. In each of these, I spend countless hours playing both the single player and then the multiplayer aspects of the games. Forza definitely excels in this arena with the most robust and interesting variety of race types and locations in my opinion. I have also played many of the Need for Speed games although I always prefer the driving feel of the cars in Forza and the Codemasters games. The racing game you play decides much of the type of experience you can expect. The Codemasters games (Dirt, Grid, F1) are very popular with European and Australian audiences and it is often difficult to find enough players at times that someone on the East Coast of the U.S. may want to play. The intensity level of the competitors also ranges widely from game to game. Some games have loyal and dedicated followers who know the tracks and cars so well that newcomers will find it frustrating. I have also found that the level of sportsmanship you can expect to find varies greatly.

L1020027-1000Civility is also something that varies greatly from game to game. I play Facebook Scrabble with a dozen or so strangers at a time. Some of these players have been playing a non-stop series of games with me for years now. A few have proven to be the most polite and thoughtful people with the highest degree of sportsmanship that one can find. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are the small-minded, bigoted and homophobic players that dominate the world of Call of Duty. As much as I enjoy this game, it seems to attract people, especially males, who seem to think it clever and amusing to display behaviors that on the street would get their asses kicked. Some sport in-game logos that refer to the N word and contain various homosexual put downs. The comments made by players in this game particularly almost always require me to mute players that I do not know. It is a sad realization of the stereotypes that non-gamers have of the gaming world. My sister is an avid gamer and owns all of the major consoles. She maintains that the Playstation audience is better behaved and less offensive than that of the Xbox community, even within the same game. I understand that the Xbox community is considerably larger and it makes sense that it attracts all types of players, but it is a sad fact that people (of all ages by the way) act this way in public.

There have been many times when neighborhood kids or family members drop in and we decide to all play a game together. This typically leads us to the realization that there are not many games that allow for three or four players on the same Xbox. There are arcade games, many of which are turn-based that allow for four players on the same box, but the total that allow for four on a screen are much less. We often play Castle CrashersSonic & SEGA All Star Racing or play a round of local combat training in Call of Duty. We used to play the Guitar Hero and Rock Band games often, but over time the guitar controllers have all become faulty. It is a shame because “getting the band back together” was really fun. Maybe it’s time to buy some new controllers.

If you know of great multiplayer games that allow for three or more players on the same Xbox, please let me know using the form below. If you have favorite multiplayer games (or games with multiplayer modes) that I have not mentioned, please send me your thoughts and I will follow up in the coming weeks. All comments welcome.

Drive

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Last week I attended a party for a friend’s birthday and had a conversation with another friend with whom I had not spoken for some time. During that conversation, I asked him how his work was going and he described a recent occurrence with some of his employees where he felt that he was taken advantage of and went on to explain how he handled the situation. He grew his business from the ground up and has had to endure some hardships and disappointments. He explained that it was his inner drive that saw him through. I realized that this point has come up quite a bit lately in my life, both in terms of my own drive and that of my friends and family. I thought it a good idea to discuss what it means in life and what it means in gaming.

Games are all about achievement. Whether the goal is to reach the top, drive the fastest or kill the most enemies, games require players to be committed to the mission in order to win. Some players take this very seriously and spend untold hours playing and replaying to get the highest score, reach the highest plateau, etc. Check the scoreboards on any game and you will see that whatever your achievements, there are players worldwide who are vastly superior and have the high scores to prove it. Many will quickly denounce these people as losers who obviously have nothing better to do with their lives than play games. They must not have girlfriends or wives or families or even real jobs. To spend this kind of time playing any game is unhealthy. What kind of person prestiges ten times in Call of Duty? What I find amusing is that if that person were playing tennis or football or swimming and achieved a similar rank we would applaud their dedication. Their commitment would be seen as something to live up to instead of be embarrassed by.

Drive in life is not that different. We all have friends that we could label as having little drive and we see them as a bit sad. How can they expect to get anywhere in life with so little effort on their parts? Many of us probably have friends whose drive has propelled them to lofty heights in the business world or within whatever sphere they may be involved. We traditionally think of them as specially gifted and set them as examples to live up to. There are certainly many cases, however, where an individual’s drive is unhealthy and destructive to themselves and those around them. We do not applaud the serial killer who hunts his victims for years while evading capture yet it must take considerable personal drive, however insane, to keep their actions undercover and moving forward. So when is drive healthy and when is it not? We don’t have to go to extremes to see the difference either. At the gym you can see people who take it all too far, work out to extremes and think that they look great. To the rest of us they look a bit freakish. Even those with healthy drive need to find balance in their lives – need to balance the needs of their career and their family, need to find balance between commitment to their work and their personal views, etc.

As I have mentioned in the past, I am a huge Formula 1 fan. This last weekend, the second race of the 2013 season, the Malaysian Grand Prix, was held in Kuala Lampur. The winner was Sebastian Vettel, which may not come as much of a surprise to those who follow the sport and know the talent of the young German who is the current world champion and has won the title the last three years. But it is how he won that mars the victory and his career. Here is a quote from Joe Saward’s brilliant F1 blog (http://joesaward.wordpress.com/)

Sebastian Vettel has probably not read much of William Shakespeare. Perhaps he should have done. If he had, he might have known about Mark Anthony’s celebrated speech at Julius Caesar’s funeral, which relates that “the evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones”.

So let it be with Vettel. Sebastian is a highly intelligent and hugely talented racer and until Sunday the worst one could say about him was that he did not give enough away much about his real character, and thus came across as rather bland, despite the odd petulant outburst. He has made some mistakes in his career, but he was never really unsporting in his behaviour. He seemed an honourable man. After Malaysia there is no doubt at all that he is willing to go beyond the acceptable to win races.

What happened is a good example of drive gone awry. The Red Bull Racing team was leading the race with Vettel in second place behind his teammate, Mark Webber. In F1, there are two championships to be won, the driver’s and the constructors. The constructor’s championship is won by the team that earns the most points over the race season. In order to accomplish this, they need to have both of the team’s cars finish as high in the order as possible. F1 is a complicated sport with many rules and technological aspects to juggle. Tire degradation is a key factor as is the fact that cars must finish with at least one liter of fuel or they are disqualified. Because of this fact, the Red Bull Racing team management ordered both drivers to stay in position, in effect giving the victory to Webber. Vettel brazenly disobeyed this order and took on his teammate and eventually took the lead and won the race. At the end, over the radio was heard from the pits “Good job, Seb. Looks like you wanted it bad enough. Still you’ve got some explaining to do.”

After the race, Vettel explained that he had not heard the order to turn the engines down, but few believe it. He apologized to Webber, who was clearly angry and is currently considering his position within the team. His anger clear in his post-race interview when he said “After the last stop the team told me that the race was over and we turned the engines down and go to the end. The team made their decision. Seb made his own decision and he will have protection as usual.” Vettel’s actions not only created further tension between the teammates, but also undermined the authority of the team management, which undoubtedly will not go without further action.

Drive is critical, yet balance is key. It is said that power is nothing without control. So perhaps drive is nothing without balance. I have been considering my own position lately and wondering whether my drive to succeed in gaming is greater than my drive to succeed in my career. Perhaps games fulfill the void that my ego feels towards my moderate career accomplishments. I am not sure if those who are at the top of their game in business, for instance, feel any less of an impulse to beat opponents in other spheres, or perhaps they feel it even more so due to their success.

My wife is one of those who achieves the balance between work and family admirably. She manages to excel in her career while never doing so at the expense of her commitment to her children or her husband. I am not just saying that to keep in her good graces (although it should help). Her parents made sure that they instilled a strong urge to excel in all she does and she is doing the same for her children (with my blessing and help). I asked my wife to review this post before I pushed it live and she thought that I was being too hard on myself.

So before you think that I am one of those underachievers who spends way too much time playing games like COD Black Ops 2, please keep in mind that I have only prestiged four times. 😉

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