Whilst playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Infinity Ward’s popular FPS game, I briefly glanced at the bottom left-hand corner of the screen to check the score, as I always do when playing the multiplayer online mode. Of course glancing at the score merely informs you whether or not your team, or you yourself, is winning, however MW3 is slightly different to the other games in that it has no team emblem next to the score. In previous games such as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2, as well as in the next game in the series; Black Ops II, there is usually a team emblem or logo next to the score, put there to remind the player of what team they are on. Usually you know what team you are on from the matchmaking lobby and the start of the match, and you can easily check by pulling up the scoreboard, so a team logo next to the score on the HUD might be somewhat unnecessary. While it does look cool when it’s done, Infinity Ward might have taken a reductionist approach by making less visual distractions on the screen in order to accentuate the gameplay, and this can be seen in both how MW3 and the upcoming Call of Duty: Ghosts both don’t have team logos next to the scores. However, in Call of Duty: Ghosts there only seems to be two multiplayer factions so far, the ‘Ghosts’ and the ‘Federation’, and while there might be more in the game that will be revealed I have lately come to an understanding that while it’s aesthetically pleasing to play as a certain faction in a multiplayer, it actually doesn’t matter all that much. By this I don’t mean that we can’t have preferences for what team to end up on, but rather in the end it doesn’t change much about the core engagements of the multiplayer. For the very basic fact that all a team needs is an opposition for competition to be possible.
‘Red Team vs Blue Team’ – Typical Multiplayer Set Up
For a while I was somewhat disappointed that MW3 didn’t display team logos next to the score board and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Black Ops II did. However, having long gotten used to playing MW3 it then didn’t bother me that Ghosts is following in its footsteps. What multiplayer games do well is creating a sense of belonging when placed in a team, and this dates as far back as multiplayer games’ inception. Be it red team vs blue team, terrorists vs counter-terrorists or COGS vs Locusts, team factions are an exciting part of multiplayer modes which allow players to assume the role of one of the soldiers on either side. Everyone has a favorite team that they prefer to be on, be it for aesthetic reasons such as what the multiplayer characters say and look like, to more obscure reasoning such as ‘smaller hit-boxes’ or ‘better damage’. As I mentioned earlier though, the team itself doesn’t matter all too much in the end since the competition boils down to your team vs the opposing team and any player with a red name floating above their head will not be shown mercy if seen. Competitive gaming in teams can create amazing solidarity between players when great teamwork is accomplished yet it can also generate unfriendly banter amongst teammates if things go sour. But perhaps the most toxic thing about competitive gaming in teams is not the in-team bickering, it’s the inter-team vocal flame wars that occur, purely on the basis that the opposition is the opposition. This can be an interesting situation sometimes when the enemy of the previous game ends up on your team, thus preventing you from exacting your righteous vengeance for any crimes they might have committed. However, when teams are fixed and team solidarity is at its highest, the conversation between teams can range from silly insults to alarmingly colorful language. This doesn’t occur just in team based competition but in all forms of competition where the internalization of the ‘us vs them’, or perhaps more aptly ‘you vs them’ mentality comes into play. The conversations between teams can be kept civil and in good sportsmanship, but not every player is a graceful winner; some people are sore losers or worse, sore winners.
A Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Squad
I don’t presume to extract apart the details on the human condition of competitive spirit but I do know that when a goal is laid down that requires defeating an opponent or team of opponents, an individual will jump at the chance to prove themselves superior. Victory is sweet and defeat is sour, yet there’s some that take defeat too far even to the extent of seeing it as a personal infringement. Pointed fingers occur, directed at either team mates or the opposition, and there’s a mindset of many individuals that seems to believe that it couldn’t possibly be their own fault for losing. While people can argue ‘who dun it’ till the end of time the bottom line is that most, if not all people, don’t like losing. When it’s ‘us vs them’ it requires us, the team or group of people, to prevail over them, the other team. Whether you’re planting the final bomb to take the round, capturing the last flag, trying to get the last kill or trying to avoid being the last one to die, competition is an exhilarating experience no matter the game. Yet all too often people forget the nature of competition which by its very definition relies on people to compete, which means your team defeating theirs. Too often are people quick to cry foul that the other team might have been ‘unfair’ or ‘cheating’ when their team has lost, exclaiming all manner of excuses for why they lost, which may or may not be valid. What it boils down to in the end is that you as a player strives to win, or your team strives to crush the opposition, so when this goal isn’t met it’s very hard to acknowledge the other team’s win as legitimate, although people should.
The ‘us vs them’ mindset is what makes competition possible but it’s also what makes the inevitable arguments during competition all the more fierce. When victory is on the line, and in the case of competitive e-sports; victory and money, people are fully determined to do what it takes to ensure that their team wins. It’s important to keep the spirit of competition in mind and any banter or ‘trash talk’ can be kept civil using moderation. It’s my personal opinion that it’s unnecessary for people to be held back by subjective standards and rigid conditions during competition, as whatever is within the rules of the game is fair. So to criticize others for winning by means that you don’t approve of is just silly, yet people do it all the time. Competitive gaming is a staple part of our gaming culture as much as it is of other cultures, one that thrives and generates hours of fun and engaging activities for all involved. Let’s just hope that win or lose people try to keep it clean with the chatter.
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