Following a recent break up with my girlfriend, or rather my ex-girlfriend, I’ve fallen back into a familiar habit so readily identified with teenage boys. Dimmed lights, clammy hands, and a short-lived rush produced in violent frenzy are the hallmarks of my shame. It offers relief, but ultimately any satisfaction turns to ash and once again I am cold and alone. Modern Warfare 3, or at least its online multiplayer component, has a lot to answer for.
Multiplayer games should be a social experience, as far as I am concerned. I am an avid first person shooter fan who will happily spend hours plugging away online. The last decade of my online gaming life has been centred on the Battlefield and Halo universes. I always felt a sense of camaraderie, even after having played them for years. Not to toot my own horn (a dangerous phrase to use I admit, considering the title of this article) but I’m very good at Halo and Battlefield. In most situations I would say that I don’t NEED other players to win, but I always want them at my side because it makes it such a rewarding experience. As much as any online multiplayer game is ‘my’ experience, being that I am sat in my house alone, it also feels like a shared one with the other players: this is not the case with Modern Warfare 3.
With all the customisation that is available to a Modern Warfare 3 player, they can be among the most anonymous multiplayer participants you could ever come across. You might think that increasing the number of opportunities for expression and personal projection would encourage a more social experience, but in Modern Warfare 3 it actually inhibits it. For example, every Halo: Reach player model can be personalised aesthetically but the standard fighting capabilities are the same across the board i.e. they all run the same speed, jump the same height etc. In Modern Warfare 3, the player models are relatively impersonal but the standard fighting capabilities differ for almost every player. Halo encourages team play because everyone has the same abilities whilst Modern Warfare 3 discourages it, because perks and add-ons allow players to insulate themselves from teamwork and social interaction. The game prides itself on brutal realism, a portrait of ‘modern warfare’, but also modern society? One rife with inter-connectedness juxtaposed with inter-personal detachment?
Perhaps the lethality of weapons and the small size of most levels defeats any chance of team play thriving. The same could be said about the over-reliance on bottlenecks, as well as the unintuitive spawning system in place. However, these clearly aren’t design flaws; they’re the core principles of the game and the franchise as a whole. It is these core principles that led me to my onanistic eureka moment, concerning the lurid nature of Modern Warfare 3 and its similarity to bishop bashing.
The games last about eight minutes or so and therefore require no long term commitment. More often than not, you’ll find that an aversion to long term commitments is what drives players to Modern Warfare 3 in the first place. Whether you’re just waking up or just about to go to sleep, there’s always time for a quick go.
I would rather not have my friends see me do it, as its frantic nature leads to awkward facial contortions and the uncontrollable release of random noises. Notice that I say RATHER because, frankly, if I’m in the mood it’s probably going to happen either way.
It leaves me feeling empty and unfulfilled afterwards because it sacrifices any real sense of reward or achievement. Sure, the first few times it’s great but then it become a sordid routine. The achievement system in place is wrecked by an overwhelming sense of inevitability. The most idling of people are rewarded for participating in this shameful exercise, with every player receiving some kind of commendation. Then there is the endless parade of emblems, the mindless tactics, not to mention the cavalcade of near-identical weaponry making each experience less meaningful than the last. Where is the impetus to strive for something more?
Modern Warfare 3 is addictive because it appeals to my natural impulses, but this doesn’t make it a good thing. That I have made this seedy comparison in the first place probably does more to tarnish my reputation than the games. However, the next time you engage in either, remember this – You’ll be left tearful, and with a bad taste in your mouth, if your aim isn’t up to scratch.