Thursday, December 10, 2015

Bad Will Towards Men

The children rued the day Frosty returned.
This week on PopMatters I get all Grinch-ey.  Not towards Christmas, but against my fellow players.

I'll admit it: I've been playing lots of Heroes of the Storm lately.  I think it's a good game, but it's reminded me of why many games, especially MOBAs have such toxic communities.  Those games are systemically predisposed to make strangers hate each other.

They're difficult games from a mechanical perspective (memorizing the right combos, mouse movements, build orders, etc.) and new people can accidentally bring their whole team down.  But it's the larger strategic layer that really fuels resentment.  It's one thing to lose in a fighting game or a shooter: you fail to execute on hitting your opponent and not getting hit and you lose.  In objective based games, it often doesn't matter if you're a worse technician than you're opponent as long as you're a better tactician.

So when I see someone who walks right by the map objective in HotS in favor of an ill fated push into enemy territory, it's easy to get frustrated.  Especially when this player inevitably starts giving people a hard time about their KDR.  I've been sentenced to a long, losing campaign not because of some deficiency of my basic skills but because hardheaded fools aren't observant enough to see the bigger picture.

It's a feeling I never really feel when playing a single-player game, no matter how brutal they are.  I'm entering into a system that I don't control, but at least my fate is in my own hands.  The mistakes are mine, as is the decision to engage with the system.  In Downwell or Spelunky, there's no one to be mad at besides the uncaring algorithm.

It's why I'll always find The Binding of Isaac to be a relaxing, almost meditative experience.  Even though there's a lot of losing, I'm in control of it.

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