Natchez gamer joins video game craze with thousands online

Published 12:18 am Sunday, February 28, 2010

When Joseph McDonough plays Halo 3 on his Xbox, he doesn’t just play with just a few of his buddies, but rather with thousands of acquaintances from around the world.

McDonough is part of the gamer craze that has swept across the world and allows video gamers to communicate and play against others across the globe via an Internet connection.

“Xbox Live is the biggest gaming community out there,” said McDonough, who is a sophomore at Co-Lin Natchez. “At any given night there is at least 800,000 people online playing. There’s a global map that lights up where people are playing.”

And of those hundreds of thousands of people, McDonough is one of the better Halo 3 players.

Halo is a video game that consists of a battle between the human race and aliens.

It is considered one of the best first-person shooter games ever created.

Halo 3 is the third in the trilogy of games, and the game McDonough enjoys playing the most.

He recently competed in a national Halo 3 tournament sponsored by the video game retailer GameStop.

After advancing through the regional round in New Orleans, he advanced to the national finals in New York City last December, where he made it to the final eight players before being eliminated.

Not bad for someone who has only been playing Halo 3 for approximately two years.

“I used to play Madden and NCAA Football but my cousin Matthew got me into Halo,” McDonough said. “I started playing it and got really good at it.”

After improving his game skills for about a year, McDonough began playing the game competitively about a year ago, and made some pretty good money from it.

“I play in a lot of competitions online,” McDonough said. “I’m going up to Senatobia (in late February) to play in a tournament. I’ve probably made about $3,000 off the game.”

That’s pretty good money for a college student, but it’s nothing compared to what professional gamers make.

Yes, there is a professional gaming league, called Major League Gaming, which has tournaments all over the country for serious gamers.

“Tournaments sponsored by Major League Gaming cost about $240 to enter and the winner will get $20,000,” McDonough said. “The champion at the end of the (MLG) season will win $100,000.”

Though he is not a professional gamer, McDonough will dip his toe into the pro gaming world when he competes in a MLG tournament in Nashville, Tenn., March 26-28.

But McDonough doesn’t harbor any thoughts of being a professional gamer anytime soon.

“I’m not good enough and it takes too much time,” McDonough said. “To be a pro, you have to play pretty much every day.”

Instead, most of the time McDonough plays for enjoyment online against someone in the vast Xbox Live network.

The Xbox Live network operates like Facebook.com in that people sign on with a screen name and can send messages or chat with one another in addition to competing against someone else in a video game.

“I’ll get on and talk to people for awhile and then start to play,” McDonough said. “I don’t get online every single day, but usually several days a week.”

And when he does get online, there is never a shortage of people with which to communicate and play Halo 3.

“You can randomly get matched up with others to play against who are good,” McDonough said. “You can go to the different play lists, do a search and randomly pick someone to play against.”

And some of those random people are professional players.

“You know who the pros are and you get excited when you play against them,” McDonough said. “Some of the pros will charge people to play against them, and they’ll critique their game and give them tips on how to become a better player.”

But McDonough isn’t always playing against random people he knows only through a screen name.

He has also made friendships through the online gaming world.

“The guy I mainly play with is Weldon Ming, who lives in Senatobia,” McDonough said. “We’re good friends and get together when we can.”

McDonough has also developed a friendship with Brian Shaw, a Syracuse, N.Y., resident who helped him get started in the competitive gaming world.

“We met up about a year ago,” McDonough said. “We played a lot online and became friends. He really helped me get into competitive gaming.”

So while McDonough and most others play Halo 3 and other video games in solitude, they have a bond with hundreds of thousands of others who share their passion for video games.

“It’s amazing how many people are a part of the gaming community,” McDonough said. “And it keeps getting bigger.”