The problem with multiplayer first-person shooters (FPS) is the war never ends. You can win 100 battles or lose 100, but it does not matter. The war continues. The interminable cycle of death and rebirth, like the ebb and flow of the tide is the only evidence of change. I have died 12976 times only to be reborn 12977 times to watch my death unfold again and again. The mode of my death may be different, the place of my rebirth might change, but still I have grown weary of watching it unfold countless times. The only liberation is leaving, but giving up is a poor balm for the tedium of the never-ending forever war.
Why is multiplayer FPS so unchanging? Why is the constant cyclic exchange endlessly repeating in game after game? Such a vivid reflection of Vedic tradition should cause a Hindu to reflect on what they have been taught. Honestly, I think there are few better examples of Hindu reincarnation than Call of Duty. You live, die, and gain experience as you continue through karmic leveling until eventually achieving the enlightened prestige of all unlocks. You, the external soul, are constantly birthed in rag doll bodies doomed to die. You do not need to know who you are. You do not know why you are there. All you know is that you must kill. Thus it is, thus it shall ever be. Amen
Real war is not like this, real war has an end. The war may end centuries in the future as Haldeman explored in Forever War, or it may end when no one is left to fight as in Dick’s Second Variety, but the war always ends. Even Orwell knew this when he crafted his greater masterpiece 1984. Perhaps boredom is the real motivating factor for this gaming repetition. Eventually, we all grow weary. We grow tired. We stop. Even the most ardent lose faith. The war must change to maintain interest. The easy way out is changing the context and not the content. This year is World War I and next year is World War II until the Snake turns back on itself and eats it tail in Infinite Warfare.
FPS multiplayer video games are like Vietnam—a meaningless slog—which is all the more humorous considering the Vietnam War is the least utilized backdrop in either the Call of Duty or Battlefield franchise. These war games could use a refresh, especially if they are to continue engrossing the masses who eagerly hope the next game will be better than the last in some meaningful way. Of course, some would argue I am asking to much of an industry that thrives on recreating the created. Some would even wonder why I am complaining, because it is just a video game. Still, I do not see any harm in asking for more nor identifying ways to increase everyone’s enjoyment.
Besides, I am likely the last person to point out the repetitive meaninglessness of it all—that there are only so many ways and places to kill someone in a video game. The industry already knows this and has taken steps. For instance, we now have zombies. Can you think of a more ironic metaphor for the previous status quo? I cannot. Then there is the Battle Royale games like PUBG, Fortnite, and Call of Duty: Warzone. They make death more permanent, so your actions matter more. Added to them there are the seasons, the limited editions, and loot boxes, which all add a sense of desire and loss to it all.
Nevertheless, these context changes add little to the meaning of the missions and provide no sense of greater accomplishment. You achieve nothing accept another unlock. What if FPS multiplayer had a deeper narrative like a novel? MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV obviously do. They are works with their own structure, paradigms, and focuses. In fact, you could say RPGs in general are superior to traditional novels because they are interactive. A novel only allows for limited interaction—you only experience the imagined world as the author envisioned it. In a game like Horizon Zero Dawn or Mass Effect, you actually live it and can impact its ending to a degree.
A good RPG allows one to explore and to reach a potentiality of definitive ends. The possibility of alternatives, combined with the distinction of having an end, makes them enjoyable and re-playable. Even if there are sequels and prequels and a hobbit-hole of other extensions, the end is always in sight. Unfortunately, this is not the case with FPS multiplayer modes. Unending is not an end and the studios understand this fact. However, instead of addressing it, they attempt to stave off the inevitable boredom by placing a myriad a hoops in your path. They provide achievements, medals, honors, points, and unlocks to keep you trying, but the entertainment value decreases and the desire to play wanes with the publication of each new game.
Unfortunately, in a game without any possible end, the end is always the same: apathy and ennui. I would suggest a better game. A multiplayer where battles have a purpose and your failures have consequences. One where there can be an end and it results in loss or gain. I argue for a world war game with rival factions vying for the same goal: global domination. I want a game not like Vietnam, but like Risk. A game where you are the soldier in the battles fighting, not a general leading, and your ability to control the field with your brethren has a tangible result on the outcome of the war.
I want something bigger than Battlefield Conquest. I want a massively multiplayer campaign—a king of the hill game writ large upon a digital theater of war. I crave the complete gamification of war. A Battlefield Rush game made up of different maps and locations in addition to the M-COM stations within those maps. A Call Of Duty: Warzone with multiple war zones to play and conquer with friends. Just like a real war, the tide could turn at any moment where you could be forced to retreat from one map to one you had fought over only a moment ago and won.
A game that allowed you to actually conquer and control, to keep and to fight to maintain as well as to expand. Where the multiplayer masses determine the end and fight to keep it. The game could start small, perhaps 2 continents and 20 battlefields but with expansion packs explode into a full world. Where you choose the battles to wage tactically and methodically and the game keeps track of your personal conquest. Such a video game where war is more like war and less like an endless cycle would be a far more interesting thing to play than what we have now.
Of course, the more entertaining you make war, the more you romanticize it, create a mythos around it, and encourage a desire for it in the audience. Read the fiction and reality of WWI and you will see what I mean. So, perhaps, the endless cycle is not such a bad thing after all. In a culture that encourages violence, the video game studios are actively encouraging pacifism through boredom. By crafting war games that players eventually grow weary of playing soldier, the studios are inadvertently creating a young populace that detests war simply because they have played it so much. Perhaps multiplayer FPS will eventually evolve and change, or perhaps I will need to find something else to play with my friends. Rocket Cars sound fun…