Families: love them or loathe them, we all have them in one way, shape or form. For the most part families are great, but on occasion they can be the bane of our lives. My family though is great. We all get on pretty damned well and usually end up having some great occasions to chat about in days to come. This past weekend for example was such an occasion. My mum’s cousins were over from Canada – not seen them myself in over 10 years, so we all met down at another cousins in Kent for a get together and bbq (note to self: NO MORE BBQ’S!!! I always eat too much). Whilst they all chatted I got the baby sitting duty to my cousins 2 little boys – Fergus and Noah – boy oh boy…they took some work. After a great day there we all headed back home and after a very much welcomed – and deserved – cup of tea I got to thinking about the wider scope of families. I’ve been pretty close to a family near me for some years now – the mum and dad, both my age, and their 3 fantastic kids – and they became a big part of my life when they looked after me when my dad passed away nearly 10 years ago. Every week on a Wednesday evening (work schedules permitting) we get together at their house with several friends and play one of various table top rpg games. Cthulhu – a favourite of mine, Dungeons & Dragons – you name it, we’ve probably played it. For most of us gaming became a big part of lives whilst at school and even though the advent of consoles and home computers now take a big part of lives, we still find that connectivity of getting together for a gaming session all the more sweeter.

How many of us have gotten together with our respective friends and families over Christmas or New Years Eve and played something like Singstar or Guitar Hero? I know I have, and before you know it the midnight hour is upon you and you wonder where that time went. But hey ho – one sip of a glass of champagne and it’s back to trying Freebird on expert again (I swear my fingers were bleeding by the end of the party). Probably the biggest event for me last year was after when I’d just joined the Fragdolls UK forum. After lurking in the forums for a while I got invited to attend one of their DS meets in London. We all met at the Trocadero for some arcade action, then moved onto Nando’s for some lunch (you would never believe how hard it was to get a simple burger out of these guys…) and finally to a small pub that we took over for the evenings session. It got so hectic that some of us had to resort to playing darts! Would you believe it?! But the end result of that day’s event was great – new friends made and the knowledge that there would be more events to come in the future. A short time after that came an invite from Dan asking if I’d like to join the ready-up.net community – I didn’t even need to think about it and said yes before he had time to reconsider it (bet he wishes he had now). Since then our ever growing community has gone onto to do things like multiplayer GRAW 2 and Vegas 2 sessions online (many thanks to Kate for helping get things sorted out and being able to join in eventually) and then to get asked to review some new games…what else could you ask for? Ready-up is like a family – we get together for events (check out our coverage of the i33 event and soon Tiny Shaz’s tournament debut) and have a great time laughing at each other’s attempts of being the last man standing on a map – apologies to anyone I’ve accidentally shot on the back of the head.

Some of my closest friends I’ve made whilst playing things like Star Wars Galaxies (I curse SOE for that stupid combat upgrade – my ship building business died because of them…all my customers left the game!) or beta testing World of Warcraft – even to this day several of us still join the new games that are becoming more frequently released and have long debates on the beta game status and decide whether we should all join it when it goes live or just toss it into our lost game collection. Infact I really need to delete some files from my pc – I still have WoW installed on it and I’ve not played it for over a year.

But whatever our personal circumstances are in this modern era, one thing stays the same: the enjoyment of something like a game can be so much better when experienced with others, with friends. My friends still haven’t forgiven me for what I like to consider as one of the best ever gaming moments in history (they still don’t like talking about it – infact they even try fooling themselves it never happened…but it did) during a 4-player session of Goldeneye on the N64. Whilst they were all running around inside a room trying hopelessly to take each other out I made me way up onto a walkway that ran around the outer edge of the room, strategically throwing remote detonating mines around them in the middle of the room below. Seing my chance I took it and pressed the detonator and BOOM! All their screens went blank and in unison they all turned to face me with an incredulous look on their faces hardly believing what had just happened. I for one am considering getting that moment immortalised in something like a tattoo – I know I’ll never achieve something like that again. This moment was only eclipsed when my friends 12 year old son whipped his butt on Guitar Hero – he never plays it now…can’t live the humiliation down (so he says, but we all know he’s just scared). Ah…the memories.

That’s just a minuscule slice of my experiences I’ve had throughout the years, and I’m sure there will be lots more to come, with many of them being during an organised event with my new ready-up.net family. With that in mind I’d like to throw out a few messages of thanks to some people.

Dan – for the initial invite to ready-up.net and his continued patience and understanding.

The FDUK girls – if not for them and their site I certainly wouldn’t have met some friends I now have.

Matt, Traycie and the kids – foe being there when I needed them and for those great New Years Eve events – here’s to the next one (and no doubt Rockband will be on the menu for that party).

And finally – the ready-up.net community. It’s good to know that there’s a great bunch of people out there to share some great gaming moments with, and I’m certain that with our family continuing to grow the way it is (as the song title goes) that things can only get better.