As regular readers will be aware, in part 1 of my Diary of a Multiplayer Virgin series, I explained my history of online multiplayer gaming, which was both unpleasant and short. Back in the days of Quake 2 and Delta Force I fired up my dial-up modem and dipped my toe into the multiplayer waters, which promptly resulted in the toe being shot off… repeatedly… while being subjected to a lot of verbal abuse.
Suffice to say, I was hardly enamoured to online multiplayer gaming from that point, essentially eschewing the online experience in the decade or so since then; declaring that ‘people ruin games’ from then on.
However, in the face of much pressure from friends and peers regarding my rather negative impressions of the extremely popular genre I came to question my established impressions of online gaming, especially FPS titles. Indeed, the conversations I overheard between my work colleagues , who all play Battlefield 4 together, about their various adventures in-game gave the impression not of an aggressive arena of anger and abuse, but of an enjoyable team experience; friends having a laugh together while gaming.
It came to a head one day when another friend was persuaded to purchase the game, as it was on offer locally, and join them. Once again, it was suggested, half in jest, half seriously, that I should join them and ‘stop being a miserable bastard’.
And so was born the idea for this series, where I set out to challenge my attitudes towards online multiplayer gaming, starting with the behemoths of the FPS genre. The main question being thus:
Would it be as bad as I expected?
And what I found was quite different from anything I expected.
I started off with the solo campaign; come on, one step at a time right? This proved not to be an auspicious beginning as I found the experience pretty dire from the get-go. The rather half-arsed story, seemingly tacked onto the game as a mere gesture and tutorial combining with pretty obtuse and complex control systems (at least to me at that point ok!) to present a less than enjoyable experience. The attempts at realism meant that any kind of accuracy was beyond my ability to achieve and I found myself struggling to really comprehend how to make effective use of the tools given to me and, to be perfectly honest, I was having a dreadful time just trying to shoot the rather basic game bots.
Next day at work I was less than enthusiastic, but my colleagues insisted that I would find the multiplayer a much more palatable experience. Actually I think they told me that I should ‘stop being a bitch and man up’ but hey…
So, next day I logged onto the multiplayer lobbies and joined the game that my friends IAN1B2M3 and Skamdalous were in, fully expecting to be the subject of embarrassment and ridicule.
Pretty much from the get-go I was horrifically inept. I opted for what I thought would be a sensible choice of the Recon kit, selecting a sniper rifle and heading to a remote spot to take pot shots at enemies. The first thing I realised was that moving enemies were REALLY hard to shoot, especially when you don’t realise that the game has trajectory drop off coded into the game. I spent about 10 minutes hitting precisely bugger all. Well, actually, I managed to hit lots of things about 100 yards nearer to me than my actual target, but nothing close to a player character. Then some bastard tagged me. Tagging, for those who don’t know, is a nice word for a player running up behind you, then stabbing you while taking your avatar’s dog tags as a souvenir. This was, as you can imagine, hardly an encouraging factor in my efforts to enjoy myself. If you add to this that when I did manage to actually hit someone later on that my damn rifle only did enough damage to kill if I got a head shot, I was not impressed at all. What I couldn’t understand is that while I was having a terrible time being stabbed and putting bullet holes in local flora, my friends seemed to be having a ball. I didn’t have a headset so couldn’t chat, but could hear them laughing, joking and, apparently doing quite well; presumably through some sort of witchcraft if my experience thus far was anything to go by.
With a fervent knowledge that my evening had been a thorough waste of time I logged off, fully expecting to never bother with the game. Yes, I’d not received any insults while online (if you don’t count the bastard that tagged me!) but I’d had no idea what I was doing. It was, as I’d expected, the realm of experienced players, somewhere I was not welcome or belonged.
However, next day, my colleague HBK UK, brought in a headset for me to use, asserting that being able to talk to my friends would be something of a game changer. I wasn’t sure how; while being able to swear at them for introducing me to such a tedious and baffling game might be slightly cathartic, beyond that I couldn’t see what a headset could do to make the game bearable. All three of them also pointed out that sniping at the early levels ‘sucks’ and that I’d be best off trying another class with a machine gun. While I’d still die a lot, I’d have more chance of actually shooting someone.
So, against my better judgement, that night I powered up the console and, after joining the group chat, I perused the other loadout options and settled on the engineer. Hell, they got mines, machine guns and a rocket launcher. If nothing else, I’d like to think I could manage not to miss if I had high-explosive (a terrifying prospect for anyone who knows how generally clumsy I am in real life).
So, I dropped into the game and set about trying to fail that little bit less than I had before.
What happened then was beyond anything I’d experienced before and something I will detail in my next article.
Stick around and look out for the next instalment of my Diary of a Multiplayer Virgin to see whether a headset can save my multiplayer experience or if I write off all FPS games forever.
If you want to join me as I take a tour of various online games as part of my journey, please feel free to add me. I’m Shamino77 on basically all gaming facilities I have; currently Xbox 360, Xbox One & Steam in the main.
Paul Izod is a lifelong gamer. Since he was old enough to tap at his Dad's PC's keyboard he's been a gamer. Dedicated and often opinionated, you can be sure he'll always have something interesting to say about the subject at hand. Find him on Twitter at @PaulIzod or @FaultyPixelUK or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org