Hitting 50 (My Sorta Review of Star Wars: The Old Republic)

In case you haven't noticed, I play video games. I have since I was a little kid; where as some boys go play catch with their dad, I played Centipede with my dad. A memory of childhood pride came from when we had the church youth group over to have a video game party... and had 5 different TVs and game consoles set up throughout the house for people to play on. My dad was a gamer before the term existed.

In college, my friend Dug Bratcher introduced me to EverQuest. When I graduated and moved to Nashville, I spent my Saturdays play City of Heroes. Last year I dabbled in DC Universe Online when it came out. But, truth be told, since I play so many games I never really devoted the time to these MMORPGs that they required... so I never tended to get out of the mid-level rut.

This past December, Star Wars: The Old Republic came out on December 20th and - for preordering, I got it a week early. Which happened to be a few days after building a brand new computer (my old budget computer bit the dust after 5 years). And only a few days before I my Christmas vacation began. In other words, the timing was perfect:

Star Wars: The Old Republic had my undivided attention. And wow, did I ever play it.

It was exactly what I needed. It was the first I really checked out, unplugged, and just tore into a game since before I married my beautiful wife (crazy, I know, but I actually enjoy her company MORE than I enjoy video games!). She had to work... I didn't. For the first December since 2006, I had no school.

And, finally, I hit level 50. I maxed out the game. Getting to that max level in any MMORPG is big time geek cred. Getting there before the game is even out for a full month... yeah, I have to admit it's quite an accomplishment on my geek bucket list.

So - was the game any good? Was it worth pouring, literally, hundreds of hours into?

Yes - very much yes!

If you are a strong fan of things Star Wars, this game if for you. If you are a fan of MMORPGs, you need to give it a shot. And if you want a taste of the future of entertainment... then you owe it to yourself to play if for a month.

If you follow video games, you know the other big game of the holiday season was Skyrim. I bought that, too. Last week, I finally got around to installing and trying it out. The gameplay is similar to SWTOR - perhaps even better. The graphics are better (after installing a few mods). There'a actually probably a lot more to do in Skyrim. But... it was lacking one major thing:

Community.

In Skyrim, you're a lone character in a world that your actions effect. In SWTOR, you're a part of an entire community and economy. You can choose to help newer players out, or you can choose to cruise around your Imperial Fleet in a 1,500,000 credit landcruiser that basically just says "yeah, I've got more free time than you." And people will flock to see what the polygons on your new ship look like.

In Skyrim, you play a game and can talk about it to your one game-playing friend the next day, or maybe even tweet about it. In SWTOR, the moment something cool happens you can tell your guild and they repsond as a peer, knowing and understanding WHY that thing is cool. You don't have to explain yourself.

Microsoft took the first step with this kind of deep integration via the XBOX 360, with achievements. I'm sure their next console will make the metagame go even deeper. The community that forms around integrating entertainment and friends is one that has been around for years (tailgating at sports events) - but the geeks finally have enough influence to be making some of our passions be the norm.

Or, at least, find people who are 'normal' like us.

Star Wars: The Old Republic managed to keep my attention for more hours than, literally, any other game I have ever played. The gameplay we familiar, the story was stellar. And now, I have a level 50 character named Darth Tanarus Linnaeus who is simply awesome.

And this week? This week I started my second character...