I knew, one day, that it would come to this. I have become an FPS Gamer.
Despite doing all that I could to avoid it, despite mocking them in all they do, and despite having avoided shooters for as long as possible, I finally caved 4 days ago and joined their ranks. And you know what? It feels good.
I picked up Battlefield 3 on the 4th of February. Since then, I’ve logged about 8 hours of prime game time online; 463 kills; 451 deaths; 347 points; 347 points scored a minute. That’s in between watching films, working, writing other articles and playing other games. They’re not the best set of stats in the world, but they’re definitely not the worst – I’m pretty chuffed by them.
The weird thing about it all is that I’m sort of surprised by how taken I am with it – not in a “die in a pile of my own crusty sweat and piss” kind of way, but by the fact I keep going back on a daily basis, notching up 2 hours a day so far. It’s not a cruel obsession, eating away at my time like a cruel mistress – instead, it’s one that embraces you gently, patting you on the head and rubbing your back each time you go back. Okay, it’s armed to the teeth with rifles, pistols and jetplanes, but it’s loving all the same.
And what’s weird about the surprise? I never expected to be like this. In the gaming world, it’s very easy to be in the minority, and act as if you’re better than everyone else. It’s very easy to brand the FPS player base as mouth-breathers and averaging an age of 13 when you’re not in among them – but when you join them, the games are excellent fun.
Sure, they glorify killing a little. They reduce casualties in the Middle Eastern settings they take after to mere frags and respawns – and love to make enemies of the Russians. But you know what? They’re games.
There’s a good reason the term “war games” exists, and they are, in the purest definition of the term, an exact, if simplified, fit. A war game, says Merriam-Webster, is “a simulated battle or campaign to test military concepts” – and the likes of Battlefield and Call of Duty are virtual, simulated military exercises. Okay, simplified and dramatised a little – throwing knives, Call of Duty? – but somewhat simulated all the same.
There’s no beating around the bush that war is ugly, and scary, and ruins lives. War as a game is pure adrenaline. It is fast, furious and tense – Battlefield‘s presentation is one of spotty gunfire, whizzes, bangs and contextual shouts from your fellow players for medkits, ammo or repairs to their tanks; lens flare, laser sights and torches blot your vision, and nailing a kill unleashes an inner, furious instinct to be better than your fellow man. It’s a little primal and animalistic, but tapping into that corner of your brain feels good.
Battlefield – and I imagine, Call of Duty – succeed at being so fun online for a multitude of reasons: war, as a game, is fun; there’s a drive to better the other players and win; the adrenaline is incredible. For 2 hours of my life a day so far, and probably beyond, I have been converted to the tribe of FPS Gamers.
War is harmful; war is hell; war as a game is addictive.