I’ve never been one for speaking to baby-voiced Americans in a Call of Duty lobby. I’ve never understood the appeal in conversing with strangers who take pleasure in dipping their digital testicles in your digital mouth when they digitally kill you, calling you a noob and savouring the moment for a split second. And, when the killer and killed is reversed, they continue to bombard you with obscenities and still call you a noob.
No. For me, the pleasure has always been talking to friends during a gaming “sesh”, as the youths say. Playing any multiplayer game with friends, whilst speaking to them through Party Chat, Skype, etc, has always been my preferred form of communication. Hearing an ominous “Oh god” and seeing your teammate fall down in a massive ball of fire on Dying Light, for example, made that moment memorable when compared to not having a headset. Hearing your Fireteam member scream at Valus Ta’aurc in Destiny for 20 minutes straight had both me and my brother in tears. Moments are made when there’s communication, and as long as they aren’t as cringe worthy as this, it’s all good.
Prior to a few months ago, I had a stint of gaming without the communication that I had grown accustomed to, and my enjoyment was dampened because of it. Playing Grand Theft Auto Online on release was fun, of course, but didn’t hold a candle to the mayhem I wrecked with friends back in GTA IV. I had managed to lose the vast majority of players I would accompany for hours at a time, and eventually turned to finding social enjoyment in MMO’s, particularly Guild Wars 2, soon followed up by the re-release of Final Fantasy XIV, now subtitled A Realm Reborn. Within every community you will find toxic players, but for the most part, the MMO population was welcoming, embracing and, in the case of FFXIV, can make a game far more enjoyable than I found playing solo.
Upon both the revealing of both the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One, therefore, I could not care less about the social features. I no longer had a reliable group of companions to accompany me on wild adventures across vast expanses of land, and it weakened my enthusiasm as a whole. Party chat was there, sure, and being able to share gameplay clips to friends was a nice addition, but to me it personally felt like I would be yelling in a crowded area, no one listening to me. They were being billed as more social machines, sentient entertainment devices that would hugely improve my gaming experience, but the end result was akin to that I found with the previous generation of consoles.
“But Nick!”, I hear you cry. “You mentioned both Destiny and Dying Light earlier, meaning something had changed!”. Yes, strange internet voice, something did. Two very close friends of mine purchased Sony’s glorious gaming machine, and I soon after abandoned my previously purchased Xbox One version of Destiny to join their fire team. Weekly sessions of enjoyment, anger and joyous laughs have since ensued, and I’m a believer of the hype that both Sony and Microsoft had installed in many a gamer’s thoughts, dreams and wishes. I’m finally yet another cog in the grand social network that every company is envisioning, endeavoring to accomplish through various means and, when it comes to gaming, I couldn’t be happier.