You know how there are those girls that pretend to like sports/cars/Marky Mark just because their boyfriends are into it? I’m ashamed to admit, I am the male gamer version of those girls. Whenever I was interested in a guy who was into online multiplayer, I would pretend to be as well. They quickly learned the truth when my kill count after a match in CoD was two and my death count was 456. The truth is, up until quite recently, I hated playing multiplayer, especially in FPS’s.
Two factors have forever fueled my loathing of the game mode. Firstly, I grew up long before many of you, when the only way to play games with another person was to have them sitting on the couch next to you, controllers wired to the console, 15 inch television screen cut into fourths, all so we could enjoy the satisfaction of executing the perfect headshot in a round of GoldenEye. Nothing compares to seeing the look on another gamer’s face when you wipe the floor with him, or having to dodge a wayward pop can from your brother when you blue shelled his ass in Mario Kart. I’ve never gotten the same rush from playing a game online, mostly because I feel the need to mute my fellow players to avoid expanding my vocabulary with the current racist/sexist/homophobic slang teens are using.
The second reason I’m anti-online multiplayer? I blow chunks when it comes to first person shooters. I can squeak by in single player thanks to the generous checkpoint systems and AI that favors always being in front of me, but the second other humans are involved I’m seeing red before I can even get my reticule centered on digital flesh. It’s always embarrassing when someone uses their bedroom eyes and coaxes me into displaying my complete lack of skills. It’s the same reason I never juggle knives on a first date. It always ends in tears.
I’m all about personal growth though, so I decided recently it was time to suck it up and find a way to enjoy these games. It’s my own version of submersion therapy, which I don’t think is actually a thing, but unless you have a psychology degree you can keep those facts to yourself. My game of choice – Starhawk. The game already had a few things going for it, being a third person shooter the biggest plus. Throw in the ability to drive speeder bikes, tanks, and mechs that transform into fighter jets and I’m sold. The downside, it’s pretty much just an online game. The single player campaign is a throwaway so if I didn’t like the online stuff, I was out sixty bucks. So I booted up the game, updated it, entered my online pass code, installed data, made a cheesecake, picked the option for a quick game and off I went.
You know what? I like it. A lot! It helps that the first match was a straight up dogfight, Starfox style. There’s something about expecting an on foot slaughter-fest and ending up piloting aircrafts in space that makes my gamer heart beat a little faster. I eventually took it to the ground and found that I enjoyed being able to contribute to my team in more ways than just killing. I gained experience for destroying the other team’s buildings, could patrol in a tank and defend my team’s base. It made me feel like I was more than just cannon fodder. It reminded me of playing Fat Princess, a capture the flag style game where you can be just as helpful fortifying your castle as someone who is on the front lines.
It was in playing Starhawk that I came to the conclusion that my problem with other multiplayer games was not playing with others, or even being complete bunk at shooting. It was feeling like what I did had no impact. In a single player game, you’re the main character, you drive the story forward, you take control. When you play online, you can’t have this same attitude. You have to understand that you’re part of a team, and your role, like it or not, might be a supporting part. When I jump online now, I’m not all about the kill count, but rather helping my team win. That might mean in Modern Warfare 3 I’m hanging back and looking for stragglers or taking over domination points (that’s what they’re called, right?). I’ll continue to be the hero (or villain) in single player. When I’m online, I’ll be content being backup…just as long as I learn to stop being the red shirt of my team.