Multi-player Shooters are a Different Beast

I’ve moved on from Call of Duty to Killzone Mercenary. Since CoD was my first FPS I pretty much thought it was great. While I still think it’s a great addition and it seems that sales are finally picking up since they drastically reduced the price, it definitely under delivers on the VITA’s promise. Killzone Mercenary definitely delivers as a solid FPS. I enjoyed the single player campaign a lot and was able to complete it at various levels from novice to veteran in a reasonable amount of time.


After running through the campaign several times I finally ventured into multi-player and all I can say is that playing against human players is a different beast. I’m pretty much dead meat and it seems that the most difficult of settings in the single campaign is poor preparation for the multi-player experience.


Suddenly, I was lost and slow while opponents take me out like a clay pigeon from every angle. My reaction is woefully slow and it feels like I’m moving in a freeze frame mode while the enemies are psychic. Now I know that in theory I need to work on my reflexes (to max out what’s left of any minor genetic potential), to know the maps (especially the nooks where people can camp or sneak up on you), and improve accuracy (even when I get the jump on someone, missing a headshot gets you killed).


I avoided playing multi-player after several disasterous forays in CoD. In retrospect, that was stupid because no matter how much you suck, you can only improve. Right now I play on team matches knowing full well that I give a significant competitive advantage to the opponent. I’m also playing some rhythim games (DJMAX on the vita) to improve accuracy and timing (which seems to help quite bit) and also playing more multi-player.


Despite the difficulties, it’s given new life to the game. Seeing how it’s missing the hostile mode (my favorite feature in CoD where enemies are spawned in infinite waves until you die—even though you can go on forever by camping), it’s turning out to be a blessing because I need to venture into multi-player to get that thrill. Killzone Mercenary just has better graphics and feels more like a proper shooter.


I just wish the PS VITA had more shooter games and proper franchise titles to choose from. One great thing about the PS4’s successful launch is that the PS VITA is getting attention as an accessory to the PS4 since it allows you to remotely play PS4 titles right on your VITA. It helps you avoid fighting for the TV and is just convenient because you can play games anywhere in the house. It’s made the VITA like the tablets (which are popular for web browsing around the house) of the gaming world.


In other news, any Playstation owner should definitely subscribe to PS Plus since you get free games every month for less than $5 per month. I’ve gotten Gravity Rush with this and have a bunch of games should I ever buy a PS3. While I enjoyed Gravity Rush, I would have never bought it for full price or a discount even though I enjoyed the unusual game play. I look forward to playing more games that I would otherwise not buy. Also, the ability to back up 1GB of game save data to the cloud lets you manage precious space on the VITA without connecting to a PC.


In addition to shooters I’m playing action games, racing games and some RPGs. I’m not sure gaming is doing anything significant to improve my abilities but I do notice some things.



  1. Mundane tasks like shopping are more fun when you think of it as a game.

  2. I’m more adept at navigating through crowds.

  3. I notice more subtle movements and am more aware of my environment without being more jumpy.

  4. I can remeber a random set of numbers longer (not sure where that came from).

  5. Faster at routine tasks and more likely to react quicker at critical moments.


Only time will tell if there are any spillovers into life and most of this might just be placebo but at the end of the day, I enjoy playing these games and that’s good enough. Despite all the negative press and bad reputation games have with parents, games are really beneficial for a wide demographic (in moderation and balance). For older adults games help to keep your reaction times sharp and fulfill competitive urges that are either overlooked or crushed in every day life (you just can’t take out your boss with a headshot and dance over his corpse).


In recent years lots of journalists and bloggers made a big deal about smartphones displacing console games. The amazing success of GTA V (reaching a billion dollars faster than the movie Avatar) and the successful launch of the PS4 (not to mention anticipation for Xbox One) is indication that gaming is far from dead. Although PS VITA sales may seem dissappointing despite great graphics and PS3-level power, you just can’t beat a dedicated game machine with physical controls when it comes to the gaming experience. I do think that handheld consoles must compete at some level with smartphones and tablets (who wants to carry yet another device). However, the casual games with touch controls on the handheld are completely different beasts (despite some titles making unbelievable amounts of money, like Candy Crush and Clash of the Clans).


Personally, I think smartphone games will eventually spark more interest in consoles (that’s certainly how I found myself meandering back to gaming after a very long hiatus). Console games are far from a dying art. Blockbuster game titles are becoming a cultural force in their own right (great storytelling combined with a player’s ability to interact with the environment is a very powerful experience that no movie can ever replicate, not to mention that game graphics are rapidly approaching Hollywood level fidelity). Also, the median age of games is now in the 30s. That means more disposable income and kids. The current generation of young parents most likely grew up on games and do not have the same hangups about games in letting their children play. It’s just that game developers and console manufacturers need to be aware of the bigger picture (social sharing, downloadable content, etc.) in creating a more compelling experience.

Lessons You Can Learn from Call of Duty and First Person Shooters

There’s a lot of life lessons in first person shooters like Call of Duty. I’ve been playing a lot in between tasks. It’s great for procrastination! I’m not even above average mind you, but coming late to the party there’s a lot of things I can appreciate. Even if the benefits of playing FPS games turns out to be bunk, it’s a great way to take a break. Maybe even too much.


There’s so much you can learn from this game that applies to life.


 


Try Not to Die


If you die, that’s it. You can’t go further. Your kill streak ends and the mission is not accomplished. You can take some hits but before you go further you need to recover by either hiding or neutralizing the immediate threat. When you get splattered your mobility is limited. Plus getting shot messes up your aim. You need to know which risks are worth taking and assess the trade off of making yourself vulnerable and making a good shot.


 


Dying Isn’t a Big Deal


So you die. Now what? Play it again! Just because you get shot up doesn’t mean you can never play again. Now in life dying is a big deal but how many things really matter that much in life? There are millions of people killing others or killing themselves for things that in the grand scheme of things aren’t that big of a deal. Lost a job? Broke up with someone that you thought was “the one”? Company went belly up? The list goes on. These are challenges and not life or death situations. There is a way to recover or at least continue to fight the fight. This time take a little something from your last fight and try not to die the same way.


 


Prioritize


When you’re playing a shooter, you’re faced with lots of choices. You need to choose wisely while getting shot at and/or trying to achieve a mission. You’ll frequently be in a situation where you ask yourself, “do I shoot this guy first or try to pick up the ammo?”, “three hostiles, one behind me, which do I shoot first?”, or “do I throw the last grenade to get out of this bind or try to plough through?”. You can die from making retarded choices like trying to pick up some ammo or not paying attention to someone creeping up behind you. These are all choices. Each choice will affect the next choices available.


You might find yourself shooting at a cluster of enemies while keeping an eye on the map to see hostiles coming at you while the clock is running. You need to figure it out quick!


 


Don’t Give Up


So you got cornered in a bad place and there’s a whole family of enemies coming at you like zombies and yes you’re running low on ammo. At some point you need to pick up one of their guns and do something if you manage to handle the first five. Now, it’s not a big deal to die in game. You just play it again. However, the whole point of the game is to give it your best. You need to take the game seriously for it to mean anything. “It’s just a game” is a great way to move on but don’t ever let that be an excuse to failure. Many times you’ll find yourself in a bind but manage to find a way out or maybe learn a lesson that will help you avoid getting in that situation to start with. When the situation gets overwhelming try to get out of it somehow. Embrace the adversity. If you fail, do it again but do your best to get out.


 


Stay Alert


Sometimes you’ll get through a really difficult patch relatively unscathed only to get shot up by some weak loner who was right in front of you. These lapses can come in hairy times or long stretches of waiting. You need to keep yourself alert and at least prepared to respond. Zoning out is rarely a good thing. The game will teach you how to maintain a flow.


 


Shoot First, Ask Later


If you see an enemy, shoot. If you see a funny shadow, shoot. If you hear something, shoot. There’s rarely a moment where it’s better idea to contemplate the situation. If you don’t know what to do at least run. You always need to be doing something. There’s no way to just sit still and not die.


 


Set the Tone, Stay in Charge


It sucks to be chased around and running all the time. It’s a lot better to manipulate the enemy and get them in the right position to blast away. As long as you’re the one reacting, eventually they’ll get to you. This is especially true in hostile/survival mode.


 


Know the Territory


The more you know about the map or sticking points in the mission, the better. Same goes for the guns and their quirks and advantages. Ditto for enemies and their movements. Find an angle that will give you an advantage, sometimes it’ll be a nook where you can take the heat off or a maze-like area you can run and lose your enemies. This knowledge will give you an edge.


 


Always Have Fun


At the end of the day, it’s about having fun. Shoot em’ up and laugh a little. Don’t get beat up if things don’t go your way. If you get a little bored switch it up. Put yourself in a bit of danger and try to maneuver your way out. Set tougher constraints on yourself and set goals. If all you get is stress then it’s time to quit and find something else. Sometimes I’ll get a chuckle from the dumbest bugs like an enemy running in mid air or their bodies half hidden by a dry wall.


 


I’m sure there are some others I missed but the fast pace of the game and the high pressure environment provide a great way to release stress while maybe learning a lesson or two about life.

Playing a Bit Too Much Call of Duty

So I’ve been playing CoD for the last couple of days, I think a week or so at least. Every time I get stuck on a level I just consult this guy’s videos. I’m getting mildly better at it, but still it’s just dismal. The levels or “operations” I have trouble on I basically get lucky more than anything.


The emotional reaction and adrenal rush to shooting and being shot has calmed down considerably. In addition I feel less pressure even during time constraints. I still get a kick out of it but it feels more subtle.


Other than that, I do feel more sensitive to moving objects when I’m out and about (pedestrians and cars). I’m not sure how this translates to anything else. One thing I like about games is the clear objectives and time constraints involved in the missions. There’s nothing like games to give you emotional incentives without financial or physical consequences when goals aren’t met. It’s all based on intrinsic motivation stemming from how much you care about getting better.

Playing some First Person Shooters

I’ve started playing first person shooters, Call of Duty on the PS Vita to be more exact. While the debate of how good or bad video games are for you is a perennial debate, we still don’t know that much despite it being a multi-billion dollar industry and the fact that countless hours are poured into it. I’ve always enjoyed games but I gave them up long ago to focus on other things like reading. Then the internet came along and my attention span suffered all the more.


I bought a PS Vita at the beginning of last year. While my iPhone is great for most casual games, I thought a portable game with physical controls would be a great reintroduction to gaming (my work was related to games at the time as well). I missed the boat entirely on FPS games. My staples were mainly platform games like Mario Bros., fighting and racing games of all sorts.


After playing some Marvel VS Capcom, I pretty much let my PS Vita gather dust. However, I recently came across some  articles citing that FPS games benefited eye sight (amblyopia) and after some more digging found some encouraging research about other benefits.


Since I already had a console gathering dust with a handful of titles, I figured that I would give Call of Duty a shot since it was basically the first “real” FPS to be playable on a handheld gaming console.


Coming back to gaming after a long hiatus and as an “adult” who was never that hardcore is humbling to say the least. I had no idea what I was doing with the controls, constantly get killed and have trouble aiming and shooting. Honestly, I have no idea how good gaming is for me but I do know that I haven’t felt an adrenaline rush like this in a while. It was worth it even if it ends up being a complete waste of time.


I’ve played lots of fighter games and even have the Marvel VS Capcom one for the Vita, which I played a lot. Although I’m not particularly good at it, cranking out the combos and what not feels a bit random. I’m not really invested into it. It feels more like a test of how fast I can twiddle the controller. Personally, I think the Vita’s controls are abhorrent to say the least and this just makes it worse.


With Call of Duty, what seemed so fresh to me was the amount of tension, adrenaline and even rage I felt as I played this game. I don’t know if it’s the 3D element of navigating your way through these maps while trying to figure out which target you shoot or the fact that you get bloodied up by the enemy if you don’t hit your targets but something about FPS games gets me emotionally invested. I was really felt mellowed out and matured from getting older but this just jerked me back into a primal state. The typical gamer stereotype doesn’t exactly fit the profile of an alpha male but that rush certainly was something I enjoyed even when I was throwing up my hands in disgust as I failed one of the easiest missions, again.


I’ve been spending a lot of time in the gym and lifting weights certainly gives you a physical rush and requires mental intensity (if done right) but the time constraints and survival elements (kill or be killed) of the FPS game is really something you can’t get from modern life.


At night when I closed my eyes before sleep I could feel the world spinning like it was rotating in 3D and when I go outside I’m a lot more sensitive to moving things. I really think that console games deserve another big revival. They’re certainly better than the crappy freemium games that are all the rage on smartphones and honestly there are limits to game play on a touch screen only. I think Ouya is just the first of many startups to come that will crack open the typically closed gaming console. Even without it the recently announced Play Station 4 is more of a PC than any of its predecessors. However, I think it’ll still be a long while before our main PCs can serve as gaming machines that rival dedicated consoles (unless you’re the kind that builds your own custom gaming PC).


So it remains to be seen whether I’ll become a better driver, more coordinated, see better, make decisions faster, or handle pressure but I’m already having fun and the rush is just amazing.