The Case Against Multiplayer Games

I’m not going to lie, until I got a load of the zombies mode, I wasn’t hugely excited to have Call of Duty: Black Ops II waiting for me to review. The Call of Duty series in general has a few problems, but the design director for Treyarch, David Vonderhaar, recently said something pretty revealing:

As popular as Call of Duty is, there are a lot of people who don’t play multiplayer. And quite frankly, this bugs the s*** out of us. They should all play multiplayer.

This says a lot about the series. When I reviewed Modern Warfare 3, a review I’m getting hate mail about to this day, I pointed out that the effort obviously went into the multiplayer, and it’s where the franchise’s heart is, certainly its wallet.

That said, Mr. Vonderhaar, if you’re reading? There are some pretty compelling arguments against everyone in the multiplayer pool.

Some Of Us Are Not Fun To Play Against

When it comes to video games, I’m a min-maxer, a munchkin, a stat hog, whatever you want to call it. I’m the guy who builds the most invincible character possible. I’m the guy who shoots you in the face with a sniper rifle from across the map and then lines up a second shot while you pound away at the dozens of layers of armor I’ve slapped on.

This doesn’t make me some sort of god at multiplayer: In fact, when I play multiplayer I get my ass handed to me a lot, generally by guys dedicated specifically to hunting down guys like me and killing them. But it does make me annoying to other players. I may not be “cheating”, per se, but they’ve got every reason to dislike my play style. And I’m not even going out of my way to be annoying. That’s practically an art form at this point.

There’s Still a Culture Problem

This has been beaten into the ground, but I will say that, if I feel some compelling need to have homophobic slurs hurled at me by a teenager (or grown man with the mentality of a teenager) I don’t know personally, I don’t need to pay Activision for that privilege.

Multiplayer Can Become a Second Job Too Easily

Again, this isn’t a profound insight, but part of the reason I’ve never had a World of Warcraft account is that I have a job, a fiancee, a dog, and other responsibilities, not to mention other hobbies. It’s already sometimes a task to fit the games I want to play into my schedule.

Now, balance that with being part of a team. I’ve long felt that multiplayer is really for two types of people: the vast majority who can’t get friends together in person to play a tabletop game and miss that sharing of games with people they’re close to. And the small minority of people who don’t understand that being required to show up at a certain place at a certain time on someone else’s orders is what we call a “day job”, and that we do not pay others for the privilege of a day job.

Granted, CoD’s culture isn’t nearly as demanding as, say, EVE Online. But I’ve never met anybody who wasn’t part of a multiplayer team in ANY game who didn’t get stressed out about it at some point. Thanks, no.

It’s Expensive

Let’s see here. So, I pay $60 for the game. And increasingly another $30 for a “season pass” so you can play on the DLC maps early with your group and to save over buying them individually. Let’s throw in another $10 for random DLC like weapons which you may need, or subscriptions.

So for one game, to play multiplayer properly and courteously to my other players, I am shelling out $100 minimum per game.

Hell. No. $60 is already a hell of a lot to ask for many, many games in terms of what you get. Frankly, $40 is far too much to ask for what should be an extra to a polished, detailed single-player campaign, which is still what most people pay for. Part of the reason Black Ops II is so exciting is that the Zombies mode looks like an honest to God single player game, as opposed to the extended multiplayer tutorial recent games throw at us. Yeah, it looks like a fratboy’s idea of Left 4 Dead but I’ll take it if for no other reason than it means I might play the game more than once.

If you want people to play exclusively multiplayer, developers, let’s stop screwing around: Go multiplayer only. Quite frankly, I don’t think you’d see much objection from most fans of many games with a multiplayer culture surrounding them. And the rest of us would be just that much happier.