I’ve been a gamer for years, since getting my hands on the family Atari ST. My grandad killed that thing my ripping out it’s innards whilst trying to get a stuck disc out of the drive with a bloody great knife. He was a carpenter, so he was very gentle when he was working with wood. Anything more solid than that generally cowered in fear.
I have such vivid memories of exploring Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past, finally getting the Knights of the Round summon in Final Fantasy VII and the first time that zombie turns around at the start of Resident Evil. Back in the day, multiplayer for me was some Goldeneye deathmatches with my brother and not a lot more. Fast forward a long time and my free time is suddenly consumed almost exclusively with multiplayer, and specifically competitive games. My current addiction is, admittedly brilliant, Hunt: Showdown, but it doesn’t stop there. I’m working through the Battle Passes for Fortnite AND Halo Infinite. I also regularly dip back into Valorant, Escape from Tarkov, Legends of Runeterra, League of Legends … the list really goes on. What’s the problem with playing games I enjoy, you may ask. Generally, nothing, but in my case there two big problems. Firstly, by their nature I’m far more likely to lose whatever I’m playing leading to an incredibly frustrating experience most evenings, but also I think competitive games may have ruined my ability to enjoy single player, story driven games. The sad thing is, I put myself at a disadvantage in all of these by having no friends to actually play these games with. I’m having a single player experience, whilst frustrating myself with a multiplayer game.
Halo Infinite has a popular multiplayer scene, but this release has also had a lot of praise for such a strong story. Have I experienced this compelling story? Well, about an hour of it. I bought Horizon Zero Dawn when it came to the PC, again after it received rave reviews. I love the game, played about an hour or so and, since then, nothing. My Steam library, not to mention GamePass catalogue, is crammed full of incredible stories and incredible experiences. For the most part, an evening spent being unexpectedly and viciously murdered by a random person hiding in a bush will not give me the nostalgic glow Final Fantasy VII gave me, when I look back on it in years to come.
When you find a good single player experience in a video game they can be as, if not more, compelling than any movie or book. I went though the entire Resident Evil series last year, and absolutely loved it. While the story for most games in the series wouldn’t necessarily count as award winning, Resident Evil Village was hugely compelling and interesting. Since then, however, every time I fire up a single player game, regardless of how much I’m enjoying it, always ends quite abruptly. The thought going through my head at every opportunity is ‘but I could be progressing that Battle Pass’ or something similar. I’ve got to the point that this feeling is so distracting it overrides any enjoyment I’m having with the single player game, and I no longer absorb the story.
Playing competitive multiplayer games is the gaming equivalent of doom scrolling Facebook as you get annoyed by all of your racist or generally ignorant relatives and old work colleagues spouting utter guff. It’s unhealthy for your mental well being, but I’ve come to the realisation that I’m addicted to it. I’m addicted to that one in a thousand times when the experience goes well. When you top that Valorant scoreboard, or extract from Tarkov with some random loot stuffed up my bum1, the buzz and rush is second to none. I started writing this post which I was going to entitle ‘I Can’t Enjoy Single Player Games Any More’ but as I’ve been writing it’s turned more into a therapy session than a light hearted laugh and my enjoyment of competitive games.
It seems clear that I’m addicted to the buzz of competitive games and, worryingly, I don’t want to do any thing about it. By writing this and admitting this problem, I’m at the first step of addressing it.
I should just say here, for the record, I’m not addicted to this in any way that damages anyone other than myself. I can admit I’m terrible at these games, so when I need to operate normally I can switch these games off without a problem. It’s a strange thing to write here, I know, in a semi light hearted post, but true addiction is serious and if you read any of the above and see a more worrying trend in yourself, in gaming or elsewhere, help is available in the U.K., US, or locally to you wherever you may be.
Thanks for reading folks, and happy (healthy) gaming!
Tarkov players will understand what I mean here. ↩︎