The Exclusion Principle Of Multiplayer
I’ve never really been one for competitive multiplayer. There was a phase in my life where I continuously played Call of Duty 4 and Halo 3, but who didn’t? It was a new and interesting world and I subsequently grew addicted to it. But like most things in my life I just got over it at some point and moved on to new and exciting ventures. Ever since then I haven’t really delved into the world of online gaming because it simply didn’t appeal to me. Being a person that loves singleplayer games, I have noticed how multiplayer has started being shoehorned into everything out there and how it has become more and more exclusionary and has an almost elitist mentality.
I started noticing this when I recently played Borderlands 2 on Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode. If you’re unfamiliar, Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode allows you to level up passed the level 50 cap and gives you more difficult enemies. As I was playing I noticed how relentlessly difficult the game became. I know I kind of signed up for it, but it reached a point where it started getting ridiculous. I had the game’s best weapons and upgrades at my disposal, but I struggled my ass off to just make normal progression. An enemy that was relatively easy on the previous playthroughs was now an unstoppable juggernaut capable of reducing me to shreds in mere seconds. This honestly perplexed me, but then I realised that the mode recommends “2-4 players”.
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You kind of have to play it in co-op and that made me a bit aggravated. Not all my friends have the luxury to sit with me for hours on end doing things we have done already before and not everyone has the DLC content or even the means to download the compatibility pack. So there I was, alone and struggling my ass off just because I don’t have any friends to play with. That was until one of my friends got all the DLC packs and the compatibility pack and could now play with me. Unfortunately I was already on level 56 and the enemies were just way too daunting for my friend to even make a dent in. We tried power leveling just so that we would be on equal footing, but the exploit we usually used was taken out of the game and leveling up by killing enemies just took way too long. So there we were, incapable of playing together just because the game assumed you would only play it exclusively in co-op.
We opted to start new characters in the end because we weren’t in the mood to struggle or be excluded in any way. That’s just stupid. For a game that parades itself as the ultimate co-op experience it was quick to exclude people that are not on the same level or have exactly the same skill set. But this isn’t the first time I’ve experienced this. There’s a trend in the gaming industry right now where almost every game is obligated to have some sort of social aspect to it. Be it co-op, multiplayer nobody asked for ala Tomb Raider or just shoehorned leaderboards and ranking systems to “compete with friends”. What if I don’t want to compete with friends over which one did the highest jump in a car or who completed a level the fastest? What if I just want to play the game by myself and not have to worry about being the best?
Co-op games have become increasingly exclusive and by that I mean that you have to play co-op in order to fully experience a game. The most recent example I can give is FUSE. It had all these huge power weapons and it actively encourages you to “combine their powers”, but in order to do that you need to pull off precise moves and strategies. That’s not possible in singleplayer because your AI partners are bunch of dimwits. So I missed out on a bulk of the game’s offerings because I didn’t have anyone else to play with. Great job there.
I’m personally not a fan of the increased focus on social integration. When the Xbox One reveal happened I think the words that were used the most besides television were “with friends”. PS4 even dedicated an entire button on the controller for this purpose and if one of their ads is to be believed, you will constantly have friends around you at all times. This is not me. I only have a few friends and they don’t want to constantly know what I’m doing at all times and the same can be said of myself. I game for escapism and if I’m constantly being hounded by messages such as “post this event on Facebook!” then I will lose that important immersion I love so much.
Don’t take me the wrong way, I’m not fully against it at all. It’s something that I didn’t have before and that’s always nice. But it must not interfere with how I play my game. As long as it’s not obtrusive then I don’t mind it all. I don’t want notifications popping up saying that my friend has “surpassed my completion rate” while I’m watching a cutscene requiring my full attention. Integrate your social features, but keep them away from my game where I choose to play alone.
There’s also another instance where people are being excluded in multiplayer games. I’ve heard from quite a few sources that Dota 2 is relentlessly difficult to get into when you’re a new player, but not solely from a gameplay perspective. I’ve heard accounts of people being sworn at for just not being familiar with the game and if you don’t understand the excruciatingly complex jargon within your first few minutes of playing the game then you will be bombarded by hate comments and severe condescension. Have regular players become so elitist that newcomers should be instantly condemned if they just show their face? It’s frankly stupid and illogical. I know I’m treading on thin ice here because I’ve been cussed out by many Dota players for not understanding their world like they do, but that kind of bolsters my point.
The same can be said for shooters. If you’re a new player and you join a random lobby you will be killed in mere minutes by people that have played the game for over hundreds of hours. I’ve experienced this in Battlefield 3 where I only got the game at a late stage and when I went online the lobbies would be absolutely filled with level 100 Generals. It was scary how consistent it actually was. Every game I joined was just a blur of being killed from all angles by means I didn’t even know existed. In turn I just got over it after a while and gave up completely. I’m sure most other new players felt the same way because I did not see anyone on my rank at all during the time I played.
Multiplayer has become increasingly elitist and that pisses me off. It’s got to a point where I just don’t bother anymore because I don’t have the time nor patience to invest hundreds of hours into a single game just so that I can be on equal footing with everyone else. I’m sure most of you love your multiplayer games, but I don’t. That’s just my opinion though.