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Behind the Curtain: Immediacy in PvP

Craig Withers

I don't PvP much. It's not just that I suck at it – I like to think I'm reasonably intelligent, so I'm sure I could pick up the necessary skills fairly quickly. The truth of the matter is that I just don't like PvP very much; I find it lacking a sense of actually playing against another person, a sense of immediacy.

Amongst my many hobbies, I play 40K. Putting aside the fact that tinkering with inch-high fiddly little pieces of metal and plastic appeals to my obsessive/compulsive tendencies, I enjoy the immediacy of standing opposite my opponent, being able to look him/her in the face and (shock horror!) strike up a conversation with them.

Because of this, I've always viewed PvP in my MMOs as a necessity, rather than as a real alternative. For example, I recently started a new character in World of Warcraft, a Warrior, and once I hit 70 with her I'll see if I can find any decent PvP rewards that will help me out with tanking, but that'll depend on how my PUGs go up to then, and will be born of necessity rather than any real desire to take part in PvP. Even if Blizzard released the [OMFG PIG STICKER OF LEETNESS], I doubt very much if I'd be running to the nearest Battleground to start grinding honour for it.

Being able to see my opponent adds so much more to the experience for me, regardless of the outcome. It means that, while I may not be forced to be über polite, I do at least have to be pleasant. If he or she starts steamrolling me, I can't stand there and start screaming about how their mother is a whore, or shout random racial hatred at then.

Anyone who has partaken of tabletop wargaming can probably offer a contrary opinion, I'm sure. I have of course faced opponents to whom good grace, good manners and clear speech were clearly alien concepts. But my point isn't about how good my opponent's manners are, nor how well they handle victory or defeat.
I don't like PvP because the sense of playing against another person, for me, just isn't there. It might just be my own fault, that I don't have imagination enough to see the person on the other end of the screen, or you could fault the game mechanics that leave so many of us using avatars that look exactly the bloody same.

My problem with PvP is that I just don't feel that I'm playing against another person. I like to think that I'm a fairly nice person, so in my games of 40K, you'll find plenty of good-natured banter, some gentle mockery, congratulations when your luck comes up good and maybe even some consolations on the rare occasions that the dice Gods favour me for a change. I don't get any of that with PvP in an MMO.

It could be that the nature of table-top gaming lends itself more towards making a connection with your opponent – you're going to be there for a while, so you may as well strike up a conversation. It's different in MMOs, where you're rarely hanging around any longer than it takes to burn your opponent down. Obviously, you've got the same goal in either case – to win. It's just that with PvP in an MMO that goal is reached an awful lot sooner than it is on a tabletop – you don't have the time in an MMO to strike up conversation with your opponent.

I feel, and I hope other gamers share my viewpoint, that PvP has always suffered from a lack of connection, the inability to see your actual opponent, as opposed to just seeing their avatar – I think it's what led to ganking in the first place. To paraphrase Gabe, the anonymity provided by the fact that you're online, and never likely to see your opponent in the flesh, leads to ignorant behaviour. I'm not saying that everyone who plays tabletop wargames is a nice person, I've certainly played games against people who made me want to shove a handful of dice down their throat.

Until such times that an MMO comes around that allows me to connect with my opponent, and not just my comrades, I can't see me being interested, but for those of you who disagree with me, I'll park my new warrior in Strangelthorn, feel free to gank her until you go blind.

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