Lets cut the academic bullshit and get straight to cold hard facts: multiplayer is bullshit and we’ve known it for years. So why do we keep paying for that crap?
First things first, I’m not being bitter about my apparent ‘lack’ of skills when it comes to 360-no-scoping 7-year-olds online. I’m damn good at that and I have nothing to hide. But no, the real issue here is that developers are starting to rest on their laurels and put more of their effort/money/focus into multiplayer – an area of gaming that involves no structural narrative or thought process at all. Apparently.
Secondly, I’m not ONLY targeting modern warfare based FPS titles such as the Call of Duty’s and Battlefield’s of our generation. I’m looking at games that were initially brilliant and original but have since fallen into the trap of thinking that every single gamer out there needs to get online and fight real people to level up some imaginary e-peen.
The titles that spring to mind here are the Assassin’s Creed’s and let’s be honest, the colossal fuck up that is The Elder Scrolls Online. These online, co-op modes often seem slung together with very little thought or ingenuity wrapped around its lagging and unfinished form, leaving players with an overwhelming sense of frustration and unfulfillment. Is this really the fun playground you imagined as a kid when you said you wanted to play video games with your friends?
It’s unfortunate that with the growth in technological capability and the recent boom the gaming industry has seen that developers are shitting out the same old cheap tricks to try and keep gamers in the door and online. DLC, map packs, free weekend events, even NEW installments to the franchise have been criticised as a poorly concealed multiplayer add on. Taking this back to COD momentarily, let me give you a quote from a preview for Advanced Warfare that sums up my sentiments to a tee:
“Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare multiplayer is COD plus Titanfall plus GTA Online”
… and this is said as a positive thing?! I’m supposed to believe that the newest COD multiplayer is innovative and “different” by immediately stating how similar it is to other, more diverse games on the market? What total bullshit. I’d like to think that at this stage of boredom I feel following new COD announcements that no preview, review or sing song will ever bring me back around to the franchise, but one HONEST review and one UNIQUE title could change everything. It’s a shame that will never happen though.
But that isn’t to say I have avoided multiplayer games my entire life, because that would be a downright lie. In fact, a disgusting quantity of my time has been online amongst other like minded individuals – in that none of us had a job, a group of friends or any discernible reason to be offline at that given moment in time. Some games even thrive on multiplayer with it being at the core of their design by actively programming it into their infrastructure. Hell, way back in the day players were treated to multiplayers like a gift from the gaming gods with golden nuggets like Counter-Strike (1999) and DOOM (1993) – what was arguably the first multiplayer game of all time (if we ignore arcades games and focus on what could be considered as the earliest form of Esport/networked multiplayer).
Surely the titans of multiplayer games should be hailed as the MMORPG’s that attract millions of witless, financially encumbered citizens everyday? Why are World of Warcraft and DOTA being labelled as addictive nerd factories when Battlefield and Fifa continue to grow every single year with a hardcore and critically acclaimed audience? These games I will allow (like I have the fucking power) to use multiplayer to their advantage to let players explore online worlds and communicate/play with other people for reasons other that a K/D Ratio.
An even greater example of a game DESIGNED TO BE the perfect online multiplayer is the friend-shooting fuckery that is Team Fortress 2. Perhaps because this is purely multiplayer, and perhaps it is because it has the team of world renowned game designers and producers behind it. But what’s most important in my eyes is the simplicity of its multiplayer. Because that’s all it is. The devs didn’t fuck about with campaign modes, they just got to the good stuff immediately and created a game solely for attacking random people all over the world.
In order to make this Confession, I did some digging online and I found a hilarious amount of forums dedicated to the art of ‘multiplayer complaining’. Batman: Arkham series. Dragon Age Inquisition. Advanced Warfare. Every single multiplayer. Being bad a multiplayers. A pattern emerges… a once happy and vibrant community of multiplayer enthusiasts are getting frustrated with the influx of half-arsed content. And whilst some games exist on the market without the repetitive trope of multiplayer tag-on modes, you’re more likely to stumble across a competitive gameplay mode in video games in 2015 than you are to have a well-functioning bowel movement.
Lets break this down another way, and please, correct me if I’m wrong. Payday 2 comes out in August 2013 as a sequel to the largely successful single player heist-orientated Payday. After fans develop a taste for single player heists with 3 of the most incapable AI robbers possible, the newest addition to the franchise allows the players to team up and complete heists with more precision and friendship.
One month later on the 17th of September, Grand Theft Auto 5 is released and shatters records worldwide for its opening weekend of sales. So why, in October that same year, is GTA Online released to the world, seemingly copying those ‘heist’ styles missions from the pre-dating Payday series? Well, because it worked for one video game series, so why not tack it on everywhere else? The developers at Overkill, the masterminds behind the Payday series, had this to say on the growing pressure from larger game franchises moving in on their territories…
“We don’t want to do Payday 3 and Payday 4 and Payday 5: Advanced Combat or whatever… From our perspective we just welcome the challenge. Any competition can only make our game better.”
So whilst I’m certainly not the first person to complain about the over-saturation of the online multiplayer market, I definitely will not be the last. To me, what seems to have been lost from the old arcade generation of multiplayer games is the sense of hype and community you would feel around a game. Nowadays, with every single game generating what is arguably carbon copies of each others multiplayer modes, the gaming industry seems to be focusing more on competition and isolation amongst its players. Whether this pattern has lead to the recent popularisation of professional Esport competitions is anyone’s guess, but they’re certainly related.
Just give me one game with competitive warfare. One game without zombies. One game without fighting. And perhaps I’ll be on board. For now, I’ll get my multiplayer fix from 17 hour games of Monopoly where I can truly engage with other players on a personal level, instead of imagining personal vendettas against xXpUsSyLoVeR69Xx. But maybe I’m just expecting too much from a world getting drastically more like the dystopias we seem to be playing within… Do I have that ‘Old Man Yelling At Cloud’ syndrome now?