It has been a long time coming. Slowly the effects of age, time and other factors have killed team deathmatch and competitive gaming for me. But how did this happen? Am I just getting old? Let’s look back over the phases of multiplayer gaming.
I remember when competitive, online gaming ruled my spare time. Starting with Gears of War on Xbox 360. The only previous experience of multiplayer was local in the same room. From Track and Field 2 on my NES, hammering the buttons to win a sprint race, PGA European Tour and its skins challenge to four player Goldeneye and Perfect Dark. Competitive gaming with friends back then was so different.
When you played these games in one room with people you were either related to or knew, there was a feeling of genuine competition. Looking across at the other person when you scored a kill or scored a goal. There was an honest reaction. Depending on your relationship with the person what followed was either smug satisfaction or all out ridicule. One case sticks in my head while playing ISS 2000 on the N64. Owning the game I was the best on it. Because the matches usually ended with me winning, the game changed from being a competitive football game, to me being a virtual end of level boss. I can’t say I disliked the ego boost, but as the group of friends got better, the matches got closer and closer. I had to be at my best each time to win and keep up the streak. It wouldn’t be fair if someone go me on an off day, then claimed the glory of the win. On one occasion I was playing a match with the usual summer group. My doorbell went and the game was paused as another member arrived and came into the house. I un-paused the game and noticed I was somehow one goal down. I flew into a rage, my very honour had been challenged after all the gaming sessions I had hosted and the effort I put in to staying on the top of the pile. What followed was a demolition of the other player. While usually in sports games there is an element of show-boating or trying to score the perfect goal, now there was none. Like the German semi-final performance against Brazil there was no mercy. I scored tap-ins, cheap goals, great goals and more and kept the pressure on until the game was finally over. I rose triumphant as everyone in the room was in shock. The score was 21-1, a record never bettered against computer or another player. I had hit my local gaming peak.
As the years went past the local multiplayer scene began to die, not from a lack of games, but from a lack of time. It became harder and harder to get enough people around to get a good gaming session organised. The group dwindled to 3 or four people and the variety of games changed to one football/soccer game as our interests were the same in reality. In this case other friends who weren’t hardened gamers bought PS2’s just to have the one game that everyone played. They went home practised on their own before the collective night, usually once a week. The lack of variety meant that we had to develop our own way to play the game. We made a squad of 30 of the best players ever and then played against each other. You could go in and pick your 11 out of the 30 and do battle. When this grew stale we had a rule that, once you lost with one team, they were un-selectable for eternity or until every team had been used.
Alas even this time ended, people got married, moved house or even moved country and you were left with one option, Online gaming. I was late into the online scene as I didn’t have the internet speed necessary. When I got going my first game was Battlefield Bad Company. A game yet to be bettered on console. Suddenly I was thrust into a virtual war that I was ill prepared for. Gone were the days of soaking up bullets like a sponge on Goldeneye, when I took damage, I died. I had to start playing like I was scared of dying. Eventually with the help of one friend also playing I began to get competent. I will never say good because in the online world there is always someone better. It might sound weird but I began to enjoy the game so much I dreamt about it, an advert for late night gaming sessions if you ever saw one.
My greatest moment was during Gears of War 2. A group of us from the same country had banded together. In part this was to actually get into a game as at launch it was near impossible to join a session unless you had a full team. What made Gears so good was it’s sense of teamwork. If someone died they were out of the round and disappeared from chat. This meant eventually the moment had to come where I was the last man standing. With nothing but radio silence the hopes of the team rested on me overturning a 3 on one disadvantage. Like I said, I am competent, not a miracle worker, however this time I got lucky. Sticking grenades to the wall of the building I was in, I managed to take out one, unfortunately this revealed my position and the other two stormed the building, I managed to take out one with a shotgun blast blind firing around a corner, suddenly it was one against one, I panicked and rolled out of my hiding space, luckily avoiding their blast and following up with one of my own, the party chat kicked back in to the sound of cheers from my team mates. For one round only, I was the hero.
Unfortunately online gaming comes with other issues still present today. Because you don’t know who you are playing against there is a level of anonymity which leads to disrespect. I haven’t made a new online friend in years, the only people I add now are friends in reality. From teabagging in Halo to trash talking and casual racism in COD, this lack of respect has festered since the start and now reached fever-pitch. Racist logos in Black Ops were the culmination of years of neglect by the developers and platform holders. Stricter bans and more time to analyse what was actually being said in chat could have nipped this in the bud. Only with gamergate and other issues is this now to light and bans and restrictions are being enforced.
Despite this I still want to play online multiplayer. The problem is I can’t. Now married I don’t have the time to devote to games like COD anymore. Titanfall and Destiny came close to filling the gap but they both failed in their own ways. Destiny had a horrible time/reward scheme and Titanfall made everything too easy. COD is still king, but you need to be playing it for hours a day to keep your reflexes sharp. I just don’t have the desire anymore. My time now is spent with rewarding single-player experiences like The Witcher 3. It doesn’t mean I don’t crave a return to multiplayer, I still dip into all the big releases, but unfortunately my kill to death ratio is no longer positive.
My joy is now taken from dispensing justice in games like an online vigilante. I am the one who targets the griefers, the idiots and the spoilers. You know who they are. The campers who snipe through scenery and my personal problem, the people who ignore the chance to kill two or three just to ruin your game. My latest triumph was on FIFA 15. Playing Ultimate team online, I accidentally left the Kinnect sensor on chat. I looked at the two teams. I had crafted my team through hours of offline play until it was at a level to go online, yet here I was facing a team with all the best players money, sorry actual money could buy. The only way to get these players in the time the game was out, was to buy coins illegally through coin sellers. From the off I was on the back foot and by early in the second half was 2-0 down due to his Ronaldo led attacks. By chance he hit the post and I stormed up the pitch to score one goal. From here the other player bottled it. I quickly made it 2-2 and could hear the child-like screams coming through my Kinnect. My winner from a corner was met with howls and tears, after withstanding a final onslaught I had triumphed. I could hear a deep voice on the other end of the sensor saying. ‘You had to lose sometime.’
How have your experiences with online games changed as you age? Let me know in the comments.