Game Eaters

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Online Gaming is like High School.

I recently tried to get a friend of mine into the online mode of Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence. His answer was eye-opening...

"I have no interest in a game that's going to be like High School gym class all over again," he said.

For him, playing competitively with strangers was bringing to videogames all the things he originally turned to videogames to escape from. People ganging up on you. People bullying you for no reason than to make themselves feel powerful, etc. This is what he imagined playing online is like.

I tried to explain to him that it's different if you play with friends, but he just wasn't interested. Although I am not much of an online gamer myself, I have been dabbling in MGS3S's multiplayer mode. I find it generally fun, but something happened tonight that helped me understand my friend's attitude.

I was in a game, and one player seemed to be playing for no reason other than to abuse people. As Snake he refused to capture the microfilm, but rather just liked to see how many people he could kill by headshot. One time, when someone else was Snake, I sat down in a nook and drew my sniper rifle. He, playing a fellow soldier now, ran up and kicked me out of the way and took my place. As I was about to walk away, he shot me in the head. This really made me angry so I vowed to knock him out next time, just to express my frustration. I eventually found him, grabbed him, and threw him to the ground, a move that does no actual damage when done by a teammate--it merely is a humiliating animation. Literally two seconds later I was booted. He, it turns out, was the host.

I know much has been written about player behavior in online worlds, so I'm not here to suggest my above description is particularly enlightening. But it did remind me of why people such as my friend have no interest in online competitive play. The feelings I experienced in the aforementioned situation were uncannily like, well, High School gym class. I remember those sneering fuckers, kids who were so filled with hate that they exploited the magic circle of sports as an opportunity to humiliate others. I remember one time playing some kinda water basketball. I missed a basket because I wasn't very good. One of the other kids on my team, who took winning VERY seriously, gave me a very nasty look. It was really frightening. It's like he thought I was sub-human. If he could have made me disappear out of that pool, I'm sure he would have.

I felt a little bit of that unease tonight. After I got booted I put down the controller and tried to imagine what was motivating the host's behavior. It was like he had started a game for no other reason than to satisfy his fetish for shooting people in the head. And by god, if you didn't submit to the rules of his little world you would be taught to fear him... else you'd be silenced, instantly and permanently.

What kind of a mind needs that sort of stimulation? I really don't know. But I understand why some players would want to have nothing to do with it. I also understand how, depending on your life experience, the potential pleasures of online play don't seem worth reliving the worst era of your life.

5 Comments:

  • Great post. If you don't mind, I'm going to add this post to the Round Table roster this month, either as an honorary entry (which means you need to do nothing) or as an official one (which means adding a snippet of code to the bottom of the post).

    For more information on the Round Table, visit Blogs of the Round Table. I'll not do it until I get back from work in about 6 hours, so if this comment is deleted, or you decline to participate, I'll not add you. Otherwise, expect some linkage!

    By Blogger Corvus, at 12:51 AM  

  • This is exactly the reason why online gaming doesn't appeal to me. You've really hit the nail on the head with the comparison to high school. Dead on, I say.

    By Anonymous MattG, at 7:59 AM  

  • I so totally agree.

    If you don't mind, I'm going to link to this from my Livejournal. :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:44 PM  

  • Yep. Same reason I don't play online games.

    By Blogger Darius Kazemi, at 8:28 PM  

  • Well, there are a lot of pricks and assholes online that it makes the online community seem like a bunch of 7th and 8th graders. Though, I play World of Warcraft and you get the pricks, the assholes, and the just really stupid. But, there are some players that arn't really driven to piss other people off, so that's what the kind of people I look foward to playing with online. If not for that fact, I probably would never log on again.

    By Blogger Michael Hidalgo, at 10:56 AM  

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