Posted by: bracehare | September 1, 2011

BBB video games and multiplayer communities

A phenomenon which has drawn my interest as of late regards the manner in which games that are critically panned and disliked by mainstream gamers will nonetheless find a niche who are attracted to them, but only for the sake of the multiplayer mode.  While I have hardly poured over video game history in any comprehensive fashion, I can certainly assert this is not a new phenomenon.  I remember a multiplayer community existing for the Armored Core series of games, even in its earliest days, despite the fact the series has always received lukewarm reception from the gaming community at large.  Another, more recent example concerns the game Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days.  By all accounts, this game was a critic’s favorite to hate, yet nonetheless it has developed a reasonably robust online multiplayer community.  The game Killing Floor provides a final example, and I can state from some experience that the game is effectively unplayable in its single player mode.

It seems that a number of factors draw players to these types of games.  For instance, the Armored Core series is often derided not so much because there is anything inherently wrong with the gameplay, but because the games represent a niche genre with limited popular appeal.  Another factor is price; all of the games mentioned so far have a tendency to be budget priced, either because they find their way into the bargain bin relatively quickly, or because it is a deliberate part of the marketing strategy from conception.  One final motive might actual stem from cases in which gameplay is demonstrably more obtuse than other titles.  This can create artificial difficulty, which may increase the value of the game as a test of relative skill.  Certainly the type of skill being tested in this case would not usually be considered a primary skill that a game should, ideally, test for; however, whether or not a given player holds this common perspective on the subject is anything but guaranteed.

I am personally quite fond of Killing Floor.  Left 4 Dead may offer a superior multiplayer monster-killing survival-shooter, but sometimes a BBB title has a kind of goofy charm; the kind that makes it perfect for sharing as an experience with friends, even if you wouldn’t dare to waste time on it alone.

– Jessica Evans

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