In my opinion, gaming has quickly become less about fun and testing yourself, and more about leader boards and easy kills. From developers to players, we have created a gaming culture in which the easiest path is obvious and encouraged. This sentiment is seen in almost no other sport, however. You didn’t see Sammy Sosa get away with corking his bat, and you won’t see steroids legitimized for pro football players. You do, however, see quick scoping work its way back into Call of Duty, and the ability to buy all Battlefield 3 vehicle upgrades from the live marketplace. Is it just me, or is the industry handing out god mode passes to anyone interested? Players have apparently lost touch with the good old philosophies of earning your keep, and taking the road less traveled.
RTSs have always been a passion of mine. There is nothing quite like winning a game with pure tactics and battlefield creativity. It is strange to me that a simple board game such as chess has survived through the ages, while the RTS genre, its gaming equivalent, appears to be running on empty almost from the start. I enjoy getting multi kills in Halo as much as the next guy, but after a few hours of exerting my dominant reaction time, my mind craves a challenge as well.
Let me be clear about this from the start; I’m not saying that FPSs don’t challenge you or require a certain set of skills to become proficient in. The fundamental difference between many modern FPSs and most other video game genres is the degree to which a person lacking experience or real skill can overcome their handicap by simply picking better gear. How else do you explain the rampant use of guns like Modern Warfare 3’s ACR and FMG9s? These guns are no frill, death machines, tailored to maximize kills, and minimize effort in doing so. To me, that’s what it seems to be all about these days, minimizing effort. The ACR is pinpoint accurate, shoots fast,, has a large clip, and does decent damage. With this gun in your hand, good aim or the ability to control for recoil are not necessary to have an extremely successful game. Similarly, the FMG9 akimbo shoots incredibly fast (doubly so with akimbo), has a tiny hipfire reticle, and has a huge magazine. The FMG9 akimbo as a secondary is better than many of the primary weapons on smaller maps. Now I understand that certain players find themselves outmatched by more experienced players, and use these guns to gain an edge. This playstyle is fine to me. Where the problem arises is after the match ends and these same people talk trash about how much they pwned you. To talk trash with an ACR in your hand, is much like bringing a gun to a knife fight and bragging that you won. Oh, and one more thing: modded controllers…..enough said.
Another problem with many games today, and again particularly within the FPS genre, is the desired skillset to become a top player. This skillset is one of fast reflexes, solid hand-eye coordination, and familiarity with the game itself. I mention this last skill due to the fact that an experienced player racks up many kills by knowing where enemies spawn, what routes are most common, and how to exploit these aspects. While these are all valid performance metrics for the genre, they are mostly physical in nature. What has slowly been disappearing, and what this rant and rave is truly about, are the mental requirements.
There are a number of contributing factors about why I believe gamers are using their brains less. First and foremost is the idea that there is no penalty for poor play. To me, the games that implement some sort of negative feature tied to low performance always garner more intellectual gamers. An example of this concept is no respawn times. Dying in many games amounts to nothing more than being placed somewhere else on the map. This does not give me much incentive to think my actions through carefully and plan one move ahead of my enemy. If someone should get the best of me on the battlefield, it is of little inconvenience to me. This is why I prefer to play gametypes, and games in general, with no respawns, or serious drawbacks to rash behavior. These circumstances focus the mind and force you to think critically about your behavior and how it will affect your team. As mentioned earlier, I am a huge fan of RTSs, and this is the primary reason. Yes it is annoying that many games end in the first 5 minutes due to someone being rush eliminated, but past that point, every decision can have make it or break it outcomes, and the thrill that provides is unmatched in other genres.
If you aren’t into the RTS scene, you aren’t out of luck just yet. The game Dark Souls is a prime example of an extremely challenging game that owes part of its success to its difficult nature. Unforgiving and relentless, success in Dark Souls feels greater than achievements in almost any other game. Yes there will be screaming. Yes there will be controller tossing. But isn’t emotion what makes games, and for that matter everything else, fun? If you agree with me, other game setups you may enjoy are Ninja Gaiden and Gears of War. While each aren’t inherently difficult, playing both on the hardest difficulty (Brutal and Insane, respectively) can provide quite a rush.
Still don’t believe everything I’ve said? Want some hard evidence? Scroll through the countless Modern Warfare 3 YouTube videos with titles like “EPIC KILLSPREE” or “Best quad kill ever!!1!1!” I feel like I’m the only one who’s not impressed to see someone drop a MOAB using the Type 95. Bring back skill, bring back difficulty, bring back proper weapon balancing, and bring back the necessity to earn your upgrades, not purchase them. I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m getting too tired of pre-teens shouting “u mad bro?” when they 360 quick scope me. Yes bro, I’m mad.