Oct 30 2013
Despite being a fully-grown adult, I’m playing more video games now than I ever did when I was a kid. Granted, it’s my job, but something tells me even if it wasn’t, it’s something I’d be doing anyway.
I love gaming, and I fully believe that despite a forever nostalgic love for the classics, the medium continues to get better over time. I’ve played more incredible games the past five years than I did the fifteen before that, and that’s a statement I’ll stand behind.
All this is to say, my love for gaming isn’t going away, and if anything is increasing over time. My interest spans all genres from MOBAs to RTS titles to RPGs and shooters. Well, there’s a caveat with that last one, however, and it’s the entire purpose of this article.
After all this time, I’m finally starting to come to terms with the fact that I’ve slowly grown out of a genre of games I used to love: the multiplayer FPS. I have a long and storied history with such games, from Goldeneye to Counterstrike to Halo to Call of Duty. But as I sit here playing Battlefield 4, my enthusiasm wanes quickly as I kill and die, kill and die, in an infinite loop. I’ve slowly felt my passion drain away the past few iterations of this routine, from Modern Warfare 3, to Halo 4, to Battlefield 3, to Black Ops 2, and perhaps even a bit further back than that.
There are many factors that contribute to my growing apathy toward multiplayer shooters that have nothing to do with their quality. Reasons why I can enjoy a campaign of a game (though those grow shorter by the year), but simply sigh and retire after a few weeks, days or even hours of multiplayer.
First and foremost, this used to be a community activity for me. One that was so much fun not because of my KDA, but because I was playing with friends. In the early days of Goldeneye, Perfect Dark and Halo: Combat Evolved, I wasn’t playing online. I was playing in a room with three friends screaming at a decibel level to make my parents want to kill me. But even later, through Halo 3 and Modern Warfare, I was still playing with them all the same, just over a headset most of the time. Not quite as good, but not so bad either.
But now, I play alone. And it’s terrible. It’s the most terrible thing there is in gaming.
Playing an FPS by yourself is an eternally frustrating experience. It results in uncontrolled rage after frequent deaths, or quickly fading joy when you have an amazing play or a 20-1 game with no one to see you do it. It’s so intolerable, I can barely stand it for more than a few matches of riding around in vehicles with strangers, hoping they don’t crash into walls or drive into lakes. Vehicles were meant for friends, not silent team members with no hope of coordination. It’s a lesson I’m relearning painfully in Battlefield at present.
I haven’t lost all my friends, but I have gotten older. My friends do not play video games for a living. They’re investment bankers and social workers and lawyers and marketing managers working 60-80 hour weeks. I’m fortunate if any have held on to their old consoles, and those that have only are able to find limited time for games, if any. The result of this leads to another problem I’m facing in the genre these past few years, an atrophy of skill.
Years of playing relatively easy single player games have dulled my senses. I may have kicked all sorts of computer AI ass in the campaign of a shooter, but throw me into multiplayer and I’m a box of crackers being fed into a woodchipper.
I didn’t used to be bad. Not this bad, at least. I dominated my share of Halo matches and had some amazing Call of Duty winning streaks. But that was because I could practice. I could play with my friends consistently and hone my skills along with the rest of the community. But now? As I’ve said. If I wait for my friends, we have only a few hours a week at most. If I play without them, I end up hating the experience after a few matches.
The only thing that’s supposed to be driving me forward is the third pillar of why my interest has faded in these games, the unlockables. My favorite shooter was Halo 3, a game where every map had almost every gun, and there were no perks or killstreaks or anything. Just skill. All grinding would get you was pieces of cosmetic armor that did nothing to help your gameplay.
But now? Everything is behind a wall. In a game like Battlefield, I have to play for fifty hours to unlock all the guns, and fifty more for all the attachments and perks and class mods and so on. The only way to have a prayer of a level playing field is to do what I’m doing now, playing at launch where everyone is equal. But if I dare slow down my playtime so it doesn’t match the average community member? I’ll come back to the game in three weeks and I’ll be getting destroyed by level 50 generals with guns that have homing bullets and tanks that reflect my rockets back at me. I’m exaggerating, but only just.
I used to think I could knock down these walls, and unlock everything, but my progression through the last four Call of Duties, Prestige 6 in the first game, Prestige 3 the next, Prestige 1 then no Prestige at all, showcases my slow realization that I can’t do it. Or just don’t want to commit the massive block of time to a quest where all my accomplishments will simply be reset the next year for the next iteration of the game.
All of this leads to the last issue, the most important one: who I’m playing against.
These junior high, high school and college kids who have all their friends playing with them. Who have five hours a night to dedicate to Call of Duty. Who have invested the time to become way, way better than me and unlock everything I never can.
I don’t hate them like many “grown-up” gamers do. I was them. And now I’m playing against myself, from years long past. I hope they’re having fun. I’m just sad that I’m not.
I’ll review Battlefield 4. I’ll judge its mechanics, how it’s improved on past games and what it still lacks. I can do that objectively well enough. But as all reviews are opinions, it will be hard not to let my apathy seep into mine. I’m tired of this genre. Not because it’s stale or bad or doing something wrong, but because it’s left me behind. The longer I chase that old feeling, the further away from it I feel.
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