February 29, 2008

The Potential Problem With Multiplayer

So I just had this conversation with Brer. We were talking about MMOs and I mentioned APB, which is this MMO from the Crackdown creators which seems like Crackdown + with lots of people? In any case, he didn’t really see the appeal, and I pointed out that it’s all about just dicking around with friends. Being idiots in a group. He tells me this has no appeal for him whatsoever.
What followed was me trying very hard to explain WHY such things are fun, which is apparently pretty hard to do. What I ended up talking about was somewhat of an unwritten social contract to play along and add to a sort of… world that you build as a group, and then play in. This world is probably the stupidest thing ever, but it doesn’t matter what the world is, it’s that it represents the shared experience and connection you have with the group, and bringing it back up reaffirms that connection. It’s a lot like inside jokes, you know? They work the same way, only on a smaller scale. In fact, this sort of play creates a lot of inside jokes in my experience.
In any case, he then told me about how his groups of friends used to do such things, and he found such situations quite boring. He just doesn’t do that. And I mean, I can respect that, but at the same time, it makes me think back to moments when I’ve tried to play Co-op games with him. The moment that sticks out in my mind was when we started working on Neverwinter Nights 2 together. I don’t really know anything about currentish DnD rules, so I didn’t know anything about making the character. We’re talking on Skype and he’s trying to lead me through it… and I decide “Hey, I think I’ll be a Bard.” Just for no real reason besides that sounds like fun. Bards are normally, in my experience, bufftastic sort of people, and I like that. But Brer tells me that’s not really a good idea, and that I should be a cleric so that we can have access to Turn Undead. He knows better, I assume, and shrug, and I make a cleric. As we’re playing, though, I’m not really having any fun. The cleric isn’t my character. It’s just a cleric that Brer is telling me how I should use effectively. He tells me to turn undead, I turn undead or whatever. It’s not any fun. And so I stopped making efforts to play, and we never got anywhere. When I played single player, I made that Bard, and I wasn’t very effective, but it was my bard, and I had a good time collecting magic instruments and shit.
There’s always going to be some level of planning and execution in a game, and that can be a lot of fun, sure. But it has to be a co-op experience. Part of the fun I’ve always found in co-op is, as much as tackling something together, just the experience of being with someone else. That someone else is likely to do stupid or crazy things, and it’s in dealing with that and doing your own stupid and crazy things that creates that shared experience that you value. If I want to walk into a room and aggro everyone in it, I think I should, because the resulting fallout is definitely going to be a tale to remember.
Granted, a lot of this is also expectation. Looking back, it was clear that Brer entered this co-op game to beat the game with me, and I entered this co-op game to spend time with Brer. Although these goals are not mutually exclusive, they are different. They differ in moments like I mentioned before, when it comes to picking something that’s the most effective versus something that’s the most fun. Perhaps if I had gone in expecting it all more, it would have worked out better. But I can play that game alone and have a lot of fun. The thing I gain by playing co-op is spending time with him… to me it only makes sense that fun should be the ultimate goal…
I don’t know… the whole conversation worries me, because in my mind I look ahead to a moment when we’re living together, sitting on a couch and playing a game… and I suddenly see something more mechanical than fun. And that’s… not what I want. I look forward and I see Brer not being involved in my group of friends because he just doesn’t get the same kind of fun out of the multiplayer games like Smash Bastards and Rock Band that I love so dearly. Again, I don’t think he’s wrong for not liking things like that. He has every right to, but… I just… I want him in my life, you know? I love him tons. And the idea of having a part of my life, especially a part that we really always seemed to overlap on, not really be something he wants to be involved in kinda makes me sad.
I mean, I don’t know what all this means, or if it means anything. I just had to get it out, you know?

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