Where buying games is concerned, I tend to follow two distinct patterns. For PC, I generally buy digitally, whether it be via Steam or GOG (with a preference for the latter). Occasionally, I might buy from another digital retailer, such as Humble Bundle or Green Man Gaming; sometimes I even purchase a physical copy. The rule of thumb, however, is that digital downloads have become the main source of my PC gaming fix. It’s convenient and it tends to be cheap.
This situation is entirely flipped when I buy my console games. Despite there being active digital distribution platforms for Sony and Microsoft, I will very rarely obtain a game from PSN or XBL. Sometimes this is because the physical copy comes with material benefits (such as a Collector’s Edition with loot), but more often than not, it simply comes down to price. Unlike their PC counterparts, console digital games tend to cost even more than boxed retail copies.
But I’m faced with an awkward decision when it comes to the release of inFAMOUS: Second Son for PS4.
Last week I gave the general overview of the game. But I’m not satisfied with simply telling you people to buy the game. Oh no, I’m going to hammer this game into you. In these cynical times when the games market is flooded and our options of what to sink our time into are many, we often overlook content in favor of simply gorging through games as fast as possible so we can get to the next one, never truly understanding the games we play or what makes them good. I savored this game. Every minute of the 90 ours I plunked into this I digested with glee. I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered the game like some of the people I’ve seen on YouTube who pull off perfect scores in each level, but I definitely feel like I’ve got some skills to pay the games bills and I’ve grown in my gaming experience because of it.
Up until recently I’ve stood apart from a large portion of the gaming community. Today the major franchise gaming titles are hugely grounded in multiplayer. From behemoth FPS franchises like Battlefield and Call of Duty, to FIFA and Forza, games are eschewing a meaningful single-player experience to focus on providing as comprehensive platform for gamers to compete against each other as possible. Hell, even RPG stalwarts like my beloved Mass Effect have taken the online multiplayer shilling. And thus far I’ve remained on the outside, looking in.
The last time I played an online title for any length was World of Warcraft, though to be honest I didn’t really play that properly as a multiplayer game. Sure I did the odd dungeon run, but in the main I soloed the game, which I’m fairly sure is missing the point a touch. Really, in truth, the last time I played online with any real engagement was in the days of Delta Force 2 and Quake 2. We’re talking late nineties here, so not the most refined experience. My experience then was not the best, if I’m honest. Pitted against the hordes of experienced players gathered in their clans, with just my wits, my rollerball mouse and my 56k modem, I found the going hard. Actually, I found the going to be bumpy, covered, as it was, with mounds of my corpses, as I re-spawned for the thirtieth time that minute only to be immediately annihilated afresh. Whether it was my horrific ham-thumbedness or their massive experience of the maps, playing the games was a deeply humbling and unpleasant experience. Let’s face it, spending all your time being shot and getting literally no actual gaming offence in begins to grate. This was early in the beginnings of expansive online gaming, so balancing and level design were in their infancy, meaning that good players could exploit the system something chronic.
Add onto this the end of round scoretables, with me sat bottom with no kills and a death count of astronomical proportions and you can see why I didn’t exactly enjoy the experience. And when I got myself a headset for voice in play? Forget about it. You know what’s worse than having no offence and being visibly and catastrophically worse than every other player in a given game? Having each and every member of your team explaining to you how badly you played, discussing the various life choices you must have made to become such a failure, raising the question of your sexuality, parentage, race and general ability to function in life and with much more exotic language than any 14 year old is expected to appreciate.
Now I’m not saying that ALL games from this time were like that, I’m just saying that all the games I played in were. Maybe I’m really just that offensively bad, but I doubt it.
So yes, from that point on online gaming and I had an understanding, I wouldn’t tarnish it with my horrific inability to play and it wouldn’t subject me to a rigorous cycle of abuse. So since then our two paths have never crossed, with me sneering at online gaming as frankly rubbish, comfortable in my assertion that ‘people ruin games’.
The thing is, though, quite a lot of gamers I know play online; gamers who’s opinions I respect. Tales of Battlefield 4 and the like would go around the office. Statistics would be exchanged and war stories recounted; all a shared experience that sounded a lot different to what I’d experienced back in the day. Still though, it’s one thing for it to sound like that, but quite another to experience right? So, I carried on in my nice little offline, solo gaming comfort zone thank you very much.
Then came the day that I got a Titanfall beta code. This was something of a problem, as my journalistic integrity (yes I have some, shut up!) meant I had to play the thing, but the idea of an online game, let alone a FPS one, didn’t exactly appeal. However, ever the dutiful correspondent I powered it up and dove in, fully expecting to loath it.
But you know what happened? What I actually experienced was one of the most engaging and energising gaming experiences I’ve had in years. While I didn’t have any voice-in-play gear set up (and so had little interaction with other players other than via the medium of ballistic metal) I did have the mano-y-mano joy of competitive gameplay I quickly discovered that there’s more to this online gaming malarkey than being shot and then ridiculed. There are roles for everyone, subtle nuances of gameplay that reward other things than just brutally murdering swathes of other people. Don’t get me wrong, the murdering is still pretty high on the importance list whatever play style you have, but it’s not always the be-all and end-all, which was a revelation. Indeed, things have moved on some way from the late nineties death matches. I may still be a cack-handed imbecile, but even I managed to find a niche, ghosting from titan to titan and destroying them. I even felt like I achieved something, remaining of the bottom of score tables and even topping a few, despite not troubling the top end of the kills to deaths tables. Hell, I even shot a few people.
And I only got tea-bagged twice!
The experience really made me examine my own pre-conceived notions of online multiplayer. A little bit anyway. Yes the gameplay had been fun and, yes, I’d begun to understand some of the appeal of the combative gameplay against others, but this was just a streamlined BETA experience after all. I had no other player chat to endure, no ridiculously levelled up opponent and nobody knew the maps like the back of their hands; a sterilised online gaming environment for sure. If I was to play a full online game I was sure to find the familiar old problems. My poor twitch reflexes and my complete inexperience would render me a hindrance to any team unlucky enough to be cursed with my ‘assistance’.
All was well again in my solo-game utopia until the aforementioned friends mentioned that Battlefield 4 was on offer and that I really should give it a go with them. My initial reaction was, of course, that I’d rather saw my own leg off with a rusty spoon, but a treacherous part of my braid pointed out this was a good way to reassert my belief that online gaming was as horrific an experience as I though, so before I knew it I’d agreed, purchased the game and was heading home with it, convinced I’d just paid a fair old whack of money just to be abused and humiliated.
What entailed was something of a surprise and in the hours and days since, I have been pursuing something of a personal quest; a personal journey of discovery and investigation into the world of online gaming, starting with online FPS titles like Battlefield.
Over the coming weeks I will be detailing some of the things I have experienced, the nuances of online multiplayer gaming across the board, as seen through the eyes of a (relatively) online multiplayer virgin; one that’s pre-disposed to hate the genre too.
Thank goodness I’ve upgraded that 56k modem in the meantime!
In the games industry, it’s a given that games are art. However, the general public are yet to be convinced.
Mobile games are always an interesting prospect to review, being, as they are, a bit of a mixed bunch. Do you look at them in the context of ‘full’ traditional games, or as small mini-games; a fleeting amusement with less stringent depth requirements?
The games industry today is abuzz with talk of the next generation of gaming. With the WiiU already with us, the Playstation 4 having been announced a while ago and, by the time you read this, Microsoft being about to or having just announced the next Xbox unit, you can’t move around the gaming web […]
Computer games, as much as any other medium, are mysterious things. They can stir our souls, hotwire our adrenaline glands or disappoint us to our core. For every person who plays a game there is a valid and varied opinion. It’s one of the things that make the subject of a game’s relative quality a […]
Across every genre of entertainment there are specific titles or releases that become synonymous with failure, that in the eyes of fans and critics alike embody the worst that the genre has to offer. They become the universal butt of any joke in that medium, the yardstick against which every other poorly-received release is measured. […]
Over recent years there has been a shift in the focus of the gaming industry towards online multiplayer as a gaming model. Indeed, the biggest sellers of this generation of titles have been primarily online competitive titles, such as Halo 4 & Call of Duty. Over this time there has developed a very distinct separation […]