Nowadays, thanks to the wonders of Internet, finding someone else to play against or in co-op with has become so easy that the need of a physical person -hell, the need of that person being your friend- has disappeared. But we must ask yourself, is our gaming better for it? Let’s analyze the pro and cons of online Multiplayer.
On one hand, there’s hypothetically no shortage of other gamers to play with, either as opponents or as comrades in arms. On the other, the quality of such company leaves much to be desired. The lack of face to face interaction and of a bond combined with the anonymity granted by the internet persona pretty much erases most people’s inhibitors, allowing them to be their true selves, expose their ideas and preferences more easily. For some this just becomes an excuse to be most pathetic assholes ever existed.
Xbox Live is become memetic for the negative quality of its gamers. The profanity, the irritating methods, the attitudes towards novices and even specific categories of gamers. I once read on Reddit the account of a man who had gotten harassed and badmouthed by two other players because, using his girlfriend’s account and lacking a headset, they believed he was a female gamer. He was bombarded with insults and, once won the game -teaming with another female player-, the answer of these gentlemen has been to tell the two to ‘go get raped’. Real classy.
And sadly, it seems like this has extended to most multiplayer games. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve had a on/off relationship with Starcraft II, loving it but hating how it prevented me from playing other games, being so addictive. My third return to multiplayer effectively ruined the game for me. After a two on two during which I had declared my ‘noobishness’ and as such that I was kind of rusty, one of the other players -one of the winners, incredibly!- contacted me via PM, insulting me and telling me that I sucked and that I should just uninstall the game. Baffled, I asked the simple question: ‘how am I supposed to get better if I don’t play?’. The answer? I should have practiced with single player campaign. Any Starcrafter worth his salt knows this is a stupid answer, since single player and multiplayer have two very distinct kind of gameplay.
Yeah, that killed my Starcraft II experience something good.
But again, I can’t blame these fools only, since they’re encouraged by the gaming industry. First of all, it seems that nowadays everything needs a multiplayer mode or co-op campaign, no matter how much disk space or how many elements of gameplay and storytelling you’re sacrificing for it. Most of the time what we get is a half-assed job that most people will touch once or twice and then never again. All in the vain hope of attracting a slice of Call of Duty players to expand your market.
Second, most of the times the auto-pairing systems don’t work that well. You can often find yourself facing opponents ranked much higher and with many more hours of gameplay behind them. Even if these people are the most educated of human beings it’s still frustrating, because you don’t get a fair, challenging game. It’s the main reason I almost always played Horde why in the Gears of War multiplayer. In that mode the challenge is provided by the game’s AIs and how well you can cooperate with your team-mates. It forces you to be nice to each other and the level of difficulty steadily raises until you get tired of it or it becomes too much for you.
And lastly, there’s way too much focus on Achievements. There’s always been a culture developed around the concept of knowing every nook and cranny of a videogame, even a very successful Youtube show called The Completionist (Go watch it. It’s very good). I respect and admire that kind of dedication. It takes skill, and patience, but not all players out there are as awesome as Jirard. They don’t understand that getting all the achievements is not what being a completionist is about -these figures existed long before Xbox live, after all- and they ruin the gameplay experience for themselves and others.
How many times, in Dead Island, you couldn’t immerse yourself in the game’s wonderful atmosphere during a multiplayer session because one or more of your companions were doing a speed-run to get a new achievement? How many nights did my brother spend on Left4Dead, playing the same campaigns over and and over again not for the game’s great replay value, but because he wanted to get all those achievements? Many.
Most if not all Achievements are useless, as a concept. I can understand an achievement for the first headshot without a scope, but an achievement for killing my first ten zombies? Why the hell would I want to remember it? Why all these achievements for events that are common to every player, from the most skilled to the most inexpert? And regarding achievements for secrets or hard to complete objectives, what’s the use in them? Since other players are not going to spend hours browsing fellow players’ profiles and checking their achievements lists, and you don’t get money or discounts on the online store or any kind of material benefits from them whatsoever, the only use they have left is to help the player who got them remember he actually did something in that particular game.
So, let me get this straight. All those hours and effort spent in, say, beating the secret boss of a game, and you’re going to need a shiny electronic bauble to remind you of it? The memory of the elated feeling of triumph or how you went ape-shit after you finally did it won’t stay with you? If it doesn’t, I can find only one explanation, and it is that this player isn’t a true gamer.
True gamers do not play for achievements, for medals or ranking boards, they play because they want to do it. Because the game is fun, and they want to keep having fun. Multiplayer and competition is supposed to enhance that enjoyment, not supplant it. Completionists live for the challenge, for the feeling of elation, for the blood and tears and sweat, not to increase a ranking that does not affect your penis size, no matter what the general opinion is. But alas, it seems that’s the general direction software houses want to take the gaming experience towards, addled by the feverish dreams caused by the Call of Duty Syndrome.
- Memories of a Gamer – The Evolution of Multiplayer (meinoskaen.wordpress.com)
- CoD: Ghosts vs. Battlefield 4: All quiet on the FPS front (games.com)
- Why Local Multiplayer? (nintychronicle.wordpress.com)