The question I want to pose in this piece is, "why play 60 hours of multiplayer, when I could play 60 hours of numerous other games?" Where did my life go when I connected to XBL? My eyes have burned bright images of gunfire and claymore blasts. I could have spent that time chipping away at the other 20 games in my ever-burgeoning stockpile of story-rich RPGs and vocabulary-enhancing "My _____ Coach" games. Am I a poor unfortunate soul who can not help himself from having complete sensory deprivation within a hectic world of mind-numbing explosions and quick, yet painless deaths?
I can not help but feel the answer is an easy yes, but there are those times when there seems to be something insidious hiding around the corner to be the next ten-point kill. I am not a shy kid out in the world. I participate in class discussion. I live in a house full of eleven other people, with who I have very well-rounded friendships. I am a member of numerous student organizations. I go to parties and bars and enjoy myself. However, something about playing CoD 4, a game with a very specific purpose and set of goals, sucks me in and holds me there for hours longer than I can even gauge with a clear mind. The bullets fly and my brain becomes so attached that the time rattles by without notice.
With that said, I do not think I could say the same for any single player game. Oh yes, I play through my Final Fantasys and Bioshocks like I absolutely need to see the next smart line of dialogue or find out what happened to my favourite black mage character. Once I am done, I will not pick up that game for a long time. The memory remains fresh for a while and I have a fairly good amount of plot recall, so I do not feel the need to invest 40 more hours into the game. Call of Duty 4 however does not play the same.
This is one of those topics that has been of great debate. The "jacked in" feeling. The belief that when I shoot player x, then person x will be on the other end of that controller feeling a mixture of emotions. I would expect some anger, resentment, loss of pride, shock, embarrassment, despair, and possibly (if it was a really smart or impressive kill) respect. Those bits of feelings slowly filter into me. Every kill I execute feeds that expectation. I control the amount I want and when I make a perfect ass of myself then I can escape it whenever I want.
I guess, in a sense, I like the control of participation. Unlike interacting with an actual full and complete human being, given these terms I get to exercise the feelings I want to onto a fraction of another person. We mutually partake in this give and take scenario. I take their life and they come back to give me more if I wish (or have the ability) to do so. Whereas in Bioshock, I take from it the atmosphere, the story, and lives of AI-driven players, which in some sense are given to me by the developers. They are not active, though. The developers must slowly permeate the ideas they wish to impart upon me in a slow and deliberate fashion. CoD 4 allows for a quick and wild exchange between up to 16 players in the immediate now with surprisingly fresh quality.
These players all have their own concepts of how this showdown will play out. As much as there are teams (for certain game modes), they are certainly not all going to be tidy and go well together. They might as well all be there to kill each other in a split second. Thus this control of participation falls into place. In the English language there are many words to be said in an infinite amount of contexts in which they could be said. In a primarily multi-participant game such as CoD 4 words carry little meaning. The language is a brutal one. It is one where one person interacts with another by sharing each other's demise. A controlled participation. One with little room for mistaken meanings or with fairly limited real world repercussions.
All interaction is a reward for just having participated.
Thank you for reading this. I hope this does not seem like a lot of repetition. I did not mean to waste your time with this. My intention was to sort through my long time love affair for FPSs such as CoD 4, Battlefield 2, or Shadowrun. The feelings I have felt and the time have spent with these games have, in my mind, been significant. I wished only to offer this up as some sort of token to those gods that have controlled so much of my time. I hope this in some way to bring about some kind of understanding about why people (or at least just why I do) like to play games like this for such a sobering amount of time.