To Hell With Story - Sometimes I Just Wanna Win!

Posted by on Monday, 27th August, 2012

These days respectable video-game reviewers are not supposed to enjoy Call of Duty. If you want to be taken seriously as a mature fan of video games, you must disdain competitive multiplayer and bemoan the ubiquity of first-person shooters. But allow me to say: Screw you!

I love online multiplayer shooters, and for several weeks I’ve been trying to explain precisely why. I think I’ve figured it out.

There’s no question that story is vital to our lives as humans. As Chinua Achebe said*: “People create stories create people; or rather stories create people create stories”. We need to live inside of stories in order to explore our humanity and broaden our ontological horizons. No question.

* Read the Wikipedia article about him. Really! It’s good. I should know. (I wrote it.)

But just as we must occasionally treat ourselves to junk food and chocolate bars, so too must we occasionally throw stories aside and feel some simple red-blooded visceral victory. Everyone needs to win.

I generally feel pretty good about what I do — helping young people find themselves and understand the world and all that claptrap. But there’s a lot of negative hogwash that comes with the job. Some days I feel like I’ve accomplished nothing at all. (Well, nothing tangible.)

On those days especially, it’s really nice to come home and do something that you’re good at. And for all the self-effacing jokes I make, I’m pretty good at online FPSes. Not great, no MLG nonsense, but competent. My K/D ratio on COD and CS:GO is about 1:1, which is a level that makes me happy.

I don’t have to worry about keeping track of a story. I don’t have to worry about managing ammunition. I don’t have to keep track of time limits or companions. I can just run around and rack up points.

So that’s why I love online multiplayer shooters.


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  1. esselhaych says:

    Good point by Verbalrob, this is probably as close as it gets to competitive sport without actually getting sweaty. Perhaps that explains why I’m not a huge fan of multiplayer FPS. I’ve never been fond of competitive sports or games, I feel bad losing but I feel worse winning because then I feel bad for the people that didn’t win. I’ll stick to stories and leave the rest of you to enjoy shooting the hell out of each other.

  2. Justanother writer says:

    Verbalrob, I agree with you. Besides, I’m a lover, not a fighter.That said, Fight Night Champion’s single player story involves all the fighting I need. Rocky the game. Check it out. It is incredible, especially if you are a fan of boxing. Great comments.

  3. GanguCrimes says:

    lol Jon you always have a go at me for saying i enjoyed playing through mw3

  4. Verbalrob says:

    In an effort to seem less combative I would like to point out that I actually prefer story based games but I think there is room for both.

  5. Verbalrob says:

    justanotherwriter, I understand what you mean but I was referring more to games as sport rather than sport games and I think stepjay was right in his comment that fps multiplayer games are often more sports like than games based on real sports. As far as I can tell (as I have never played it) the story in Fight Night Champion only really applies to the single player mode. Story can often work against multiplayer games as like sport the appeal is often in that matches can be played over and over again and having a story in there, being constantly repeated, would just get in the way.

  6. justanotherwriter says:

    Burr Salem, I agree totally. But Verbalrob, The Daddy, accidentally has a point. The future of some sports games will combine story with the game. Already been done in a brilliant way with Fight Night Champion, which you can download on your console for 20 American. The game is excellent with an 86 metacritic with reviews proclaiming it is the future of sports gaming. It is incredible and you should check it out. There will be a football game that will involve story like in your favorite football movie and if the story is good, it will be a great game. I love to shoot and kill just like the next guy and yeah I could just go read another book or watch a movie but why not get it all in one with an immersive video game. After all, I’m a gamer. For now, I’ll just play episode 3 tomorrow of The Walking Dead. Peace everyone, great comments.

    Just sayin’

  7. DukeSkath says:

    Rob: Nicely said.

    Stu: Yeah, because Pro Wrestling in the US is opera. Pure and simple.

  8. TheDaddy says:

    What about American Wrestling they seem to want to add a story to that!

  9. stepjay says:

    a great read, comments included. rob your spot on about there being no story in football! lol. here’s the thing.. fifa and madden alike just cant re-create 11 v 11 in there game. fps games are the closet you will get to being a competitive arena. football is too much a team sport to ever fully work in a game.

  10. TPV Jonmau5 says:

    I agree. The majority of us play games as a form of escapism. Switch the game on, shoot some enemies, forget about everything going outside the game and only concentrate on killing the next bad guy or playing for the objective.

    I do not think there is anything wrong in enjoying a First Person Shooter game. The ‘out there’ and ‘artsy’ games can be fun when they are actually a game and not just a pretentious idea pretending to be a videogame but for every ‘artsy’ and ‘out there’, many cannot be played again and again and played easily enough that you can switch it on, have a lot of fun right away and then your done, you’ve had your fix, now back to real life.

  11. Verbalrob says:

    I never really understood all the comparisons between story based games and competitive multiplayer games when for me they seemed like two completely different entities. I always saw competitive multiplayer games as being more like sport and I’ve never heard a football fan complaining about the lack of plot during a football match.

  12. Michael Swales says:

    How about a good shooter with an awesome story? Yeah Halo and Half Life.

  13. Burr Salem says:

    I completely agree Duke. I don’t play competitive online shooters as much as I did a few years ago, but the draw is undeniable. Sometimes it’s that thrill of victory you crave or the intensity of competition that precedes it. Sometimes you want to jump into something you can jump back out of quick and easy if you’re on a schedule. Sometimes you really do just want to veg out. Playing a few matches of Duty can be like cruising down the freeway. Oftentimes afterwards you don’t really remember taking a lot of the turns or what you passed along the way, but you know a part of your brain capably handled the details and brought you out the other side. There’s also something to be said about the narrative that an online shooter can provide. It’s not a “story” per se, but there are times that the environments and the ebb and flow of the competition creates something akin to one.

  14. Justanother writer says:

    To hell with shooting. Sometimes I just want a good story.


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