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.