Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sins of the Metagamer

I’ve never been much of an online gamer. Even the select online/multiplayer modes of the video games I really enjoyed never thrilled me much. There’s a certain obsessive-compulsive aptitude level one has to attain when playing online to be satisfied for any longer than it takes to watch your average sitcom.

Take any versus fighting game for instance. I can logon and slug it out with a friend or an opponent of similar vested interests (namely another casual gamer) and walk away happy, more often if I win than lose, but in either case be glad for the experience. Though if I were to randomly cross paths (so often the case, given how online multiplayer servers operate) with a “superior” opponent, I’m all SOL in the fun category (and how I wish “SOL” in this case referred to Joel and the Bots).

“You’re complaining because you suck?”

No. I’m complaining because said superior opponents have left their mortal capacity behind and morphed into the very digital fabric of the game itself, more than anything else, their play akin to mad cow disease. These metagamers have ceased playing for the fun of it, and instead seek to enter the matrix as it were, cracking the code of the game down to the very last pixel. Seriously. There’re fighting game players who know the exact pixel-count and move-set-timing-within-a-hundredth-of-a-second of the characters they control and face on-screen! That’d be like an athlete during a contest knowing the exact physical and spatial limitations of his opponent(s) down to the cubic centimeter and being able to predict precisely where and how long their next move will take them.

It’s unreal, and it’s unreasonable.

The same can be said of metagamers of the first-person shooter variety—where it becomes an unstimulating footrace to be the first to stakeout the choicest (read: “impossibly lamest”) sniper-roosts and blind-spots to potshot other players from—achieved by memorizing the layouts through obsessive-compulsive play. Compare this to reading every spoiler and catching every sneak-peek on the highly anticipated movie you’re about to see and having it satisfy you in the same way going into it cold would do. It’s not possible. Not without partaking of the same diseased-style of play that too many online gamers are guilty of—gaming the system rather the playing the game; digesting every little bit of the game over and over again until it’s been stripped of all its fun; more science than art.

For these reasons, I’ve never been compelled to “master” a game to such an extent. It takes too much wasted time and energy in return for the vapid title of being named tops on the leader boards—that is, until someone else learns to game the system better than you did! I’d rather play a game through its natural course and with a natural play style, by which means I can go back and play it again and still be surprised by it and enjoy discovering something new in the process. That’s my two cents, anyway, (on a topic that’s worth even less).