Monday, January 12, 2009

The Plight of the Lone Player

Now granted if you scroll down you’ll quickly learn that I am an avid World of Warcraft player but to be honest with you 9 out of 10 times I’m one of a rapidly dying breed; the single player. Now ok, for the most part developers still try and throw a bone to us friendless wierdos and include a single player mode. Sure sometimes they may try to hide it and call it “campaign mode” or “story mode” but we all know what it really is: “friendless loner” mode. And I’m fine with that, other people only slow me down as my bulky and often mute main characters run around their worlds shooting and bashing other species for the good of manifest destiny. But over the past few years the internet has rapidly smashed its way into all of our lives and forced us to involve it in every facet of human existence from shopping to masturbation, and so to have video games fallen to it’s mighty force. Multiplayer used to mean “four players” or the ever nerdy “lan party” but in both of those scenarios you were actually in the room with your fellow players. Now online gaming has removed even that social aspect.

As much as I love my XBox 360 and often cuddle with it to help me fall asleep, I really have XBox Live to blame for most of this. Now I was fine and happy when the house next door in my happy gaming world was sold to a friendly looking couple named “Online Mode” but soon after they moved in they started throwing cookouts that lasted until 4 a.m. and let their lawn fall into disrepair and ran all of my respectable single player neighbors out of the neighborhood. Now since I probably lost most of you with that analogy let me try to explain. Much like me and the guy who lives across the street from me these two game types can rarely co-exist and the main reason for that is disc space. There’s only so much data that can be burned onto those shiny round wonders and developers have to make a choice. You want more maps and larger teams? Well there went a single player level. You want an online ranking system? So long kick ass boss fight.

Now here’s how I typically play a game: 1: Go to store and spend 60$
2: Go home and beat game
3: Decide if game deserves multiple playings
4: Go back to store and trade it in for 10$

Ok back to why I brought up disc space. When I get a copy of “Jacked Up Guy With Big Guns #5: The Re-Gunning” I’m more interested in the single player mode. The mode that makes an attempt at a plot, and a linear narrative, and some sort of emotional conflict, not the online mode which is there to essentially take carefully crafted levels, dump them full of crates and boxes and give players the chance to anonymously swear at and teabag their fallen opponents. But more and more lately the single player mode is cut short and left feeling uneventful due to having to make room for their drunken neighbor, the online mode. Let’s pause and look at the Rainbow Six: Vegas games. Now I don’t normally go in for that whole tactical group based scenario but I thought, well the demo is fun and it’s raining out so let’s give it a shot. About three hours later the credits started rolling and I watched every second of them because I was convinced that this was a trick and that there had to be more gameplay coming. But just like my 12th birthday party I was left disappointed and sat on my couch alone wanting more. I was confused and the inquisitive part of me went searching for clues as to where the rest of my game went. I checked to see if the game was actually just a larger demo, I checked for a second disc, I even checked out back in the shed (I’m still not sure why but things tend to end up there from time to time) and still couldn’t turn up anything. Oh wait, found it, an intricate online leveling and ranking system with maps that were way more fun and elaborate than the single player ones. I’m also going to recall a conversation with a fellow gaming friend of mine after seeing that he had more achievement points than me in the first Gears of War. I inquired how he felt about the game and we both shared that we enjoyed it but then like a screaming howler monkey across the face, he struck me with the fact that he hadn’t (and still to this day hasn’t) played the single player campaign. My mind was sufficiently blown and I spent about four hours picking up the pieces I could find scattered around my house.

Now granted all is not lost just yet, Dead Space and games like that offer rays of light and hope in my darkened bedroom and offer up only a well written story mode and nothing else. But sadly I know that like the dinosaurs the time has come for my people and we’ll have to grudgingly step aside and make room for games of capture the flag and deathmatches where snipers exploit bugs to kill me every time I spawn.

Although, I did play Call of Duty 4’s online mode an absurd amount but not until after finishing the story mode and giving it the respect I’d give any senile old soldier marching on in the parade.

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