By John Walker on August 1st, 2011 at 11:39 am.
I’m not denying this is territory I’ve covered before. There’s no disguising that I’m a fan of single-playing gaming over multiplayer. Finally it’s time to just say it. We need to stop avoiding the matter, stop not saying what everyone’s thinking. I’m the man brave enough to do this. I am a valiant man, and maybe I won’t be recognised within my own lifetime, but by God one day I shall be heralded as the prophet and man of integrity I truly am. But please, don’t think me immodest. I would hate that.
The very last thing I would want is to come off as snobbish. But I’d like to make the argument that multiplayer gaming is the going down to the pub to watch the “match”, to single-player gaming’s evening in with a glass of wine. What I’m trying to say is, I’ve had quite enough of loud, yobbish multiplayer gamers making noise outside my window as they drunkenly make their way home, because I have guests. I would like you all to keep it down please.
I remember the first time I played a multiplayer game. The internet had yet to find its ways into homes, and my friend Fred carried his PC to my house on his back. Setting them up in my father’s study, we linked the two together with something people back then called a serial cable, and with a fizz and a pop the two were connected. Their entities so entwined, when we each loaded up Doom by some sort of witchcraft we appeared on the other’s monitor. Dazzled, we found ourselves unable to look at only one screen, frantically swinging our heads back and forth to see how when we moved in our game, we moved at the same time in the other. It barely made sense.
But now, just as how the modern world has forgotten the value of a phone call now you no longer have to carry the coal from the bottom of the garden, multiplayer gaming falls too easily into the hands of the unwashed, and it becomes the grubby equivalent of teenagers comparing ringtones on a crowded train.
I stress again, I would hate it if I appeared pompous at all when I suggest that single-player gaming, ever-more the forgotten gem of our hobby, is for the more sophisticated, intellectual individual. It takes something more, a different kind of mind, a more educated, refined view, to understand and value the art of the single-player. Let me tell you why.
The worth of single-player comes in the form of narrative. As with any good novel, or a finely crafted film. It is the equivalent to literature. While multiplayer is an ill-informed argument. It has no direction, no beginning nor end, no meaning.
Games are made with intent. Like books, films and television, the finest examples among them are those that both exist to say something, but allow the player to create his own interpretation. And while of course there are any number of poor or stupid single-player games, there is no multiplayer that evenly closely matches the finest RPG or adventure.
Like I say, I would be just mortified if anyone interpreted these words to be snooty or condescending. I’m just saying people who prefer single player games are a better class than people who mostly opt for multiplayer.
But what about massively multiplayer games, one may ask. Well, it’s quite simple. When approached as a single-player game, with a world to explore, stories to be told, and a beginning, middle and end, they are firmly in the category of the more refined arts. Once they’ve descended into mindless raiding in an endless, empty pursuit of a trinket, looped for eternity, then they are something quite other.
I can hear those loutish grunts of protest. “Who are these ‘guests’ drinking your wine if you’re playing single-player?” they ask, thinking they’ve been so astute. Well, my generously foreheaded friend, they’re the characters in the game.
Yes, indeed, characters. Something of a mystery to our hooligan brethren. The closest they can understand would be the cartoons that accompany Team Fortress 2, pretending that these outlines of personalities have any effect on their Möbius strip of gaming. Meanwhile I am meeting people, people with lives, backgrounds, motivations and goals. People I can influence, and who can influence me, beyond temporarily making them be dead for a fifteen second wait.
My company in these single-player games does not berate me, nor shout racial and homophobic epithets after me. If I choose to play at my pace, on my terms, the cast of the game does not huff and grumble, nor question my parents. If I do extremely well they do not grow bitter, or question my methods. They play their parts, along a journey.
A journey with a goal, and ending, a purpose. Mine is a gaming infused with meaning. Mine is a simulacrum for life, a reflection on experience and a metaphor for understanding my existence. Multiplayer gamers emulate some Sisyphean torture, yet as the ball rolls back down the hill these creatures cheer and high five.
I do not argue that these people should be stopped, nor that their games should not be made. Of course not – they need their entertainment, and it’s best if they’re kept busy. Far better that they’re imagining progress within their 45,000th match of Modern Warfare 2 than out smashing windows or selling drugs in parks. But where I object is when the games that sate them become greater in number than those for the more discerning player.
I remember the days when every game had a multiplayer component bundled in with it, something to keep the children happy while the adults played the proper game. But this has now swung the other way, with single-player modes often a bot-based version of the multiplayer nothingness. This absolutely has to stop. The yobs cannot be allowed to dominate, or I would argue all of society can only be minutes from collapse.
So as I have said, coming across in any way as if I think myself superior is far from my intent. I apologise if anyone has gotten that impression. But let’s not let the multiplayer lot take over, eh?