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Gaming With The Defenestrator

Competitive multiplayer has never really interested me. It just hasn't. I have too many obsessions already without taking the time necessary to really excel at stuff like Call Of Duty or Halo. Deathmatches feel like a hamster wheel and the luck aspect doesn't exactly appeal to me either. You can memorize all the maps, prestige class five times over, tweak your loadout to the nth degree and still... all you need to do is turn the wrong corner at the wrong moment and you'll get laid out. I'm a very competitive player, I just don't get a feeling of actual success from the multiplayer games that are popular right now.

I know that most people like to use these gaming sessions as an excuse to bullshit with their friends but here's the thing: I'm 75% deaf. Shooting the breeze with me means listening to a lot of me going "Huh? Wha? What was that, man?" as I try to separate my friend's lame jokes from the explosions and gunfire happening around me. Which is no fun for anyone. So, yeah, I have a tendency to want to get to the point very quickly. I may like you and I may enjoy gaming with you but there's not going to be a whole lot of bro'ing out, in the traditional sense. What gets my blood up is the knowledge of a job well done.

I've being playing co-operative games for as long as I've known they'd existed. Going back as far as playing Contra with my big brother in the arcades to side-scrolling space shooters on the NES. They weren't games that were optimized for co-op but they were at least options. Even later games on PS2/Xbox like those cheesy Hunter: The Reckoning games got a lot of play amongst my friends. My first real taste of a true co-op experience was the least likely: System Shock 2.

It's only relatively recently that I've started following gaming sites closely so the initial release of System Shock 2 came and went without crossing my radar at all. It was about a year after it's release that I lucked into a used copy and it immediately became one of my favorite games of all time. I never beat it, though, because I didn't want it to end. (I had the same problem with Silent Hill.) So it sat on my hard drive for a couple more years until I found myself temporarily living with a very close friend of mine. I'm pretty sure he hadn't played it before and wanted to give it a try when one of us got the bright idea to burn an extra copy and try out the co-op. And it was glorious.

(As a side note: we are kind of the exceptions that prove the rule, as far as co-op survival horror. System Shock 2 was designed to be a survival horror experience right down to my friend, Lorin, and I sharing already limited resources. This is vastly different than something like Dead Space 3 which was built to be a action/horror game. It also helped that Lorin and I both went out of our way to keep the atmosphere of the game going: we only played at night with the lights out. Neither of us cracked jokes. We really gave ourselves over to the tension. Once we beat it, we tried playing with a third friend who just cowboy'd through the first couple of levels and we both lost interest. Even if you do build a co-op survival horror experience, it only works if both people want it to.)

The two of us picked complimentary classes, we used different kinds of weapons so as to not drain the other person's ammo, and communicated some basic tactics. If one of us was wounded, the other would take point. I'd do the hacking, he'd cover me with psionics. We took our time, savored everything we could and beat the game. Because Lorin was using a cracked copy, once we beat the final boss the screen just immediately went to black and booted us to the main menu but we didn't care. To this day, I have not had a better co-operative experience playing a game.

This is the sort of attitude I've taken into other co-op games, with varying degrees of success. You can't predict how other people will try to play so I generally find myself falling into a support role just because no one else will. Healer, mechanic, sniper, you name it. You get your macho dudes who want to hog all the glory for themselves, the schemers who think they can run a game like a military platoon (forgetting that military wisdom usually states that plans only work until the first time you meet the enemy), the inept, the lazy, the uninterested. You take your chances.

Outside of the two Left 4 Dead titles, the games I've played the most co-op this generation have been fairly unlikely obsessions: Lost Planet 2, Syndicate and Resident Evil: Revelations. In each case, your survival is dependent on the skill of your team/partner. If you go cowboy, you screw it up for everyone. Things like enemy placement, power ups and objectives are generally pretty static. It becomes a matter of how perfectly you and your team can execute your mission. That, to me, takes more skill than just spinning a roulette wheel in a Call Of Duty Team Deathmatch.

Lost Planet 2 took a page from the Monster Hunter handbook with giant monsters who could be taken down a number of different ways. Syndicate, while not the Syndicate people remembered (and brought low by a really mediocre campaign), nonetheless had an excellent co-op campaign that no one played. Both games were, to me, really undeserving of the dismissal they received. (Incidentally, I really wish Fuse were a better game because that could have totally been something I loved.)

Resident Evil: Revelations, while not exactly a return to form from a campaign perspective, has the excellent two-player Raid Mode. I've never played a game before where I had to trust my partner so much, especially if you're hunting for S Ranks or Trinity Bonuses. In the beginning, I was helped along by higher level players who shepherded me along, taught me the ropes, and really turned the game into a weird kohai/senpai relationship. Using the in-game chat system, they would tell me when to hang back or follow. Granted there were just as many people who played for 300 hours and still didn't know what the hell they were doing, but finding those guys who knew their way around was a godsend. And when I leveled up myself, I would go back and play the earlier levels, doing the same thing for the n00bs that others did for me. It turned out to be a really unique experience where the co-operation wasn't solely in combat but in the entire approach to the game. I've gotten more friend requests from randos playing Raid Mode than any other game... and most of them don't even speak my language.

In short, gaming with me means trying to find camaraderie in successfully completing a mutual goal, as opposed to a mutual BS session. It may not be as immediately rewarding as a simple hang with your friends, but when the pieces are all in place it can be truly memorable.
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About TheDefenestratorone of us since 9:39 PM on 01.16.2013

Brent. Pittsburgh native. Phoenix resident. The, uh, the weather's been pretty nice lately, huh?


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