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The Lonely Gamer

The term 'multiplayer' has changed dramatically over the last few years. Once it meant you sat with a friend as you played together or against each other. Now, if you're not playing with friends, you can virtually invite a collection of strangers into your living room. Strangers who have no respect for the game you are playing or for you as a human being, playing pointless multiplayers tacked-on to decent single-players, which could largely be improved by dropping the inclusion of being able to play with anyone else altogether.

My experiences of multiplayer gaming since everything went online have largely been soul-crushingly depressing, due mainly to having to play with other people. People are idiots, people are unfair, and frankly too many people are nasty bigoted morons.

I was a relative latecomer into the current-gen world of gaming; it was 2008 when I bought an Xbox 360. Excited, I played a few levels of F.E.A.R, and a little disappointed by its mediocrity, thought I'd have a go at the multiplayer, my first foray into the world of playing with strangers (not including winner-stays-on battles at Street Fighter II in the arcade many years beforehand).

It was generic deathmatch gaming, and after a few kills and deaths I thought I'd have a chat with my teammates. One was nice and polite. One was boring, declaring he was only playing the multiplayer to get all the achievements (I hate this achievement-hungry facet of modern gaming!). Others refused to or couldn't speak. My next game there were many more players, but discussion quickly escalated into a whirlwind of buffoonery and race hate. Seriously, a guy with a thick cockney dialect, having been killed twice in a row, went off the rails and slammed his opponent for not only cheating, but for being 'Indian, or whatever'. I am paraphrasing, the word 'Indian' here replaces a much worse racial slur.

Five years on and I find people are much the same; this was no isolated case. I never use my headset any more unless I play with friends, as it's normally children or Americans attempting trash-talk, an act so ridiculous I fear for the future of humanity. How can someone try to offend with, or get offended by, personal comments from someone they've never met? You people have never met my mum, so describing her sexual antics is like me explaining cold fusion; if you take what I say with any seriousness you are an idiot.

It's not just the kind of person I play with, but also how they play the game that spoils multiplayer gaming for me. Rage-quitting from FIFA 13, simply because I'm beating you 3-0, is pathetic. Despite not being a football fan at all, FIFA 13 is one of the few multiplayers I'm happy to play. I find the computer-controlled opposition is either too difficult or too easy to play against, so real people provide the perfect fodder for this type of gaming. It is a gloriously unpredictable game when playing against another human, something the AI sorely lacks.

But quitting the game moments before the final whistle is taking the term 'sore loser' to a new level. Not only do I miss out on my points, coins, XP, etc from this game, you've just knackered your DNF (Did Not Finish) bonuses and Xbox reputation - you've wasted my time and yours. I can't believe I have to get angry about this but it happens all the time. I've sat there and taken an 11-0 rinsing before as losing is part of the game, and you still get coins and XP from losing, but nothing from pulling the plug. Why buy the game if you're just going to waste your life, time and money cheating?

Furthermore, when I bought Final Fight from Xbox Live Arcade last year, I wanted to relive my childhood where my brother and I stood ardently for hours at the arcade cabinet, fighting our way through hordes of bad guys, pumping a stupid amount of money into the game until we completed it.

What I didn't want was to play with some random guy who decided to beat up my character (it's a co-op game, moron!!!!) and take all the health power-ups for himself. What transpired was a long tedious fight to the death between him and me, all the while the 'Go!' arrow was flashing, reminding us there was a bloody game to play.

The next person I played with didn't beat me up, he still took all the health, though, but lovingly left all the points power-ups. Aww, thanks for leaving me all the useless crap, mate. Next guy was the same. Next was worse than the first guy. Why does no-one want to play this game properly?!

So, what of the big multiplayer games, the ones that everyone plays in their droves? The ones everybody loves? The Call of Dutys, the Battlefields, and more topically, Defiance?

First off, I am astounded multiplayer games hinging on deathmatch gameplay are so popular – aside from getting new perks or extra weapons here and there, it is largely just run, kill, die, stats, rinse, repeat, on a 10-minute cycle. I just find it so boring.

I have enjoyed Battlefield 3 before, roaming around with friends in tanks or on foot, working together blowing stuff up. And the same with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, determined to stay with the in crowd I learned how not to be terrible at this game and enjoyed it. For a bit.

Both these games gave me about an hour of enjoyment, before I took a peek into the future and saw myself still playing these games weeks later having not advanced anything anywhere. I love a game to have a decent story, direction and sense of achievement, and spending forever in a deathmatch lobby does none of this. Whether I spend ten minutes or ten weeks playing these games online, the endgame is the same – I'm still just a guy running, shooting, killing, dying and waiting.

I don't like to feel forced into multiplayer gaming during a single-player campaign either. Resident Evil 5 and 6 give you an AI partner if you decide to play the game by yourself, and they invariably get in the way and halt enjoyment of the whole story. Seriously, you don't need them. Go away.

Recently I have made it my mission to get into multiplayer gaming with a more relaxed attitude. The gaming world overtook my nice, comfortable little bubble of single or local multiplayer gaming overnight and terraformed the landscape into an expanse of people and gaming styles I am uncomfortable with. Now single-player gaming is sadly on a decline, and companies have realised that a multiplayer game will sell on average twice as much at least as a single-player only game. I feel the hobby I've had since I was a young child is being taken away from me, so it's perhaps time to convert or die. A couple of friends of mine had recently purchased Defiance, and offered me a place in their clan. I accepted.

It is my erstwhile hope to get into multiplayer gaming, but Defiance isn't the way to go. I've not played such a glitchy, buggy and clunky game since Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, and at least that game had a point. Missions fall into one of three kinds; i) go to point A and kill some mutants, ii) go to point A, place something at point B and kill some mutants, or iii) go to point A, defend person B and kill some mutants.

The obvious draw of this game is that I get to do it with friends, or at least with other real people, but so what? The game is annoying and boring to play, and only really has an overall plot in which you never really feel like you're making a dent, like a typical MMORPG. The fact that I can bore myself to tears in a horribly bugged game with hundreds of people simultaneously has no appeal to me whatsoever.

I know I'm missing something, multiplayer is insanely popular and I'm in the extreme minority by not embracing it, or rather having it embrace me. That is why I have started my quest to try as many multiplayer games as I can in the hope that something will click, and that the people I'm paired with don't turn out to be dicks, that just because I'm not advancing through a game in the same way as I do in a single-player doesn't mean the game is shallow and terrible.

The PlayStation 4 and the new Xbox are just around the corner promising to connect the world even more so than ever before. This makes me feel that soon, single-player gaming will be only reserved for lonely outcast nerdmeisters like myself, as multiplayer gaming will not only be the norm, but it will simply be what gaming will be. Probably.

I'm not overly confident that I will find what I'm looking for, but I will team up and join in with whoever will have me, and fight against the world.

Roister Doister | 25th April, 2013
Misterwoot's picture
Gary my boy, as an MMORPG addict since 2001... you're not alone in your quest.

Maybe Final Fantasy 14 : A Realm Reborn will be the holy grail of asshat free multiplayer?

And maybe Screaming Lord Sutch will rise from the grave, win a landslide election victory and have his dead cat "Mandoo" as his chancellor
Kaostic's picture
I was about to comment and say that I rarely play online games other than with friends.. then I remembered I play MMOs.. Fucking fail.

I totally agree though. When I was an Xbox gamer, I would either have to sit through pre-pubescent abuse or go through the effort of muting people.

I disagree with on terms of Defiance though. Sure it's repetitive gameplay, but so are all MMOs. The missions so far do seem a bit repetitive also, but I really enjoy the environment and gameplay.
Roister Doister's picture
It's kinda my point, I think. MMOs, including Defiance, survive by being able to play with so many people simultaneously, so why bother making the game varied and interesting? Could you say you'd still be playing Defiance if it was how it is but single-player only?
Kaostic's picture
Originally Posted by Roister Doister View Post
It's kinda my point, I think. MMOs, including Defiance, survive by being able to play with so many people simultaneously, so why bother making the game varied and interesting? Could you say you'd still be playing Defiance if it was how it is but single-player only?
Probably less interested but still interested. I've only played with others a few times. But I see your point.

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