You know what really grinds my gears of war? Multiplayer online gaming, that’s what. Yeah, I said it.
I play games for one thing and that one thing is to immerse myself in an interactive fantasy. When I play Madden NFL Football, I am not playing a video game . . . I am Matt Ryan. I become Matt Ryan. I try to play the game the way Matt Ryan would play it. When I throw it to Julio Jones, I become Julio Jones.
It is a fantasy. I am too old, too fat, and too slow to ever play football in real life without needing medical help after the first play. I will never know what it is to score a touchdown to win the game with less than 3 seconds on the clock. Doing it in Madden is as close as I will ever get and the great thing about doing it in a video game is can immediately go back to eating my Baconator and cheese fries when I am done . . . that and the fact that I won’t suffer any brain damage that would cause me to slit my ex-wife’s throat in the front yard, get away with it and then end up going to jail for trying to rob someone for some crappy memorabilia that no one would use to wipe their dog’s butt with.
I can be Matt Ryan in my own mind for that one hour of my day that I am immersed into a video game, but not if some idiot is constantly yanking me out of that immersion by running backwards thirty yards with RGIII and throwing a hail marry to a jet packing receiver on 4th and 32. That causes a fundamental breakdown of my fantasy world. It is like someone turning the holodeck off on the Starship Enterprise when I am inside living out my awesome fantasy. Suddenly, I am left with nothing but an empty room and an empty soul.
In order for a fantasy to truly work, it must follow certain rules. If it is a fantasy of doing something in real life you would normally never do (like be an NFL quarterback, a soldier, a pirate, etc.), then it has to follow as close to true life as possible. The problem is that games aren’t real life. They aren’t perfect recreations of real life. They require the player to suspend their disbelief and look past the obvious flaws and not take advantage of the game’s limitations. Unfortunately, for many people, the chance to win at something in their life is much more important than being part of the fantasy. They would rather use the flaws in the game to give them a sense of superiority that they otherwise don’t achieve in the real world. These are the people who never got hugs from their mommies. They will use micro-blitzes, jet packing, putting a 120 lb wide receiver in at tight end, surprise onside kicks on 4th and 63 and any other glitches in the game they can find that will help them win.
They don’t follow the same rules that I do because they play the game for different reasons. I don’t need to beat someone in a meaningless game in order to feel good about myself. That isn’t why I play games. I play games to experience something that I normally wouldn’t get to experience. I play games to become part of a story.
That puts me at a complete disadvantage because I have rules that I must follow. I try to play the game the way it was meant to be played. I try to keep the fantasy going by not stepping out of the bounds of reality . . . even if that reality is virtual.
If I am playing a first person shooter, I am not going to run around in a backwards circle while shooting in order to not get shot because that won’t work in real life and looks ridiculous. It would immediately take me out of the fantasy and plunge me into the reality that I am just playing a video game and am do nothing more than manipulating a group of pixels around a monitor screen. Yet, that is all I see when I go online. People don’t care about the fantasy… they care about winning. I would rather lose a game that has immersed us both in an awesome imaginative story than win a game that was never anything more to us than a series of button mashes and exploitations of the limitations of programming.
I recently went on GTA Online. The developers of that game have gone to great lengths to provide gamers with many great experiences where they can do things that they would normally never do in the real world: rob a bank, race in a street race, base jump off a skyscraper, etc. Out of the sixteen people in my game world, I seemed to be the only one interested in doing any of them. The other fifteen people were content with running over each other and blowing themselves up. I could see where there might be amusing for a minute, but this seemed to amuse them for hours. I don’t get it. I don’t find it fun at all. I don’t belong here.
No one is interested in telling a story. No one is interested in immersion. I know that I am a relic. I am from a time when games were meant to make you a character in a great adventure and not merely a means of getting a favorable kill to death ratio. I don't want to live in this game world. I don't care about stats. I don't care about my gamer score. I don't care if I died more times than I killed you. I don't want to care about any of that. I only care that for a brief moment, I became something else... I experienced something else... I lived a story. Stay away from my holodeck! Just let me live in alone in my fantasy world.