I am an introvert. I am someone who prefers to do things himself, if at all possible. I a plodder who wants to take his time and poke every aspect of a new game – or an old one – as he hunts for collectables and listens to story cutscenes and dialogue.
I’m very nearly the stereotype of the basement-dweller who hasn’t seen another human in years, with little to no social interaction, who will disappear for 80 hours at a stretch while playing a JRPG or grind-fest.
But, unlike a lot of those sorts, I don’t like most other players online, either. Add in my own preferences when playing games and I become vastly incompatible with the greatest number of online players out there. This means that gaming is often a lonely experience. I’m mostly okay with that… except when games that I love, that are just too good not to play, force me into social interaction. “But, hey, there’s story, and achievements, and loot… and they’re over here, behind this wall that you can’t pass unless you bring friends.”
Now, I don’t think co-op games are bad; if you have a group of associates with similar mindsets and skillsets, and the game was built to be co-op instead of having it shoehorned in, they can be fun. Gears of War is one good example; Borderlands is another. Both of those games work just fine with buddies, but – and here’s the important part, to me – your experience is not going to be significantly diminished if you don’t have other folks to play with. You can still get out there and gank Crawmerax, or tackle Gears on the highest difficulty. It’s not going to be a happy time, perhaps, and it will take significantly more skill and time investment than if you had folks to bring with you, but it’s doable. At no point do I feel that I am somehow missing out on large chunks of some aspect of such games just because I don’t have friends to play with.
But then we get to the bad place. The dark place. There’s two games that serve as perfect examples of why I despise cooperative games, and have since I was a child. Plus, for fun, I’ll throw in the one that made me learn to hate playing with others.
First, the historical: Fantasy Zone: The Maze. Some of you who are as old as dinosaurs such as myself, may remember a series on the Sega Master System called Fantasy Zone. It was a pretty straightforward space shooter. Fun. Then they dropped The Maze on us. Which was essentially Pac-Man with co-op and shooting.
It was also stupidly hard at times. Unless you had a partner to cover your ass. At the time, I didn’t have access to other humans – shut ins for the win! – so was forced to play with my brother. Who wouldn’t “play right.” Go run into a wall and just sit there shooting? Deliberately shoot me? Move around deliberately avoiding picking up the powerups or doing anything resembling the actual goal? Yep, across the board.
So, did I ever get to finish the game? Nope. After five or six attempts at getting anywhere with it, I shelved it and would just glare sullenly at the box once in a while, knowing the game had beaten me. I was not good enough to tackle it alone – me! Who had triumphed over Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins, who had conquered Bionic Commando! – and obviously wasn’t going to get any substantive help.
Well, it happens. But it still infuriated me.
Fast forward through roughly 25 years. I played a small handful of cooperative games, but not many. The only real exception was my devotion to World of Warcraft, which was similarly frustrating any time I was forced to group. “But, there’s guilds and things, to find players with similar interests!” We’re not going to get into my experiences there, thanks. But after having been punted from two separate guilds for being straight, getting robbed of some loot three times in a row because another guildie was selling naked pictures of herself to the Loot Master, and repeatedly having to run two year old content because individuals refused to study up on the fights or pay attention, I pretty much said “fuck it” and went back to solo grinding.
Then I found a few good ones. Almost gave me hope. Halo was tolerable on co-op, even though I have no love of the series itself. Gears and Borderlands said “Hey, it can actually be fun and rewarding!” And then the terrible thing happened.
Publishers started getting this bright idea in their heads that everything needs co-op. So they started shoving it into games where it had no place being. And then, to encourage folks to come over to their side of things, they started hiding content – story, achievements, awesome weapons – in areas that you were explicitly forbidden from accessing unless you brought a partner.
Which brings me to game #1 on the sins list: Dead Space 3. I love Dead Space. “Event Horizon plus Silent Hill? YES PLEASE.” I love Dead Space 2. “More? MOAR!?” And then EA said, “Hey, let’s kick you in the crotch this time, kay?”
There’s a lot of things “wrong” with Dead Space 3, at least if you approach it as you did the first 2. If you come at it as a Gears knockoff, you’ll have less issues with it – until the batshit insanity of the last couple acts or the DLC, that is – but there’s one thing that made me indescribably sad. There’s several chapters that can only be accessed if you’re playing cooperative. And there are story logs and awesome weapon parts in there – as well as the requirements for a handful of achievements, which most people don’t care about but I do – that you will just never see.
I was on PS3, which cut my potential pool of players significantly; that was strike 1. Strike 2: My friends were all Xbox people, or were disinterested in this type of game. Strike 3: Going to random matches almost invariably led to being paried with people who had duped/modded weapons – I’m one of those silly people who tries to play games “fair” – and who were interested only in bullrushing the content instead of actually exploring it… or who would drop connection the second you went into those chapters, because they wanted someone to carry them through the main story, not have to actually work for it. Strike 3. You’re done.
I still don’t know what’s behind those doors. Never will, now, since I doubt like hell anyone is still playing it at this late date (and I don’t have the disc anymore, anyway.) But oh, how I seethed, glaring at my ten or so “?????” bars on the log screen, or at the “73% complete” on my Trophy List. Oh, and just for fun, you can’t do it local, either; so no berating girlfriends or roommates into picking up the controller and tuning the difficulty down to handhold them through just for the achievements and pickups.
Round 2: Diablo III. “But you can do that solo!” you say. Sure, you can. But there comes a point where playing solo is both a) Not fun anymore and b) pointless. For me, it hit around the time Torment VI became pathetic and I was Paragon 300. Given my notorious bad luck in getting anything useful in loot-grinds, after 1200+ hours on my Demon Hunter, I’m about as geared as I can get barring a strike of lightning. Still, having around 1.3 million DPS and 12 million toughness (paperdoll stats that are probably meaningless to a lot of you, and that hardcore players will know are mostly meaningless, but they serve as some indicator of where I’m at) is decent enough. Up to about Rift level 30. “Oh, you want more gems up to level 25? You want an actual shot at getting an Ancient Witching Hour or a new Calamity? Well. Better find some pals!”
Sure, Diablo. Whatever you say. Of course, my “pals” are all either playing WoW or Heroes of the Storm and aren’t interested in D3. “But there’s matchmaking! You can even tell it what kind of game you want, so just pick “Greater Rifts” and go!”
Yeah, not so much. Because when you do, you typically get paired with one of four people: Guy 1? The asian, who never talks, charges ahead, clears the rift and then closes it before you even have a chance to loot. Gosh, he’s fun. I don’t know if they’re gold farmers or just crazy, but either way, they’re not fun. Guy 2? He only wants to do the Act 1 bounties over and over again, hoping to get an Ancient Ring of Royal Grandeur. Other acts? Rifts? What sorcery do you speak of? We don’t do those! Pshaw! (And he’ll typically either ragequit if you start anything else, or just go do his own thing, saddling you with tougher monsters for zero gain.) Guy 3? The guy who shouldn’t be on T6. He’s typically Paragon 50 or lower. Has only a couple legendaries (or has crafted ones). Will die. A lot. And whine if you don’t bail him out or resurrect him constantly. But he won’t leave; he’ll just sit there and soak up the XP, bragging about whatever drops he gets and how awesome he is. Sure, you can kick him, but your odds for finding a replacement that are any more useful aren’t so hot.
And then we get to guy 4. The dick. He’s the one who’ll bust his ass on the Rift Trials, so you get a stone for a Level 38+ rift. Awesome! He’ll tell you to “hurry up” while you’re doing repairs and gems, before you drop that level 38 rift stone in the obelisk. He’ll click “Okay” when it asks if everyone’s ready to go… and then he’ll quit the second it starts. Which means, guess what, you just lost a large chunk of your DPS, the enemies have 75% more health than they should, and oh, by the way, you just either wasted that keystone or the next 40 minutes of your life while you try to compensate for the missing party member and do the rift anyway. (He’s also prone to throwing Legendaries on the ground and picking them back up repeatedly, making you think something good dropped; teleporting to the Vault, grabbing all the treasure and then denying the request to fight Greed, thus leaving you stuck with her while he either idles or dicks around in the Festering Woods, but comes back to pick up his 20 million+ gold; dashes through elites, waves of 50+ monsters and traps to kill the Bounty target, then teleports back to town and whines while you do the cleanup to meet the 150/150 monsters killed potion of the Bounty, and other fun things of like mindset.)
Also, I don’t know why, but these players are almost invariably Monks. Don’t know why that’s relevant. It probably isn’t.
Between those situations and the general attitude of most individuals online (and don’t even get me started on the 8 year olds on competitive games; “I’ll fuck your mom with my shotty!” “Quick-scope, bitch!” and worse) leaves me saying “Who the hell decided that playing these things with other humans was any sort of good idea?
I’m just ragey today. Ignore me. I think I’m going to go back to Fallout, now. You know, where my success and failure is actually tied to my own abilities and not luck and the assistance of random individuals who live to make you hate yourself.