On top of that, multiplayer video games are much more accessible. You can play a staggering number of games today, all for the cost of a game console and an Internet connection. (Of course you can also use your PC if you prefer.)
It's truly amazing if you stop to think about it -- especially if you're like me and you've been gaming for awhile. Because in the mid to late 1990s -- barely 10 years ago -- it wasn't so easy. Dial-up was the predominant Internet connection option for home PC users. Playing multiplayer games over a modem is unimaginable now; back then, it was an exercise in futility. The network lag was terrible and game play would usually suffer.
Around this time I remember some coworkers purchasing Quake 1. Everyone started playing the game over the LAN, a Novell IPX network that was just starting to migrate to TCP/IP.
Compared to dial-up, LAN games were great. Lag wasn't an issue, and the capability to play others who sat in the same room or up and down the hall added to the enjoyment. Now if you killed them in the game, you could hear their screams.
So what were we doing gaming at work? Management was actually OK with it as long as we played after hours, when the network wasn't so busy. It became a Friday afternoon event, complete with delivery pizza. We'd play until all hours of the night. Some of us -- particularly if we also spent time playing at home -- would greatly improve by the week.
As noted, it was cool watching watching coworkers erupt in anger and frustration when they met their demises in the games. And it was funny watching some guys on the phone, trying to convince their wives to let them stay longer. But it was also nice getting to know coworkers in a non-work setting.
Perhaps inevitably, eventually people started playing Quake 1 over their lunch hour. Obviously, this wasn't smart. This was a production network, and people were trying to do their jobs. Having gamers shouting up and down the halls wasn't exactly conducive to a professional work environment.
I remember two contractors who were on site helping with different projects being invited to play with the employees. I guess they figured that since it was lunch time, and they were asked to join in, there was no harm.
As the battle raged, the noise levels increased. The manager happened by, and, needless to say, he wasn't pleased. He told the contractors to quickly pack up their things and leave. Then he called their bosses to complain. I don't recall all of the ramifications of this incident, but I do know we had "free" contractors for quite awhile thereafter. All game play was banned, even after hours, forcing us to return to our sadly slow dial-up Internet connections and their lag.
I recall those days fondly. And, despite how things ended up, I don't think it was all bad, even for our employer. Of course gaming shouldn't go on when there's work to be done; we're there to do a job. But on the flip side, being able to relax and enjoy the company of your coworkers in a more casual
environment can lead to team bonding and improved morale. I've seen it. And even today, I've come across offices with a PS3 or an XBOX connected to a TV in a conference room. People still need to blow off steam sometimes.
In any event, unless you have explicit permission, I would advise against playing on the production network during work hours. This goes double if you're a contractor. Even if the customer is always right, think twice if you're asked to join their gaming.