There comes a time in the life of every gaming girl and boy when we just hit a wall within a video game. It may be an individual game or an entire franchise, and it may even be something we’ve enjoyed playing immensely for several weeks, months or years. It might not even happen within every game we play, nor is it necessarily restricted to typically “bad” games. Make no mistake however that once that wall appears, it becomes rooted into your mind, forever forming a unshakable barrier between yourself and your enjoyment of whatever it is you were playing.
Last Sunday, this happened to me whilst playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The results may very well be irreversible…
If asked for an explanation as to why this happened on this given day and during this given play session, I don’t think I could provide one. Levels of visible cheating were at no greater heights than usual (although crucially, no less obvious either) and I was generally having a “good day” online, comfortably hovering in the safety of mid-table mediocrity within my team of eight. Nobody was being particularly abusive over the headsets either – rare in itself – and there was nothing about this particular round of Team Deathmatch that ground my gears to controller throwing levels of rage. By my own patchy standards and experiences with Modern Warfare 2 since purchasing the game on launch day, this lazy Sunday afternoon was very much an average stint of online warfare. Not my most thrilling hours of service, but far from the most irritating either.
Yet, as the post-match lobby re-appeared and informed me I had now progressed to Level 40, something in my head clicked. I put down my Dual Shock, arose from the ass grooves on my sofa, ejected the Modern Warfare 2 disc and powered down my Playstation 3. As I placed the Blu-Ray back into its case, I said aloud and to nobody but myself, “I am done with this.” At that point and seemingly out of nowhere, my fling with Modern Warfare 2 came to an abrupt end.
To try and offer some self justification, I will confess this fling has been one that has had its fair share of trials and tribulations since November. The fact that I have only now leveled up to 40 probably tells you more about my relationship with Modern Warfare 2 than I could put into words. I am a distinctly average competitor in the online FPS field, perhaps even a poor one, and have relied more on grinding out weapon upgrades than actual combat ability to gain experience points. At a time when many gamers are on their second, third and fourth prestige cycle – legitimately or otherwise – my humble numerical progress stands as a visible testament to both my lack of ability and the game’s failure to draw me into its world.
Perhaps subconsciously, my enjoyment of Modern Warfare 2 has been a fallacy. I have sunk hours into the online component yet have never stuck with the game for more than a couple of days at a time; rarely investing more than an hour or two of my evenings, for a maximum of one or two nights a week since my initial purchase. Somewhere between my limbic system and prefrontal cortex, Modern Warfare 2 just hasn’t lit up my brain with excitement. As a mediocre player, it seems quite likely that my eyes may simply have grown weary of watching other peoples kill cam’s relentlessly pick me off, or my thumb tired of pressing the square button to re-spawn.
Most likely, however, is that my long-term grievances with the community have finally pushed me over the edge. It should go without saying that the following rant is not a sweeping generlisation the entire Modern Warfare 2 online populace, but from my experiences so far I hold few reservations about calling out the majority on this one. The sense of community is just awful. Simply terrible.
Much of what makes this community so vile is hardly new to online gaming. People have shouted racist abuse and forced others to listen to their rubbish music since headsets have been a part of online gaming, but rarely have I had the displeasure of experiencing an online environment where such issues are so widespread. It’s barely possible to venture into a lobby of virtually any game type without encountering what seem like literally the worst people alive today. God forbid anybody from outside North America or the UK dare to speak in their native tongue, or show even the slightest hint of regional dialect or accent in the tone of their voice. It serves almost as justification to people like our Australian friend Michael Atkinson, who would probably think all his Christmases had come at once should he ever get embroiled in a 5 minute game of Free For All.
Particularly for Playstation 3 owners, it poses an interesting situation. Although all but the most basic Xbox 360 SKUs have come bundled with headsets since the console launched in 2005, Sony has been criticised regularly for not including headsets with the PS3; particularly after the announcement of the Slim, seen to many as a missed opportunity to right some of the wrongs from Sony’s initial, stuttering launch. The result is a distinct lack of online communication across the Playstation Network. Annoyingly, the major exception to this rule is Modern Warfare 2; a game that will make you wish you could block all vocal and written forms of communication entirely. Thanks to a complete lack of co-operation and devoid of almost any strategic gameplay, Modern Warfare 2’s chat system currently exists almost exclusively as a vehicle for abuse.
It could be argued that yes, the game does allow you to mute individual players. In the very worst case scenarios, muting abusive players is as easy as pushing 2 buttons. But can you block clan tags? No, you bloody well can’t, which means you can’t avoid the utter drivel which many choose to display next to their gamertags and usernames. Just last week, I ended up in a Deathmatch with a guy who chose to display [CUNT] as his clan tag. You can’t mute that. You can’t avoid it appearing in lobbies or flashing up on your screen whenever he kills you, presumably as a result of some sort of glitch or cheat.
I am not of an easily offended mind. If somebody wishes to drop the C-bomb in my general direction for a specific reason then fine. I’ll laugh, perhaps show some slight pity and move on with my life. What irritated me about this particular instance was the needlessness of it all. Such a basic disregard and casual use of such appalling language, aimed at nobody in particular and with no purpose or reason. It was to the English language what watching somebody kick a puppy is to our sense of humanity, triggering little more emotion than a disappointing sigh and the death of something inside us. It was also perhaps the perfect summation of everything that makes playing Modern Warfare 2 online such an uncomfortable and difficult experience.
I have tried to cast off such issues and disregard them as an overreaction, but nearing some 5 months since the game’s release and little appears to be being done. If anything, the abusive bile appears to be increasing at a time when my patience with having to hear it has plummeted faster than a hang gliding elephant. Infinity Ward’s subtle-as-a-sledgehammer approach to drugs-related innuendo’s and “spliff” motifs for unlockable call signs and emblems perhaps tells me that my moral objections and discomfort are now an exception rather than the rule, with the current community base very much consisting of both the developer and the publisher’s target audience.
Perhaps I am being over critical, but I don’t see it as a coincidence that my “hit the wall” moment with Modern Warfare 2 appeared just days after my run in with Mr. [CUNT].
Regardless of whether it be the glitchy and cheat riddled gameplay, the awful level of community or a simple failure to attract me to it’s charm’s, my time with Infinity Ward’s record smashing hit has come to an emphatic end. The wall has most certainly appeared and I no longer have even the slightest inclination to attempt to break through it.
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