So, Modern Warfare 3 came out yesterday and Battlefield 3 came out last week. Being intimately involved in the video game industry, I’d like to say that I’m excited, that I’ve swallowed Activision and EA’s Kool-Aid in regard to these games, but I can’t. In fact, I find myself entirely nonplussed by these releases…as I’ve also been with two of this year’s bigger FPS releases, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and RAGE.
Is this because at 40-years-old, I’ve grown jaded and have, out of hand, adopted a “don’t believe the hype” attitude when it comes to the massive scale PR campaigns that EA, Activision and other companies are inundating us with? Sure. That’s part of it.
Is it also because at my “advanced” age my skills with these kinds of twitchy, multiplayer FPS’s have deteriorated a bit and I just don’t have the time to invest in them to get “good” again? This is also part of it, to be sure. No one likes getting their asses handed to them on a regular basis; it's in no way fun or entertaining. The last time I checked the point of a game is to have fun and if you aren’t having fun then why play?
Could it also be that I find the whole “dudebro” culture that these games engender to be a repugnant blight upon the hobby I love so dearly? Abso-fucking-loutely. I’ve played competitive sports all my life, yet never found myself comfortable with the locker room hazing and ass-slapping that seems to go hand in hand with playing those sports. I didn’t play so I could cast dispersions on the new guy’s mother or to duct tape his scrotum to his thigh. I played for the love of the goddamn game. Period. The “dudebros” and patently racist adolescents that populate these virtual, FPS arenas serve as a harsh reminder of that nonsense, so I’ll take a pass, thank you very much. And just be clear, I don’t consider this “dudebro” issue to be a console vs. PC thing. I’ve only found PC gamers to be a smidgen more courteous and/or tolerant as they are blowing my virtual brains out.
But, as I sit here and think about it, the main reason I can’t drum up any of the zealous enthusiasm the rest of the everlovin’ world seems to have for MW3 and Battlefield 3 is simply because 2007’s Bioshock has effectively ruined all other first person shooter experiences for me. It didn’t want it to be this way… I really didn’t. But that’s the way it is, I’m afraid, and I can’t do much about it at this point. Damn you, Ken Levine! Damn you, Irrational Games!
In my mind, Bioshock is the pinnacle of the FPS genre and one of, if not the best game of this generation. It does so many things right in terms of game design, storytelling, art and architectural design, voice acting and overall gameplay balance that Rapture truly seemed like a living, breathing, fully-realized world. Hell, even though it was clearly unraveling at the seams, if I somehow acquired a one-way ticket to that damned, underwater metropolis I would have jumped at the chance to go. Yes, Bioshock set the bar extremely high and I want, nay I expect, every other FPS to be in the same league. When invariably they aren’t in that same lofty company, I get disappointed and put the game down, as I did with both Deus Ex and RAGE. And the feeling that overcomes me in that moment when I do put the controller down…I can only liken it to the sad realization that when one reaches for a star there’s a long, long way to fall.
Other than that the most effective analogy I can draw here would be to say that, to me, playing Bioshock is like what I could only imagine dating the sublime Olivia Wilde would be like: a thoroughly mind-blowing experience. I use the word “imagine” in the previous sentence deliberately because I’m quite sure that Ms. Wilde wouldn’t piss on me if I was on fire if we somehow crossed paths in real life. Now, after she and I parted ways (sadly and regrettably…a burning passion of this magnitude was just NOT MEANT TO BE!), I would have to go back to dating regular, everyday girls (i.e. every other FPS) and, unfortunately, through no real fault of their own they just pale in comparison. And try as I may to get my head right and accept the fact that this is way it is now, I cannot. I’m still pining for Olivia/Bioshock in my twisted little heart of hearts.
But what it really boils down to is that these days I just simply prefer a single player, offline experience, in which I can poke around and explore the game world at my leisure, to a high octane, twitch fest where I have to worry about getting fragged every other nanosecond. So sue me.
So while there will be scads of people blowing each other’s virtual brains out in the coming weeks and months, I’ll just bide my time, waiting for the fine day in 2012 when Bioshock Infinite is released. You other people can go and have your fun playing war; I’m content to wait.
While we are waiting, would anyone like to time warp back to 1993 with me so I can smoke your ass in some DOOM deathmatch action. No?
OK, fine. Get the hell off my lawn then.