The video game industry has been dominated by shooters since the inception of splitscreen and competitive gaming. Goldeneye was probably the beginning for many of us who decided that shooting live players was far more exciting than mindless and predictable computer baddies. Recently, however, many of us feel as though competitive shooters have seen a drop on the fun meter. Regardless of the title or the outcome of battles, there just seems to be something missing. I think there a few things that we as gamers have control over that may help our experience, and a few things we just have to accept.
Is this thing on?
Given that every console comes with a microphone headset it seems strange that so few people actually communicate when they are playing. Now I know a lot of people, myself included, are typically in a party so you can’t hear them, but I see the majority of players playing without even having a headset plugged in. This can make you feel like you are basically playing by yourself with a bunch of computer teammates who rarely do what you want them to. While I’ve already talked about how Call of Duty has contributed to the rampant self-focused approach to pvp shooters I have to mention it here as well. Since Modern Warfare 2 the focus of most Call of Duty players has been on their own performance which minimizes any incentive or desire to plug in a mic and talk to your teammates. And this problem isn’t unique to COD as I’ve already pointed out that my main gripe with Battlefield is the community. The best influence you can have on this problem is to be committed to not being in party chat so you and your buddies can hear and communicate with the other players and hope that it promotes more communication. As you do this, add the other gamers who are talking to your friends list and expand your list of “communicative players” so when you sit down to play you’ve got a deep roster of people who may be on at a given moment.
Kills are killing the genre
It seems weird to blame the lack of fun in a pvp shooter on kills, since you know, that’s kind of the point. But for many gamers kills have become the be-all and end-all of a shooting game. Regardless of how creative the game mode or elaborate the necessary strategies, most players seem solely focused on one thing, and one thing only: getting kills. I said in a previous post and video about incentivizing behavior in pvp shooters that kills should count for almost no points in an objective based game mode, and I believe that even more after a few days of Battlefield Hardline. When your team basically forfeits from the outset and decides all they are going to focus on is racking up as many kills as possible, it’s infectious as you feel your only choice is to do the same thing or spend the whole match beating your head against a wall. If the point of a given game mode is to capture a position on the map or retrieve an item, killing the enemy is supposed to be a means to that end. But many players simply treat the game mode as a means to getting kills, instead of the other way around. As I said, this causes other gamers to follow suit or just walk away from the game entirely. To be fair to Battlefield Hardline, there is a very big score gap between someone who has been working on the objective and someone who hasn’t. I’ve seen players with only a few kills end a game with 2 to 3 times the score of someone with 20+ kills. This goes to show you how powerful the pattern is within the shooter community as people continue to focus on kills even though they are getting such a big score differential.
Ultimately you can’t change the person who could not care less about their score and only worries about having lots of kills. My suggestion would be to only show a players score accompanied by other objective focused stats they achieved when they are playing an objective based mode. Players who only care about kills would go play the game mode they are supposed to be in, Team Deathmatch, and the rest of us could enjoy playing with and against gamers who care about the objective. If all you care about is kills, and there is no scoreboard or accolades showing off your precious kill count and k/d ratio, you’ll quickly become disinterested or start focusing on the stats shown on the scoreboard. Game developers can’t be expected to re-wire the way people think about the shooting genre, but what they can do is incentivize behavior by tracking and scoring what matters most in an objective based game mode: the objectives.
It’s lonely at the top
Unfortunately, the people most known for griping and complaining in any competition are often the people with the most skill. It sounds backwards, but hear me out. The better you are at a given sport or video game, the more passion and drive you will have to succeed and do well. The more passionate you are about something the more extreme your reaction when it doesn’t go your way. Look at the way people respond when their football team gets a bad call or loses a big game. Sure, they aren’t playing, but their passion for the sport and their team drives their frustration. So the more you play a game and the better you get at it, the more you are going to care about the game and your performance. This can narrow a game’s ability to be enjoyable because the odds are inevitably stacked against you. You can’t expect the hundreds and even thousands of matches you play to all end with MVP all star results. Acknowledging this reality won’t make it any less frustrating when you get spawn killed three times in a row, but it can certainly help keep our expectations at a reasonable level. So the best we can do is to own our take in this situation and try to enjoy other elements of the game aside from just winning and doing well.
Standby for Fresh Fun
The light at the end of the pvp tunnel is getting brighter and closer. There are numerous fresh and innovative takes on the genre coming out this year. Just Battleborn, Gigantic, and Overwatch look to add lots of vibrancy and dynamic options and experiences for those who enjoy shooters. Too many bad habits and predictable behavior exist in the communities of Battlefield and Call of Duty to ever hope for objectives to become important and for communication and cooperation to become the norm. New takes on the genre will inevitably force players to fall in line with the new strategies and tactics as none of the above new titles look to be simplistic enough to allow for simple spray and pray or camp and snipe tactics. So do what you can to enjoy the games that are out now, but keep your chin up, better days are coming.
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