The other day, Destructioid's Jim Sterling wrote an article I found very interesting. It was on how Left 4 Dead was not Halo
. At first, I scoffed, as I had gotten the game at launch, and must have gotten very lucky. Most of the people I had played with were not in fact douche bags. I laughed at Jim's bad luck, enjoying the friends who I regularly played with who were, among other things, competent at playing a game with a cooperative mode. I regularly played versus, seemingly getting lucky with the fourth person to join myself and my merry three man band of survivors (or zombies, depending on the round). However, I needed a break from Left 4 Dead about two weeks ago. Not because I got tired of the 4 levels (2 really, cause of the limitations of Versus mode) or because I got tired of playing with friends I rarely see in the real world. No, I had to take a break because of the terrifying nature of my finals. I figured, two weeks is nothing, I'll come back, and things will be just the same.
I was (pardon the pun) dead wrong. Let me tell you a story of why Live might be starting to lose it's appeal for me.
I returned to find that apparently, every asshole in the world has now caught on to the (potentailly former) glory of Left 4 Dead, and might be too stupid to grasp what is could be a perfect co-op experience, one where if you go alone could not only screw you over, but also screw over three other perfectly nice individuals. Now Im no stranger to co op gmaes, its one of the reasons I love Valve, or at least the Counter Strike team. I've played enough Counter Strike, both public and match games, to realize the value of a team, so I enjoy chatting on the Mic and calling out locations of enemies, to have my friends rack up the kills and save my ass. Apparently, tonight as I learned, I was sheltered, and if I get stuck with a stranger in the Zombie apocalypse, Im pretty much doomed.
Tonight, I had the wonderful experience of playing Left 4 Dead with some friends. The first time through on No Mercy was a blast. 4 good people who were against four good people. It created an interesting scenario where everyone actually played to the best of their abilities and the score at the end of the chapters were so close (lamentably we lost, but not by much!). But after that, those friends left, the server broke up and I ended up playing with two other friends. And some random asshole and his little brother on a guest account. Naturally the kid (and I stress, he was a child) joined my team, while his brother picked the survivors side. "Well", I thought, "this might suck, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, after all the first filler person we had the night I bought the game sounded like a kid and ended up being a good player." The first round in versus was not bad, though we got lucky, and a friend spawned as a tank just outside the saferoom, killing them all before they could get in. I figured that that was nice, maybe we wouldn't do so bad as survivors. This was not to be however, as the first thing this kid did, was Beeline straight ahead, leaving one of my friends tangled by a strangler and myself and my other friend and I vomited on by a boomer. Wonderful start to this game, as we were maybe 15 yards from the initial spawn of Blood Harvest. As Im calling for help, he did not respond, but eventually we untangled ourselves from the mess and were forced to use out health packs. As soon as I start healing, I see the distant blue outline of Zoey thrashing. And the kid has the audacity to call for help. And curse us out for not being behind him to help out. He was so far ahead of my friends and I, when we got to him, he was incapacitated from being surrounded and had just had a hunter spawn near him. Being the nice guy I was, I killed the hunter, and helped him up. His response? Nothing. No thank you or any words of acknowledgment, but rather another beeline away from the ammo stash, resulting in him getting killed before I could catch up, which later lead to my friends and I getting tentacle raped by two smokers and then, as we got out of that, barely, getting proper screwed by a witch. Good times.
The kid quit the next round, taking his brother with him. So we were in a public match, and after the survivors all quit (go XBL!), and we slaughtered the AI like the sheep they are, more humans joined the game, including another person to take the role of a survivor. Good, I thought, maybe this person is competent! No. No they werent. in fact, the kid from earlier might have been better. He ran off and quickly got us all lured into not one, but two traps, succeding in his plan to get me to turn off my Xbox and write an angry C-blog about how worried I am for the state of online co-op. Needless to say, I dread playing the game after Christmas. It wont be like Call of Duty 4 was last year, where my clan and I would slaughter the noobs like lambs to the slaughter, because not enough of my friends will be longtime players with Left 4 Dead like we were with CoD4. Regardless, I wont stop playing, but when I do, I will have a full party.
The main reason I'm ranting here is not just to tell a fun horror story about the worst kind of people on Live (3:1 odds on these kids being Halo players), but rather to lament the lack of people who can grasp a concept as simple as help the people around you survive, as you get a total kill count and the satisfaction of saving someone's virtual life. The rush that I personally gain from helping an incapacitated survivor up when surrounded by zombies is second to none in video games. It's a true adrenalin surge, and one of the most basic reason to play a game. It's fun to go with four other people and slug your way through Zombies for a couple hours. I learned very quickly that it's not fun to run off your own in ANY team based game because then you die, and I hate spectating. I would like to assume that others do. But maybe there's some sort of sadistic complex these kids have, where they enjoy watching other players suffer as a direct result of their actions, I only have a degree in psychology, I don't practice it, so I don't know. But I imagine if they do, we are in for a rash of serial killers, as these are probably the same bad eggs who torture small animals to get off. Or maybe they're just masochistic, and get off inflicting pain on themselves by being the first of the gang to die. I don't really know. All I know is that it sucks the fun out of these games. it reminds me of the reason of why I always played on the same CS servers, or with the same 10 or so friends on Live, cause I got tired of people acing like assholes and trying, literally, seemingly trying to ruin my favorite games for me. It also reminds me of why I love single player stories so much, because I don't have to rely on others, if there's a mistake, it can generally be chalked up to my own screw up's in-game.
Now I'm not just basing this lack of cooperation on live on my own experiences. Many of my friends, co-workers, and many people who come in and talk about games at my job (a game store) all seem to be having the same problem. We all mock the kids who play Halo and spew endless streams of obscenity, but now that it's spilling into other games, there might be trouble brewing. I don't want to totally shut myself off from the community, as I do meet a lot of great people on Live, but maybe there needs to be some sort of age filter. Let the 12 year olds play with other 12 year olds. Of course there's no real way to do this. But I can dream of someday getting into a versus game with 7 random strangers and playing a strategically sound round without wanting to break my controller in frustration. I have loved Live for so long, specifically for the joy that CoD4 has brought me, allowing me to meet competent people who were as fun to play the game with as they were to shoot the shit with, but I have to wonder after hearing about all of my friends complaining about the excess of idiots that seem t have flooded onto Live recently, with the drop in price and ease of access. Should it be limited? No, but if nothing else MicroSoft, make the player rating work better, maybe that will help.
TL;DR? I might hate XBox Live, would probably get killed in the event of Zombie outbreak due to other's ineptitude and lament the days when people online actually wanted to cooperate to accomplish a goal, and not just rack up a kill count.
(Note: This is my first C-blog, I hope it's not too long, and I hope it's coherent. I also hope I'm wrong, and Live will become fun again. Maybe I caught these other people on a bad night. Maybe it's just the stress from finals. Are you guys also having problems with people on Live?)