At the urging of a friend, I had reinstalled Mechwarrior Online a few weeks ago. This friend has been a long time player (after I had introduced him to the game, oddly enough), was in a formal clan, and was really good at the game. I, on the other hand, could only drive any mech using what’s commonly called the “Derp Method”, shoot at nearby rocks and towers because I wasn’t familiar with the mounting of my weapons, and can never align my feet and my torso correctly. But when I was able to shadow my friend in matches, I had a great time because I never felt the full pressure inherent in going it alone into a queue of all random people.
As with all games, I fell away from MWO mostly because my friend was playing at weird hours which proved to be incompatible with my schedule, and because I couldn’t get any other friends to suit up and bother. I could have just played random matches, or even gone as far as looking into finding a clan that would be willing to pick up a greenhorn for casual gameplay.
I don’t know what I expected this time around, especially since in hind-sight I haven’t actually been able to play with my friend who urged me to reinstall the game again. I have been impressed that the game had been updated in exciting ways — the mech bay is actually functional and informative now! — and even though I have spent some time dicking around in the bay and in the open training maps with the mechs I own, I never actually played a match until this weekend. This bothers me greatly.
There is a whole host of interconnected reasons why, and at the center is my fear of being a disappointment to the group. Letting people down is something that everyone has to deal with at various points in their lives (it’s gonna happen, folks), and on the surface video games shouldn’t be a way by which a person measures his or her self-worth, but for many it is. Not me, that’s not what I’m getting at, although playing games can have an affect on how you feel about yourself whether you go in wanting it to or not. Instead, there’s always those people who are quick to blame others for their team not doing well, or who want everyone to line up behind them because they want things to be done a very specific way. I’m absolutely OK with following someone who’s got a plan or more experience, but only if they’re doing it for the team and not just their own personal glory; I’m not playing to be a tool for massaging someone’s ego. Even if I feel like I’m letting someone down — the other silent team members, or even the loudmouth jackass who has no reservations about telling me or a blanket everyone that they suck — I would rather not put myself into that kind of position. It’s not just that I want to avoid someone being an asshole; I just want to avoid being singled out and told something that I’m probably already well aware of. Trust me: if I feel that I am to blame for personal or team failure, I’ll be the first to admit it, but I won’t take it when I’m doing everything to the best of my ability and just can’t seem to reach that winner’s circle in spite of it. That is the epitome of kicking someone when they’re down.
Playing multiplayer games is the best source for potentially being reamed out by some Junior Napoleon who is keen on telling everyone how they should be playing and what they’re doing wrong. Sometimes, they’re right. I mean, chances of them being right are pretty high because maybe they play this game a lot and are the kind of person who ingests all the numbers and strategies and has their finger on the pulse of the product. Usually it’s the delivery that puts me off. Suggesting to me that I try another tactic, or letting me know about a method that ends up helping me — and the team — is awesome. I learn something and hopefully the team ends up winning (or at least doesn’t get crushed). On the flip side is the knowledgeable player who yells, insults, is sarcastic and belittling, and doesn’t actually help anyone be a better player. They might know more than I do, and might have valid points, but their delivery sucks so bad that I purposefully want to play badly as an act of defiance. No one should be subjected to another person’s rage because they’re not playing the way someone else wants them to play. No matter how good you are, in random matchmaking you’re going to get people who are more skilled, and people who are less skilled. It’s a fact. Railing against statistical inevitability just makes you look like an asshole, and congratulations! makes someone else feel bad, and possibly not wanting to play any more. Mission accomplished, I guess?
I played four matches this weekend, winning only one of them, but I had a good time. It wasn’t stress-free, as I was always expecting someone in each match to start firing off more then just a large laser or LRM battery. There was only one act of dickery, when a team member let everyone know someone was heading for our base — as they should! — and someone else responded with a pointless “so what?”. That made me sad, because that was the proof of the pudding: the game mode was irrelevant to that player, who seemingly only cared about his personal goals and to hell with the team. Had we lost that round, I wonder how that person would have reacted.
Even though I had a marginally good time, I am still always hesitant to jump into the random queue. Constant good-to-great matches (even when we lose) do not seem to build up to a comfortable level of confidence when one rude jerk can negate it all with a single directed or blanket insult to me or the team. I doubt anyone is purposefully playing half-assed, although admittedly not everyone is playing full-assed; some of us are still learning, or are still figuring out a strategy for our mechs, or aren’t running the loadouts that the community has min/maxed as the “required” build for that frame. Different people want to get different things from their game time — asshats included — which means that not everyone is going to be playing for the same reasons, or in the same way. Keeping our eyes on the prize for the game mode, playing to the best of our ability, and sometimes taking a back seat and letting someone else lead is the best approach, but you’ll never get the same performance out of people by being a dick to them as you would if you were actually as helpful in tone as might be your intention. I don’t want to be driven from this game (again) by people who put winning over being a decent human being, and I hope that I’m not expecting more than the Internet can provide in saying that.