30 April 2010

My Multiplayer Phobia

So yesterday Vic and I rolled up our sleeves and dove controller-first (not head-first) into Lost Planet 2. We played a bit of split-screen co-op. Vic has a 52-inch plasma that has single-handedly made him nearsighted. Yet, in LP 2's co-op play, we had to make due with split screens that were at best 17 or so inches across. Much of the screen, for some inexplicable reason, was taken up by 1. black space and 2. a pair of useless compass-map things.

I couldn't tell where I was, or who or what I was shooting at. We endured a few missions together, then I cabbed it home, promising Vic that I'd jump online and play over the Net with him.

As soon as I got home, I ate a pickle. Then I fell fast asleep with one of my cats curled up on my chest. I woke up around 6:30. I turned on the Xbox, and got Lost Planet 2 working. I texted Vic, asking him if he was ready to go. He said he was busy downloading the Halo Reach beta, and that I should join him there. I said, "No."

Now I'd read that Lost Planet 2 really doesn't offer much in the way of a single-player experience. No matter. I tried to play a bit more of the campaign on my own, with three A.I.-controlled partners rounding out my party. The A.I. was just fucking worthless. I had to do everything on my own. Idiots.

A few hours later, presumably after he'd tired of Reach, Vic pinged me. He was ready to get online. Suddenly, I was overcome with some kind of videogame inertia. The last thing I wanted to do in the world right then was go online and play more Lost Planet 2. I don't know how else to put this other than to say this: I simply was not in the mood.

And that's my problem with multiplayer gaming in general. I need to really feel up to doing it in order to, you know, do it. I despise all the time-wasting you have to do in lobbies, waiting for other players to check in, or log on, or update their 360s or whatever. There's always a ton of farting around that needs to happen in order to make a multiplayer session work. There is nothing I hate more than sitting in front of my TV, stupid headset on my head, waiting for someone to join my party.

I can feel myself slowing inching towards death in these moments. This is the exact opposite of a good time for me. And this is the exact opposite of why I enjoy playing games. I play games because I want to get wrapped up in the fiction; I play games to escape. I play games because, frankly, I need a break from the world, and, to be more specific, from people in general.

People. I love them, but sometimes they wear me out. Even my closest friends.

I also despise the inherent competitiveness of multiplayer gaming. Even in cooperative situations, like Left4Dead, there's always that load-out screen, where kill numbers are tallied and your performance is quantified via various stats and data. I call this the Mine Is Bigger Than Yours moment. And yes, I hate it.

Vic, partly out of frustration, texted me last night saying, "I'm adding multiplayer gaming to your list of phobias." And you know what? I think I do have a weird phobia around it. I absolutely dread it.

I attribute some of my dread to the fact that I grew up with a brother who was only a year younger than I was. In school, in sports, he and I competed constantly. It felt like the first 18 years of my life was one long competition.

So I don't seek out competition now, not actively. Yes, it's nice if you're at the top of your friend leaderboard for Street Fighter IV. I don't want to fight you. I don't want those Mine Is Bigger Than Yours moments. I don't need them. So you guys have your fun online. I'm happiest, and most comfortable, playing offline, solo, doing my own thing. Seriously, I am.


  1. If you had the time to play would you do so ? In most cases I simply don't have the time to play and with any online game the more you play the better your character or your skills get.

  2. I couldn't agree more. I think there are basically two types of gamers:

    1) The competitive gamers - They play anything where they can beat someone else and feel superior. Real time strategy, Peer vs. Peer (first person shooters/MMORPGs), CO-OP, Fighting games, and Sports/Racing games. Of course they dabble in other genres but only if there is something in it for them. Fastest times, achievement points, speed runs etc. As long as there is competition and measurement in a game against other people they are interested.

    2) The escapist gamer. - They want to immerse themselves in the fiction of the game. To experience the narrative,world,characters,conflict,resolution and the interaction between these elements. Their participation with a game is much more akin to the literary experience of reading a good book. They don't shun others players but do not seek them out unless they add something. If another person adds nothing to a game they are superfluous. This can sometimes be confused for aloofness but it is not.

    I'm the latter type of person and wish that most of my friends understood the difference between types and accepeted it. Unfortunately the adrenally driven male gamer is not known for his understanding.

    I wouldn't mind to reading your take on trophies/achievement points too, Scott. I think they are a clever invetion by sony/microsoft to give a sort of credence to an activity that is essentially unproductive. People don't like to feel like they are wasting time and the trophies boost a person's self worth by saying they are not. If you really look at it objectively you realize how ridiculous it is. Imagine getting 100 points for counting the number of times Frodo is written in the Lord of the Rings which is essentially akin to what is done in games today.

  3. This made me laugh, Joel R.: "Imagine getting 100 points for counting the number of times Frodo is written in the Lord of the Rings which is essentially akin to what is done in games today."

    Great simile. Or metaphor.

    You know what I mean.