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.
If I were smart, I would stop playing Call of Duty. I would sell the discs and never go near any CoD game ever again.
Today was a good day. I got lots of papers graded, had some good discussions with students and colleagues, and generally felt great when I got home. “I know!” I said, like a fool. “I’ll go on COD and pwn some n00bz!” Two hours and seven infuriating TDM rounds later (in which I did not once have a positive K/D ratio) I am angry and hostile and gnashing my teeth in frustration.
Jessi Slaughter was an 11-year-old girl when she first rose to internet fame through the following video, which she posted on a fansite for the band Blood on the Dancefloor. Note the vulgar language and violent bravado.
When the video became widely known, some of the internet’s more troll-like individuals decided to challenge her claim that people “can’t faze me” and threats of “brain slushie”. So they started posting nasty messages to her and making hostile videos of their own.
In an age of high-definition graphics, motion-sensory game controllers, intense FPS shooters, and 3D interactive worlds, it may seem ridiculous to sing the praises of an ancient repetitive text-based game. But I have been a MUD addict for several years, and it’s time to break the silence.
MUD stands for Multi-User Dungeon (or, sometimes, Dimension). They saw their heyday in the early and mid-1980s, when games like DOOM were just a pipe dream, and no one imagined we’d play them online. Using mere text (and ANSI color — oo, fancy!), these Zork-esque worlds gained a massive cult following. MUDs (and variants like MUSHes and MOOs) of all sorts sprang up and attracted huge swarms of eager gamers.
Dear readers of the Daily Moralist. There is a virulent plague sweeping our youth, desecrating their fragile sensibilities and turning them into an amoral, rampaging gang of hoodlums screaming for death, drinking human blood and putting harmless cats into wheelie bins. Gone are the days when we could soundly thrash our children, starve them for a week and then let them play with lead soldiers. These are extreme times, and an extreme measure must be taken. First, however, you must be made aware of this silent, vile abomination, and what damage it is inflicting in our sweet cherubs. I refer, of course, to these so-called ‘TV games’, or ‘video games’ as the foul peddlers who sell this filth call them. Parents, read on, and beware…
Spoiler Warning: This article contains spoilers for the games Red Dead Redemption, Mass Effect, Dragon Age: Origins, and Heavy Rain.
Okay, so I’ve never actually fallen in love with a character from a video game. But I have felt a certain connection with some video game characters (especially Non-Player Characters, or NPCs); you probably have, too. As games develop, we’ll have more of these friendships — and they’ll become more meaningful. The possibility for genuine human connection with virtual beings is becoming more and more powerful as time goes on. The amazing thing is: It has almost nothing to do with technology.
I’ll admit right up front that what follows is kinda long. There’s lots of words here, and I won’t be offended if some people take an attitude of TLDR. But these are important philosophical concepts, and I want to see the conversation move beyond the stale, boring black-and-white argument of “yes it is”/”no it isn’t”.