Sorry if I’m being a bit predictable here, but I don’t like multiplayer very much. Have I not made that abundantly clear for the last five years and counting? I’m not a fan. And the current state of console shooters is a cause for great concern for me, if developers are going to keep making games like Borderlands and its sequel. Games very obviously geared for co-op but sold as single player anyway.
And if you want to make a multiplayer game, fine. Just don’t delude yourself into thinking that the multiplayer can multitask as single player if you just take the other players out, and end up giving a mediocre experience to everyone. Borderlands is rather transparently designed with the hope that you’ll have a couple of friends around to distract you from the tedium of the actual gameplay. It’s like going to a karaoke joint to sing by yourself in a private room. It’s certainly possible and no one in the club will stop you as long as you paid for the space, but it’s missing the point, isn’t it.
Now, this may surprise you who are used to me projecting the image of a witty, urbane, staggeringly attractive cock of the walk about town, but in social situations I’m pretty awkward. I’ve had anxiety with it for a very long time and I just don’t like other people. Individuals are fine once you get to know them, especially if they’re interesting in conversation or have large, sumptuous breasts, but I don’t like people in the plural and I’ve seen very little to change my mind about that.
And interacting with people online may be even worse, partly because you can’t see a face from which to read those ever-difficult social cues, and partly because people online are more likely to act like complete twats, as I’m sure you’re well aware if you’ve plowed through enough of the internet to find this article. Just the thought that there’s another human being on the other side of the screen, reading and responding to my actions live, makes me feel uncomfortable. I don’t even like keeping Skype or a Facebook window open in case one of the many attractive women of my acquaintance start pleading for me to have sex with them.
So multiplayer games I avoid. I hate the thought that I am in some small way responsible for another person’s entertainment, either through being an efficient co-op partner or a challenging foe. I hate the thought that someone might have to carry me, because I know how annoyed I’d be if I had to carry someone else. I don’t need that additional pressure when I’m just trying to unwind and have fun. And don’t say the obvious thing: “Who cares? You’ll never interact with them again and they’ll never know it was you playing if you ever meet them in real life, and even if they did only the most profoundly petty individual would hold a grudge against someone for not shooting the zombies with maximum efficiency on one occasion.” Yes, I realize all that. I’ve heard it all before. Anxiety like mine does not operate on any conscious or rational level.
But I’m not asking developers to go out of their way to cater for my diseased brain. I understand why multiplayer exists and why people like it, I only raise objections when its presence interferes with my beloved single player experiences without me asking for it, like when games like Spec Ops: The Line are forced to waste effort on a shit multiplayer mode, effort that they could have spent on making the single player campaign even more amazing.
And you know, even if I didn’t hate people, I would probably still prefer finding entertainment by myself, and that’s what I hate about the world today. I want to know when the concept of ‘me-time’ started becoming a dirty word. I once heard from Charlie Brooker’s excellent Screenwipe program that TV adverts for alcohol aren’t allowed to show people drinking alone, because apparently this is unhealthy behavior. But I like drinking alone. What’s unhealthy about settling in of an evening, reading a book or watching some Let’s Plays, and enjoying a lovely crisp dry Strongbow while you’re at it? Why is getting a pleasant little buzz on only sanctioned by society when other people are watching you do it, and potentially watching you embarrass yourself?
It’s true, though, isn’t it? This is a society that demonizes the introvert. In movie tropes it’s always the quiet dude surfing the internet alone in his room who you’re supposed to assume is the potential serial murderer. Whenever there’s a “lone wolf” hero, getting them to “come out of their shell” and “learn to love again” is always, always part of their character arc, usually through the browbeating of a more outgoing character. It’s like there’s this assumption that every introvert secretly wants to learn how to love clubbing or holding someone else’s fucking baby but doesn’t know how to ask, when in reality I find both those activities less enchanting than nailing my foot to the floor.
Lately it seems like all entertainment media is trying to be the manic pixie dream girl who exists to take us by the hand and bring us out into the open as it spends more and more nights of unprotected passion with social networking services. Ten years from now you won’t even be able to sit out on your balcony and read a book without some spring-loaded device on the spine launching a pop-up over the page letting us know that some loser in Cincinatti is also reading the book and would I like to chat about it.
Creators just assume that everyone likes this sort of thing because the ones who don’t are us introverts, and introverts don’t comment or write complaints cause we’re too introverted. But I’m speaking for my people, now. If someone’s my friend then I’ll go over and talk to them when I’m out drinking of an evening, but that doesn’t mean I want to face the slavering hordes with them all afternoon in a videogame as well.
And as for the activities of random strangers, I couldn’t give a dingleberry. Fuck random strangers. I don’t want to know what their high scores were. I don’t want to know what they thought of the Youtube video I’m watching. I don’t want to hear their opinions being read out on the TV news. I don’t want them to start talking to me on the bus. And above all else I don’t want them pissing through my letter box. So stop it, Mr. Collins.
Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn’t talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.