Extra Punctuation

On Multiplayer


South Australian attorney general and professional bugbear, Michael Atkinson, has announced his intention to appeal the MA-15 classification of Modern Warfare 2 for all the terrorist glorifying it does. Aww. No doubt he’ll also get on the large hadron collider people to see what they can do about altering the fabric of the space-time continuum, transmuting the content of the several million copies already sold. Ha! Too late. We won this round. Let it go, you stupid old cunt.


“You didn’t try the online multiplayer portion of modern warfare 2????? Seriously????? THAT’S LIKE TRYING ORANGE BOX AND SKIPPING OVER THE SILLY PORTAL GAME.”
-Matt, via email

Yes, I had a feeling I’d be answering for this today. Why didn’t I give Modern Warfare 2’s online multiplayer the time of day, despite it being one of the game’s big selling points and apparently bestowed upon this Earth by the divine hand of Siddhartha Buddha? I suppose if people are confused enough to use five question marks at a time then I’d better explain why I usually feel that online multiplayer isn’t my department.

1. Because I live in a faraway kingdom of fantasy.

Australia is a land of flowing alcohol and happy people, of Christmas on the beach; where even the louts will have smiles on their faces as they kick your teeth in, but the one place you won’t find us smiling is when we’re trying to game online. Australia is very far away from other English-speaking nations, which is usually a bonus because it’s a lot easier to get along with people when you can’t understand a word they’re saying, but it does mean it’s hard to find decent servers. So either you try to get by on a US server and put up with being issued some kind of strange delayed-reaction gun, or play on one of the few local Australian games you can find, which doesn’t offer a lot of choice.

And you can forget about playing the more obscure games online. It took me something like fifty tries to join a Fat Princess server. That’s a lot of wasted effort to finally figure out that a game is a pile of shit.

2. Because of time restrictions.

The thing about me is that I’m a professional game critic, and that means I play a new game every week. Sometimes I regret that. Sometimes I’d like more time to explore the nooks and crannies, just like I did your mum. But this is the lifestyle I have chosen for myself and I can’t really complain. Anyway, the thing about the multiplayer portion is that it’s usually the bit that keeps the value for money going once the actual story, campaign-y, structured part has been exhausted. And I’m not usually around long enough to care.

Besides, especially in games like Modern Warfare 2, you join your first game and are immediately flattened by fifty people who have been playing for way longer than you and know every level inside out. It’s easy to be discouraged from playing any further. People tell me “Ooh, you’d have fun if you stuck with it” but I’ve never accepted the “it gets better later” excuse. I’ve never been bumming around the house and thought to myself “Hm, I don’t really feel like playing a game now, but I might a few hours from now, so I’d better start playing a game that gets better later.”

3. Because there’s nothing more to see.

You see, there are various different kinds of gamer, defined by the reasons they play games. Some do it to test their skills, some to find all the secrets, and some people like to see things brought to a conclusion. I’m probably one of the latter.


I played World of Warcraft a few years back, and got quite addicted to it. That’s one of the reasons why I diligently self-flagellate every evening, but I digress. I got all the way to level 58, but then, like a flicking of a light switch, all my interest in playing further instantly evaporated. Why? Because I’d seen and explored every single territory on the world map. That’s what had been keeping me going, I realized – the desire to always see what was over the next hill. And avenge myself on the giant spiders that had completely ripped my booty apart the last time I set foot on their turf.

I really don’t get people who can play end-game content and games like Counter-Strike over and over and over again. Nothing ever changes and nothing is ever achieved. And you’re taking your own time away that you could be using to get to grips with the wonders of the unexplored worlds in the next game on the pile.

4. Because the single player must stand up by itself.

There was a very grim period of PC gaming, the whole Unreal Tournament, Quake 3: Arena era, when the emphasis was on multiplayer. This was thankfully ended by the arrival of a new generation of shooters like Half-Life, which reminded us what multiplayer is supposed to be: a nice bonus attached to an already strong single player experience. If the multiplayer ever becomes the main selling point, then something’s gone wrong. The fact is that most people are going to play the single player first, and if that fails to impress, they’re less likely to move onto the endgame multiplayer content (this is especially true of games that force you to play the single player first to unlock shit).

Other human beings are basically unreliable. If you play with them online they’re an unknown quantity: an internet connection can drop out at any time, and there’s no way to know if the people you’re playing with are playing from some kind of prison for sociopaths. And if you try to get your friends around to play LAN or splitscreen, you have to make sure everyone’s schedules sync up, and there’s a strong possibility that most of your guests will vote to switch over to Tekken half an hour in.

No, if you’re trying to get into a game, the only person you can rely on is yourself. So games must always have single player by default, because there will always be factors standing in the way of multiplayer that the game cannot help. All of which brings me to my last and most important reason:

5. Because people are shit.

When you play online with someone, you’re not a human being to them. You’re just another little mewling voice in the magic box of secrets. If you’re not in the same actual room, poised to punch them in the face, only their entertainment matters. You might as well just be an AI bot that swears. Surely playing against an actual AI bot would be preferable. They might not speak and get stuck in corners a lot, but at least they’ll never ragequit, and you can program them not to shoot you, and you don’t have to pay broadband internet fees for the privilege.

I’m a believer of Penny Arcade’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory: “Ordinary person + audience + anonymity = fuckwad.” I would suggest a few alterations, though, such as removing the “+ anonymity” part. And the “+ audience” part. The default state of all human beings is fuckwad. The only reason they don’t always act like fuckwads is because they’re afraid of getting punched. So they’re not just fuckwads, they’re cowardly fuckwads.

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 and writes the back page column for PC Gamer, who are too important to mention us. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.

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