I recently played the Xbox One's new game Sea of Thieves for several hours with my colleague Paul Tamayo. I had never played the game, though I love pirates and boats so much that I felt like I've been playing it all my life.
The game is as much a chat room as it is a multiplayer pirate action game. It forces players to be mindful of their companions, and to communicate with them. You communicate so much about what is happening in the game that you just can't help, you know, having conversations about anything and everything. I've seen some players calling it "repetitive" and bemoaning the lack of "lore" or a rich "endgame".
I think that's true, though it's also missing the point. I do believe the point is that this game is a canvas with a base coat of pirate-coloured paint upon which friends and aspiring professional internet jokesters can slather the heavy gravy of vocal jesting. The game is a stage for theatre. It is a good time to play and stream. It is smouldering fuel for hot content.
Also, it warms my heart to know that somewhere, this weekend, four bro dudes will be on a boat in this game together, and one of them will say hey, the sunrise looks nice, and the others will be like "Yeah, dude." That rules.
In order to spare you having to watch the full "several hours", I have condensed this video down to 48 minutes, in which I learn how to sail a boat, swing a sword and play "Ride of the Valkyries" on a squeezebox. At one point, we engage another two-player crew's ship in combat. We win, though on a sheer technicality. We very much enjoy that technicality.
Here are some of the topics we discuss while playing:
• That ludicrous display last night • The latest issue of Heat • Putting the fire with the rest of the fire • The "Internet" • I say to Paul "Hey dude, look at me. Hey, hey, where are you? Oh, there you are. Come over here. Hey ok now look at me. Just turn around dude. Turn around and look at me. Come on. Look at me." [He looks at me.] "I'm the captain now lol." • The Fast and the Furious film franchise • Sea of Thieves, the video game by Rare, which is available now for Xbox One and Windows
One neat thing that occurs to me while writing this is that I never learned how to fix holes in the ship's hull. Every time we started taking on water, Paul immediately volunteered to patch up the leak.
I now consider the fascinating possibility that I could play this game for hundreds of hours, have great success at its many quests, be helpful (and musical) enough to never generate a complaint from my crewmates, yet never learn how to perform some of the most basic actions. Wow. It's not every day that a video game permits me to summarise my entire adult life in one paragraph.