Setting the scene for those who don’t know me. I’m a senior manager in a global company who is respected for my professionalism but this respect would be endangered if I let everyone know about my love for video games. Gaming is as bad as being in Fight Club because we can’t talk about it in society and I blame multiplayer, casual multiplayer to be specific. I just don’t understand it’s place in gaming anymore other than as a mind numbing waste of time.
It’s easy for me to trace this burning hatred for casual multiplayer. I had just finished playing through the single player campaign for a game that I would still consider one of my best gaming experiences, Quake 2. I waited in anticipation for the announcement of Quake 3 wondering how I could improve on the second game in the series. When the announcement came I was disgusted, it was Quake 3 Arena, a multiplayer only game. It may not have been the birth of online multiplayer but it was definitely the signal of a large shift in gaming developers focus. Due to the success of Quake 3, even to this day, the vast majority of games released afterwards dedicated a large part to online multiplayer or in a similar fashion to Quake3, actually was a purely multiplayer experience.
At this point I need to say just how much I love co-op gameplay, as it still involves a storyline, a campaign, a sense of experiencing character development in a fantasy world. In my opinion, this is the direction games need to be aiming, not simply churning out map packs, after map packs where you simply kill anything that isn’t on your team for points.
Since it’s due for release a couple days after I am penning this opinion piece, let’s pick Halo Reach as an illustrative example. The Halo universe that has grown up around the series is fantastic and some hold it in the same regard as the Star Wars and Star Trek universes. The campaign can be played through as a co-op experience and it will be a story that I can talk about with anyone else who plays through it. I’ll be able to fondly discuss set pieces and pivotal points in the story in the same way I can talk about films and books and if that was where it ended I think that the whole gaming hobby would be more respected. However, that’s not even half the story with Halo (or any other release these days) as there is online multiplayer. Select multiplayer mode, choose character skin, weapon class, disengage brain and prepare to shoot at anything that moves. Repeat until next major release, give me a break!
I’m going to wrap up by way of a disclaimer as this rant is aimed at a very specific part of the multiplayer community, the casual multiplayer. If you are part of a clan or a group of friends who get together to play multiplayer, then that’s almost like a sport and is much more acceptable. Just popping in the disc and choosing multiplayer modes as a lone wolf for hours, days, weeks on end is the image that society has of gamers and it’s the part I struggle to understand these days. When there are so many enjoyable story driven campaigns why are so many gamers ignoring them, instead choosing to frag strangers over and over again?