Contributed by Andrew Highton
Halo? Call of Duty? Killzone? Battlefield?
What do all of the above have in common? Well, they’re all amazing online experiences which provide much excitement, along with enough thrills and spills designed to fill any gamer with enough adrenaline to punch a hole through a wall… unsuccessfully. Nevertheless, these games have servers cluttered up with many gamers who’re either capturing a flag, killing opposing members of the other team or blowing up some munitions in a green box that serve no relevance to anything. I am one of these people and very proud of it; I could write a dissertation about the joys of online gaming, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll question why we game online and what it does to us.
Call of Duty hit the mainstream with its vision of customizable classes and frantic game modes. along with the RPG-like ranking system that anyone could pick up and play. The ideas that helped make the multiplayer so addicted are now being adopted by most FPS games and can now be considered the standard method of progression. As I chase shadows in my mind, I can’t quite understand why a simple insignia displaying a picture of no true meaning can warrant such true value in the online world. COD has multiple insignia’s, Battlefield likewise, and somehow most of us have the desire to achieve a new little symbol to represent our commitment to that particular game. In some ways it’s quite noble, but is it actually honest?
Your passion is fuelled by primarily wanting to show others how you enjoy your hobby; alternatively people level up and earn their insignia to show they’re the more dominant and committed foe. It probably doesn’t occur to you, but when someone else puts it into perspective you may have to question your own motives for doing this. I myself like to receive recognition for my dedication of time, and when I reached Level 55 on my final prestige of COD4 I was conflicted: I was joyous that I had joined an exclusive club of people to have achieved this, but I was simultaneously saddened by the fact I could achieve no more.
Emotion is undeniably powerful in whatever form it takes, especially when playing an online game. Curiosity makes you venture into a new game mode or use a new gun, confusion makes you wonder how someone has picked up that energy sword before you did, happiness fills you when you’ve unlocked the scout class, and anger is being killed when you believe you shouldn’t have been. Unquestionably, the two strongest emotions are happiness and anger as far as gaming’s concerned, due to the fact there are so many possibilities to cause them.
I think only a true gamer suffers these two emotions on a regular basis and I think it is certainly healthy. Take this example: you’re having a great game of Unreal Tournament and you’re currently ‘UNSTOPPABLE!’ after killing twenty people in a row. You’ve picked off another four unwitting foes and you’re roaring with confidence because of the wreckage you’re leaving in your path. You turn a corner readying yourself to obliterate someone else, get twenty-five kills in a row and become branded ‘GODLIKE!’ and-
Whoops! Sorry! Connection lost!
Through no fault of your own and without warning, that display of skill has just been erased. From impending kill number twenty-five right through to the connection being lost, our emotion changes from delight to a searing fit of rage and panic in the blink of an eye. You’re angry because you’ve been disconnected, but you’re also panicking because you’re not sure what to do now; do you start a new game and hope for another powerhouse display, or do you turn it off altogether? Lag can cause a death which the instant replay will show you didn’t stand a chance of surviving because your opponent has a superior connection, and in many cases make you either mentally or physically scream at the TV or down your headset and microphone to unleash your fury.
Again, I ask myself why do I and so many others do this? You’ve lost your kill-streak and you’re forced to wait for your digital John McClane to re-spawn back into the furious action, but in hindsight, should this unfortunate death discourage you? The answer is a categorical no. You’ve not lost through your lack of ability, so there’s no reason to give up. By showing emotion you prove that you’re not only a partial psychopath, but also that you care enough about the game to show this kind of emotion; if you didn’t care, why would it bother you?
To round off my psychological dive into gamers’ thoughts, I’d like to ECHO NOVEMBER DELTA (end) with some terminology. A small part of society have accepted the word “Noob” as being a word, but most of the population will probably have their own wild view of what that word actually means. If I said to Barack Obama “Dude some hacker just spawn fragged me because he was camping whilst glitching the map” I don’t think I’d be having a LAN game of Counter-Strike with him any time soon. Aside from the fact he probably has no idea what Counter-Strike is, we gamers have a language exclusive to us which feels more natural. The words not only have meaning to us but we quickly pick up unfamiliar words which soon become second nature. I often wonder what it takes to break through that barrier from the words sounding like nerdy slang to appropriate terms of truth.
I’ll leave you with these thoughts and simply say this:
If you’re an online FPS gamer, do you now question your online mentality? Do you differentiate yourself from the people who don’t play games?