"You Don't Count" -- How Multiplayer Fans Have Lost Their Voice In the Industry

Multiplayer has become the poster child of what's considered wrong with the industry. Nevermind, a fairly large number of players who want to see multiplayer added to their favorite games that get ignored, chastised, and flamed. Why are they treated this way? Because they an inconvenient truth for the heralds of the yet to happen "Death of Single Player Games".

Imagine any franchise that started with a single player story. Now think to whenever it got a sequel that added multiplayer. Tell me how many times there was outrage from fans and claims that it would take away from the single player experience, that it was unwanted. You'd have a longer list than you can count on your fingers, wouldn't you? Now tell me how many of these said games became horrid as soon as the multiplayer was added. Take your time.

Not a lot of them went wrong, did they? Dead Space 2, Bioshock 2, Orcs Must Die! 2, GTA IV, Rayman Origins, System Shock 2, Max Payne 3, XCOM: Enemy Unknown/Enemy Within, Saints Row 2/3/4, Red Faction: Guerilla, Tomb Raider, Trine 2, Portal 2, and more did not suddenly up and die because multiplayer was added.

Even games that had more middling reception like Batman: Arkham Origins, Dead Space 3, Resident Evil 6, and Red Faction: Armageddon were not travesties in some gamers' eyes because they dared to add multiplayer. Except you can be sure there were those who would swear all these titles and more were lessened because, by golly, they dared to add multiplayer.

It's not easy being a fan of a new multiplayer spin-off or added multiplayer mode to franchises these days. On record, I've played almost every multiplayer mode included in any game I buy, the one exception being Mirror's Edge. I had a nearly maximum rank splicer in Bioshock 2's online mode with similar and moderate ranks in most other competitive and cooperative multiplayer modes.

I am not alone in this respect (in fact I've met players who have gotten hundreds if not thousands of hours out of these online components), and there are fairly strong communities for a large number of these games on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. Some such as Dead Space 2 on PC have died out, but this is more to do with inadequate servers and lack of new content than disinterest in the games themselves.

We don't play these multiplayer modes because we need the achievements or just can't stand anything that lacks multiplayer. We aren't addicted to games such as Call of Duty or Battlefield, in fact often players from those games have never heard of Bioshock, and Halo may be the closest game to an indie title they'll ever play. We aren't mindless numbskulls trying to "lower the medium" or somehow hurt gaming. We play them because we enjoy them.

No really, there isn't some grand conspiracy here by game publishers. EA and Activision aren't paying me buckets of money to say this. The only reason I even am is because of just how much hate anyone of us can get if we dare to raise our heads and say we enjoyed a game's multiplayer. It's like saying you enjoyed Battlefield 4's single player campaign, your opinion is no longer valid because you differed from what is the agreed upon truth. Your enjoyment is invalid because it is not acceptable.

What's worse is that those who are critical of what multiplayer modes we enjoy will hold it against us and go into the experience expecting something bad. They will focus on the negatives, they will not try to play it as it was meant to be, and they will never enjoy it. I even found this happening again when I reviewed the Tomb Raider reboot. It doesn't matter what you say, how you say it, you are wrong, you do not count in the grand scheme of things, and how dare you have fun with something. Someone else didn't want it, so you shouldn't enjoy it.

If that last line above was true, half a dozen different games in existence would never exist because what people always say they want is either something they think they should want, or something incredibly familar. People do not want change, especially fans of any IP that previously was doing fine. They want it to just keep doing what it's doing until the next big thing comes rolling around, while still expecting it to have new ideas in the same old model. This is how we end up with something like Call of Duty. Forcing a change when it's unneeded is one thing, which is why something such as a gritty Bomberman reboot will never stop sounding like a bad idea, but refusing to change is another thing entirely.

What's most ignored most of all those is the simple fact that instead of making those who enjoy the experience feel bad, people against the inclusion can just ignore it. Really, you can just walk on by and never harass us in the comments or anywhere else online. Please feel free to leave us, think however high-mindedly you do of yourselves that we are but peasants who miss "the point" of a certain franchise or game design. If you just don't do well at it or for any other reason are not likely to enjoy it, okay, you are not required to. No one is holding a gun to your dog's head saying "PLAY IT DAMMIT! PLAY THE DAMN MULTIPLAYER OR MR. FLUFFLES GETS IT!"

It's just pathetic when I have to see someone post "hey, some of us actually enjoyed that you know!" The idea itself is presented as some sort of magic trick. This sheer level of disbelief in the agreed upon opinion even warranted Game Informer to have one of it's editors to finally stop and take a look, and *gasp* people are still playing a number of these games years after release and are having fun. Stop the presses, someone is actually having fun with a video game with friends and/or complete strangers? What is our world coming to.

If I sound bitter, there's a reason. I play games to have fun, to enjoy them for their strong points. For some of them it's the single player, for others it's the multiplayer. I shouldn't feel bad for enjoying Tomb Raider's competitive matches with their traps and triggerable level-shifting events. I shouldn't feel bad for finding that Bioshock 2's attempt at narrative focused multiplayer was actually arguably better in some ways than Titanfall's attempt and that it genuinely transferred most of the campaign mechanics into multiplayer without so much as a hitch. I shouldn't, yet I do.

I feel regret at experiencing positive emotion towards something, thanks to a barrage of hate and misinformed rage from so-called fans who seem to spend an endless amount of time online on the internet complaining about being offered just the opportunity to play online with other human beings. I guess if you behave like hate spewing person around other people who behave like that, the idea of interacting with them in a game wouldn't be very appealing at all then.

Featured Columnist

Grumpily ranting at this computer screen since before you were playing Minecraft. For more of my work: https://elijahbeahm.contently.com/

Published Apr. 21st 2014
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    Great article. Being someone who has always loved single-player gaming and really can't stand multiplayer, I appreciate the alternate perspective.

    However, I should add that most of the people to whom you are referring aren't necessarily going after the gamers. Most gamers I know, who aren't big fans of multiplayer, mostly just put the blame on publishers. And they DO differentiate between those who play Bioshock and Assassin's Creed multiplayer, for example, as opposed to Call of Duty or Battlefield. I know I make that distinction, at least.

    The thing we can't get past is that all projects have budgets. And if those budgets didn't require a multiplayer with all the technology we have today, what sort of campaigns would we get? Pretty amazing would be my guess. Our problem is the publisher belief that EVERY game needs multiplayer these days; not so much that there are lots of gamers who enjoy it.

    For instance, God of War never needed a multiplayer. Was the multiplayer mode in Ascension bad? No, of course not. Was the campaign as good as in previous installments? Well...no. Is it because the team needed to dedicate a lot of time and resources to the multiplayer? Possibly.

    I certainly don't begrudge people having fun with multiplayer. I just don't like the industry-wide belief that it's a necessity.
  • Elijah Beahm
    Featured Columnist
    Thank you! I love single-player games too (New Game+ each Dead Space game at least three times minimum), I grew up on them, but I equally enjoy multiplayer now.

    It doesn't really matter who they are going after if they're making people feel bad, as that strongly indicates they are not on target. There has to be a better way of addressing the problem that doesn't make you feel like a scab breaking union lines. I'm glad you make the differentiation but in my experience, I rarely see that distinction given publicly unless that person is caught off guard and recoiling from realizing they were actually upsetting and/or ignoring someone who did nothing to them.

    Your point about budgets reminds me of an old opinion piece in one of the issues of Game Informer. The example the writer gave was about Red Dead Redemption and games needing editors. RDR has tons of content and a huge campaign, but not all of it is necessarily needed or adds fun to the game. It's like buying a house and finding out it has a free fridge to go with the one you already own. You might not need the second fridge, it might actually take up space better things could occupy and raises your electric bill, but it's already there so you never get rid of it. If all the money in a budget keeps getting bigger, the publisher will expect the game to get far larger and grander, even if it might not necessarily need to. Think about something like Dead Space 2, it already had plenty of content with it's eight to ten hour campaign and new game plus mode with tons of more gear and weapons to unlock and play around with. They could have added another five hours to the campaign, but it wouldn't have necessarily been any better for the game than the multiplayer. It's really a case by case basis.

    As to God of War: Ascension, I'm not even gonna argue it, the campaign was not the same as before primarily due to the new changes made for multiplayer. Ironically they probably only included the single-player out of fear it wouldn't be accepted. They could have done it standalone, but a lot of fans would have passed on it simply by virtue of it not including the single-player. Also, in that particular case, it was primarily one studio developing both modes, and much like Resistance 3, might have genuinely benefited from splitting up the tasks.

    It isn't a necessity, but it is wanted by some of us. Pretending people don't want it is just as bad as saying everyone wants it. It's a grand generalization that hurts everyone. It's better for the niches to be known and handled as niches on their own instead of trying to lump everyone together. With the mess of generalizations and higher-risk for titles though, we're a long way off from that. We need to get there, I think, before we'll see some real progress at least from the industry side of things.

    Also we can't forget that back in the day, you needed two people to play Space War, you couldn't do Pong on your own at home. We're very lucky these days to have the ability to put together such amazing single-player experiences, as they were once very rare if at all in existence.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    Very true. There are many who make the blanket-statement that multiplayer is just bad for the industry. Obviously, that's just ridiculous; we wouldn't have enjoyed such a boom - nor would the industry have gone fully mainstream, IMO - without multiplayer. Of course, many bemoan the mainstream label as well, but it was going to happen eventually, anyway.

    I also agree that very big games like RDR had superfluous elements. I think the developers included them to make the game seem that much more immersive and dynamic, but it doesn't always work.

    I really don't even play games multiplayer; I'm essentially a solo player. I play games to relax and to do that, I want to go at my own pace, and I want to be alone. It's soothing and therapeutic; it always has been. However, I'm not about to say multiplayer ALWAYS hinders campaigns. In fact, I think that's rare. Look at Uncharted and The Last Of Us, for example: They both had very underrated multiplayer elements (I had to handle them for review purposes), and superb campaigns.

    Others will argue that multiplayer affects the length of a campaign and honestly, that's not usually true, either. That's just not how development works. You're right, though; I'm probably in the minority...problem is, when online, haters will always find something to hate. When things aren't going their way, they illogically point to something they simply don't like, whether or not it makes any sense. :)
  • Elijah Beahm
    Featured Columnist
    Yeah, mainstream acceptance is still being hard for some people to accept, on both sides of the debate. Thankfully we're getting there now.

    Aye, and that's why I say it's not always best to just throw more money at something. Some of the best games in existence had less than half the money spent on them that some AAA single-player campaigns have had with or without multiplayer. It's all really about talent, vision, and execution in the end.

    That's actually not that unusual a trait. I do them to unwind as well, and sometimes I don't always plug in my mic to talk to people when playing online. It's still can be very solo experience, IMO, it's all about what you enjoy from a game. If I want a slower, more relaxed time I play in Killzone 3 as a sniper, hitting enemies through all the various cracks and hiding spots most players still haven't found that Guerrilla Games hid. If I want to challenge my brain and observations skills, I go play Assassinate mode in AC4: Black Flag or solo-run Syndicate's co-op mode. Just turn my brain off? TF2, Fuse, Battlefield 4, and COD: Ghosts are always waiting for that.

    I won't really speak on Uncharted as I was not a fan beyond the co-op mode (I once was told to die in a grease fire by someone over it). TLOU was well-inspired and had the right idea... but had problems of it's own and lacked much to help the multiplayer stand out when under hard examination.

    If you really want to hear more, I can say more but I don't want to seem like I'm trashing two games you like (and in the case of TLOU, I did like it a good deal, just it had a few problems that held it back).

    I'm not saying single-player fans are in the minority, they're a huge chunk of the gaming audience, which is why games like Battlefield have campaign modes now. Yes, exactly, it's gotten so irrational and out of hand that it's turned a not so insane idea (appealing to content producers to make more of what you want instead of something else) into a thing that hurts other people.

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