Tag Archives: Video games

Battlefield 4 and Delusions of Grandeur: An analysis of what happens to a society Where individual achievement is the only thing that matters.

(dedicated to roscoe)

For over a decade, I have been a staunch devotee of the Battlefield video-game franchise. Starting with Battlefield 3, (what I still believe to be their finest version), I have purchased and played nearly every release since, (including Battlefields 4, 1, 5, Hardline, and the first of the Star Wars themed Battlefront). Of all of them, the one that I have played the longest and the most is, without doubt, Battlefield 4 (BF4).

To say that I have played BF4 ‘a lot’ would be an understatement. Since its release, I have played it nearly every day on either Sony’s Playstation (3 and 4), or Microsoft’s XBOX (360 and 1), for at least four hours and often longer. Thus, I can say with complete confidence that I know everything there is to know, from a player’s perspective, about the game and its gameplay. I could also say, with reasonable certainty, that I am well acquainted with the BF4 gaming community, a phenomenon that has evolved in interesting ways over the past eight years. So, it may come as a surprise that after so many years and hours of playing, I have finally hung-up my controller, and not just with regards to BF4, but with the entire Battlefield franchise. Why? It is this why that is the subject of this article.

As first-person-shooters (FPS) go, there is nothing like Battlefield 4. As a console game, it is unrivaled and for many reasons. Number one amongst those is the breadth of its gameplay. Like other FPS, players of BF4 drive tanks, fly helicopters and jets, pilot attack boats and other water vehicles (see video below). They ride motorcycles and quads. They traverse deserts, snow-capped mountains, inner-city streets and even, an immense prison installation. They fight in Europe and the Middle and Far East. They engage in urban and jungle warfare. There is literally no type of terrain, except for extra-terrestrial, that has not been included amongst the numerous Battlefield 4 landscapes. Thus, the game has a wide appeal.

And yet, in recognizing its tremendous variety of battlegrounds, players still seem to gravitate to certain maps more than others. For example, two of the most popular maps are the prison compound of Operation Locker, and the cityscape of Siege of Shanghai. Unlike other BF4 battlefields, players can find servers that feature one or the other 24-hours a day, seven days a week.[1]

This allegiance to certain maps is paralleled by a dedication to specific gaming modes, in particular Conquest and Team Death Match, with the former being the most popular by far. For the uninitiated, the object of Conquest is to capture as many territories, known as “objectives” as possible and hold them. The more objectives a team holds, the sooner they will win. The ultimate goal, therefore, is to secure and retain all of the objectives until the game concludes, not an easy task (at least, in theory).

As simple as it sounds, playing Conquest, and winning, is extraordinarily complex, requiring a synchronization of effort that is often difficult to maintain. Why one team wins, and another loses is often because the losing team fails to organize its players to achieving the one goal of capturing and holding all the objectives. The reasons for this are multivarious but, more often than not, it’s because the individual players do not play as a team but rather, focus on selfish motives, such as attaining what’s known as a high, kill-death-ratio (K/D).

In a previous article in which I wrote on the panoptical features of BF4, I noted that the emphasis on K/D is more than just a statistic, for many players, maybe even most, it is THE primary reason for playing BF4. Having a high K/D has become synonymous with a player’s reputation as a video-gamer. The higher the K/D, so the logic goes, the more talented the player is perceived by her or his colleagues. Hence, some players will do anything to attain the highest K/D possible, including ignoring the game’s primary objective.[2] It’s with this in mind that I have chosen to stop playing BF4, and the other Battlefield iterations, the pervasive selfishness of the other players.

Despite its primary function as a team-oriented game, the overemphasis on K/D has led to it being overrun by hedonistic[3] players whose only interest is in killing as many of the opposing team as possible, without dying. While I have no data to support it, my contention is one reason for this behavior is due to the increasing popularity of video-game streaming. Video-game streams of BF4 are almost exclusively devoted to a player’s ability to kill. Rarely is any attention paid to a player’s contributions as a teammate, or winning, only the high number of kills she or he acquires in a single instance (see video below).

This phenomenon, in which players willingly forgo teamplay in deference to individual achievement suggests something profoundly troubling about many that play games like BF4. It indicates the primary mover for playing is self-aggrandizing. In other words, the number one reason these players play is to demonstrate that they are better than everyone else.[4] That is what a high K/D has come to signify, one player’s dominance over another. And yet, this notion of superiority is nothing more than an illusion.

Recently, I had an opportunity to play BF4 with two of my nephews, one is 8 and the other is 10. It was interesting to note how often they attributed their success, with regards to K/D, to their individual abilities, as if there were no other factors that could have contributed to their achievements. In other words, they believed attaining a high K/D was solely the result of individual talent. Afterwards, I asked if either one thought the other players had any influence on their successes. Both responded the same, “no.”

I encountered the same attitude when playing with older, supposedly more mature players as well. The only time they referenced the actions of their fellow players was when things went wrong or when they didn’t achieve the K/D they thought they should. Then, fellow players were seen as a hinderance to their efforts, something to blame for the lack of success. “My team is garbage!” one player exclaimed after he failed to attain the highest K/D of the session. This attitude suggests that many players of BF4 and other FPS are ignorant of the dynamics of teamplay and the myriad of factors that directly influence its outcomes.

For example, one player I know of, who consistently has one of the highest K/D ratios every time he plays, always plays with a teammate who is ready, willing, and able to revive him whenever he is killed. Thus, his number of deaths is significantly diminished due to his teammate’s ability to keep him alive. And yet, viewers of his streams never acknowledge the importance of his teammate’s influence. They, in effect, assign all the credit for his success to individual ability, not as a team effort, when the exact opposite is true.

I know of another player, again with a higher-than-most K/D ratio, who has one of the fastest internet connections available. He experiences virtually no lag when he plays. And yet, the same cannot be said for those he plays against. This gives him an obvious technological advantage over those with slower connections. Still, no one ever considers how a faster internet speed contributes to a higher score. Again, success is widely, and almost exclusively, assigned to individual talent. Perhaps the most egregious examples of this delusion of gaming superiority are to be found in players who chiefly use what are known as over-power[ful] (OP) weapons. In BF4 there are numerous weapons that fall into this category, including the celebrated attack helicopter (see video below).

One reason the map Siege of Shanghai is so popular is that it allows for any capable pilot of the attack helicopter to dominate the opposition. Their success can be attributed to several factors, individual ability being only one amongst many. Oftentimes, the pilot and his gunner face little, if any, comparable resistance. By this I mean, that the attack helicopter, because of its superior weaponry and defensive capabilities, are unequaled by any ground defensive forces. Thus, its ability to elude air-attack rocketry and to hide amongst the so-called “red zones” of the map, make it virtually impossible to defend against. It is, therefore, quite common for the pilot and gunner to rack up high numbers of kills with few, if any, deaths. And yet, many players prefer OP weapons over all others, be it the so-called noob-tube, airburst, or sniper rifles outfitted with incredibly powerful scopes and sites. Why? For the very reasons I have argued, they’re obsessed with maintaining a high, I would say “artificially inflated”, K/D (see video below)

An extreme example of this is a player, I have encountered, who will quit a match any time he or she is killed, and then rejoin, so that they always have zero deaths. Her or his identity and self-confidence are so intertwined with maintaining her or his status as a superior player she or he cannot, and will not, allow for any record of death, even once. Though uncommon, this example demonstrates the lengths a player will go to maintain the illusion, and delusion, of perceived dominance.

Unfortunately, this type of excessive behavior has become more and more common across the spectrum of Battlefield versions. This may indicate an unhealthy psychological and emotional disposition amongst the Battlefield player community. In other words, players who emphasize a high K/D over all other objectives may be suffering from an emotional or psychological deficit, be it low self-esteem or, even, self-loathing.

In this way, BF4, and other FPS, are problematic in that they enable those with psychological and emotional deficiencies to perpetuate an unrealistic, what I have called “delusional” sense of self-importance. Which is to say, these games create a platform upon which an overly pretentious and, therefore, harmful self-perception eventually becomes an unhealthy surrogate for true self-confidence.

There will be many who object to my assessment of the delusional aspects of BF4 referring to the fact that having a high K/D is, in fact, a sub-goal of the larger goal of winning. Which is true, the team that kills more of the opposition is likely to win. The point, however, is not whether the delusional player contributes to winning rather that he or she doesn’t care who wins or loses. That is not the primary motive for her or his gameplay. As I have argued, winning for these players is about a demonstration of individual dominance over the others, being better than everyone else. And while it is also true that having a high K/D does reflect a level of individual ability, it is a distortion to believe, given all the external factors that contribute to one’s success, that such can, or should be relied upon as a cornerstone of self-worth. And yet, that is what games like BF4, and the desire to be perceived as dominant have become, an unhealthy substitute for real self-confidence.

When I first began playing BF4, I found it exhilarating in part because you are always in danger of being killed. Blink at the wrong time and you die. Thus, it is a game that requires a player to be always present or he or she will die, a lot. And while dying is not ideal, it should never be a reason for a player to feel ashamed or, in any way, affect her or his sense of self-importance, especially when the primary goal of the game depends on teamwork.

For example, I have a friend who plays and rarely has more kills than deaths. The reason is due to his decision to focus on reviving his fellow teammates over killing the opposition (see video below). Thus, his motives are the very antithesis of the delusional player who cares only about maintaining a high K/D. And yet, he is not embarrassed when, at the end, his K/D is upside down. He takes pride in the fact that he has sacrificed himself so that his team is successful. In other words, he is willing to give his life for the team. Is there any motive more noble, and ennobling, than that? Is there any better basis upon which true self-confidence can be developed and maintained?

Unfortunately, his kind of gameplay is not celebrated or acknowledged in the same way as the player with the high K/D (see endnote). The result is games like BF4 are often not playful but become nothing more than platforms for the delusional to manifest a deranged sense of self-importance. This suggests something even more distressing about gaming culture and perhaps, by extension, society as a whole.

The overemphasis on individual achievement, in deference to all other potential goals and outcomes, inhibits more socially enlivening, and therefore socially essential behaviors like teamwork and notions of fair play. The result is a culture in which winning by any means becomes the only measure upon which self-worth is evaluated and established. In other words, in creating a generation of only winners society risks foreclosing on the socio-cultural importance and value of losing for a cause, of sacrificing oneself for the team. And as history has shown us time and again, no society can prosper or evolve without the self-sacrifice of others.

(endnote: of ALL the video content featured in this article, only one has less than 90K views, the last one, which emphasizes self-sacrifice over K/D. At the time of this writing, it had 17 total views and only 1 like, mine).

__________________________________________

Footnotes

[1] Of course, there are other maps that also have 24-hour a day servers, such as Golmud Railway and Operation Metro, but for this article, I will focus on Operation Locker and Siege of Shanghai exclusively.

[2] In his treatise Frame Game: The Role of Context in Defining Play Behavior, Dr. Fabio Paglieri proposes a taxonomy for categorizing player motivations in the context of cognitive affect. Players whose main objective, or motive, invalidates the primary goals of the game are referred to as hedonistic. Thus, the hedonistic player is one that selfishly promotes her or his own enjoyment over goals that may be essential to achieving the game’s primary objective. In pursuing a high K/D over winning, players reveal a hedonistic motive for playing.

[3] See note 3 above.

[4] Proving one’s dominance over another, as the primary motive for playing, these players, according to Dr. Paglieri, are not playing at all. Using the Paglierian taxonomy, these players would be better classified as pseudo, and maybe even slave players. See note 3 above.

Editors Note: Another Historical Moment for the BOOM!

Mainland China
Mainland China

Editor’s Note: The article below represents another historical milestone for the BOOM for numerous reasons. Over the past few months, we have noticed, in our traffic results, a sharp increase in visitors from China, and the Orient in general. While we anticipated a Japanese appreciation for our work, and have translated articles into their language, we did not expect the remarkable response from our video gaming sisters and brothers from the motherlands of China and Vietnam. You are, both, most welcome to the BOOM.

In honor of their extraordinary participation, we have decided to translate some of our future articles into other languages of the East. Our first, is a translation, into Mandarin Chinese, of our most popular series to-date: “The Panopticon in My Bedroom: Parts I & 2.” It is our way of saying “Thank You” for coming to the BOOM, and allowing us to inform and entertain you.

Vietnam
Vietnam

-BOOM

Mandarin Translation of the above:

编辑前言:在过去的几个月中,BOOM惊喜地发现网站中来自中国和其他远东地区的访问量激增。因为我们认为日本玩家会对我们的内容感兴趣,所以我们过去将文章翻译成日文。然而,我们并没有料到会有大量来自中国和越南的玩家来访BOOM。我代表BOOM欢迎你们加入这个大家庭。这是BOOM发展史上的一座重要的里程碑。
为此,我们决定将未来发表的一系列文章翻译成简体中文。第一篇中文文章是我们至今为止发表的最受欢迎的文章:《私人卧室中的环形监狱》。这是我们用来欢迎和感谢中国大陆玩家来访BOOM的方式。
-BOOM

From Peripheral to Preeminence: The Rise of the Video Media Console, Part III, “From arcade to VR ecosystem.”

Those that grew up during what I have often referred to as the “Golden Age” of video gaming,[1]  remember a time when there was no preference between PC and console. There was just gaming. In fact, there are some games that we loved every bit as much as our favorite PC, console, and arcade games, which are now, all but forgotten.[2] Still, as for where most gamers of the period, young and old, preferred to play their favorite games, the arcade was king (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 Game arcade, ca. 1983
Figure 1 Typical 80’s arcade

Though the graphics and gameplay of the standalone machines were often identical to their console/PC versions, there were a lot more games to play at the arcade then at home or school. Also, there was an energy in the place that was palpable and electrifying.[3] Playing in the arcade during the decade of the 1980’s could be viewed as a prototype of the multiplayer experience that we now enjoy online, with one big difference: back then we played, physically, side-by-side, every time.

While the arcade may have been our preference, there were two, significant, disadvantages: cost, and the fact that you needed transportation to get to one. Both reasons made it an impractical, though highly desired, option for me and my eight and nine-year-old, school friends. Even after washing everyone’s car on the block, mowing their lawns, scavenging for and returning bottles and cans for the deposit, and, finally, squeezing your parents for every last quarter they had, it didn’t take long to burn through your hard earned change once you walked into that neon-lit, multisensory extravaganza of light, sound, and movement (see Figure 2). It is largely for these reasons that the console became our video gaming method of choice.

P2p3-cartoon
Figure 2: “The Quest for the Quarters.”

Thus, it was during the decade of the eighties that video gaming as a practice and event shifted from the surrealistic environment of the arcade to become a more home-based activity in which the console played a dominant role. At the time, PC’s were also in their infancy. Companies like Apple, and even HP, had demonstrated an early interest in video gaming software development, but purchasing their hardware was expensive, often more expensive than a console (see Figure 3). Moreover, PC’s were still, for the most part, considered business machines and not video gaming platforms. For many gamers, therefore, the console was the only realistic option.

Figure 3: Apple
Figure 3: Apple as early adopter of video gaming software.

This economic ‘reality,’ in many ways, created a division between the gamers that had access to a PC, and those that could only get their hands on a console. From this point forward, the question of which platform, PC or console, was technologically superior, became the subject of a debate that continues, thirty years later, into our current day.

Of course, the rift between PC and console gaming is more complicated than the “debate” over which is a, “superior,”  platform. However, no one would dispute that this is the primary issue that continues to surface and resurface whenever gamers argue over which is best for gaming. Now, it seems, this age old argument has been given new life in the discussion over which is a better platform for delivering Virtual Reality (VR).

As recent as this past February, Tim Bajarin, a well-known, well-respected technologist, “futurist,” and contributor for PCMag, revealed how this divisive issue is being used to influence the direction of VR software development. In his post, “Why Sony Has a Big Lead in VR,” he offers reasons why the PC is a more preferable VR appliance than the Playstation, or any other console. The primary concern, as he sees it, is the console’s seeming, one purpose functionality as a gaming device. According to Mr. Bajarin, consoles like the Playstation 4, “[are] largely gaming platforms.”

BOOM Salad Proudly Presents: durtyrezkidz, a.k.a “Turbo Aj Little Bird.” The Sky is Falling!

BS-Durty-Ann-Art-2Rarely does one get an opportunity to witness what happens when total mastery over fundamentals intersects with raw talent. And yet, that is exactly what has happened: lightning has struck the BOOM twice!

It is with great pride that I announce to our readers, the BOOM’s latest sponsee: durtyrezkidz, a.k.a. “Turbo AJ Little Bird.

He is simply the BEST Little Bird pilot we have ever seen, a remarkable statement considering our past experience. Come watch and be amazed…the sky is falling.

 

BOOM Salad Thanks King-Dylan666: The Paganini of the First-Person-Shooter.

The KING lives!
Long Live the KING!

At the end of last fall, BOOM Salad entered into an historic agreement to become the first to sponsor the Battlefield 4 player known as KING-DYLAN666.[1] Since that time, we have been honored to reveal to the world, via this website, his near inhuman playing skills on the battlefield. Time and again, in video after video (see below), the KING has demonstrated conclusively that he is one of the best in the business. He is a machine, a true 21st century gaming freak of nature, and yet, some in the online gaming world have sought to undermine his place amongst the elite, by criticizing the amount of time the KING has played the game for which he has become well-known.

KING-DYLAN666 & the DdFA CLAN.
KING-DYLAN666 & the DdFA CLAN.

According to his Battlelog profile, KING-DYLAN666 has spent a total of 9,320 hours playing Battlefield 4 (PS3 and PS4 combined). If one assumes he began playing on the date of the game’s release in 2013, that would mean he has played, on average, more than 10 hours a day, for nearly two and a half years!

But I know what some of you are thinking, because, for the past six months, we’ve heard it all:

“What a loser!”

“Damn Daniel! That man needs to get a life!”

“I bet he’s a virgin.”

Naturally it is hard for some to fathom the kind of dedication that the KING has put into an activity that continues to be miscategorized by society as a form of casual entertainment. By this I mean that the criticisms leveled at KING-DYLAN for the amount of time he has spent perfecting his skill, reveal an outdated view of video gaming that fails to recognize its increasing complexity as a practice. Moreover, such statements also demonstrate a disappreciation of the physical ability required to achieve the level of dominance exhibited by the KING.

From Peripheral to Preeminence: The Rise of the Video Media Console, Part I: “The Virtual End of the Reign of Television.”

BS-PP-IMG-1

For nearly 60 years, television has ruled the living room as the center of the home entertainment universe. But the emergence of media streaming services, like: Netflix, Youtube, and Amazon Instant Video, along with an ever-expanding global network delivering high-speed Internet service to the home, has revealed a growing number of threats to TV’s half a century long reign.

First, and foremost, as consumer behavior has adapted to the expanding role of the Internet as a vehicle for the delivery of media content, there has been a notable shift away from television as the primary viewing platform. This has been accompanied, and is in many ways symbolized, by the so-called, “[TV cable] cord cutting” movement we see growing in popularity throughout the world. It is now possible to watch “TV” programming on something other than a TV, such as a PC, tablet, or even a smartphone.

In saying this, we are giving form to a fundamental change now taking place which seeks to dismantle our decades old, TV-obsessed culture, and replace it with a spatial reconstruction in which television becomes just another option amongst a growing number of alternatives. In other words, with the emergence of app-based viewing platforms that rely on the Internet to deliver their content, the interdependent link between TV and the creation, consumption, and distribution of video media, including video games, has been broken.

playstation-vr
Figure 2: Sony’s entry into the VR marketplace.

Moreover, with the rapid development of virtual reality devices, such as Sony’s Playstation VR and Facebook’s Oculus Rift (see Figure 2), it is now possible to envision a future in which the television is supplanted by a far more immersive, and spatially practical, viewing paradigm. Some, of course, would disagree, claiming that, “Television technology, with its increasing resolutions and size, in addition to a recent industry-wide adoption of app-based viewing platforms, a feature of so-called, “SMART TVs”, will insure its status as the primary media viewing appliance both now and well into the foreseeable future.”

And yet, in highlighting the increasing size of television, proponents of the TV-centric, media-viewing household, give light to one of television’s greatest weaknesses, which also happens to be “its increasing size.” A simple maxim to describe the problem might be, “the larger the TV, the less practical it becomes to the majority of consumers.” The prima facie evidence for this statement is in the simple calculus of how many consumers, worldwide, have the available wall space to support the largest sized devices manufactured today, and at what point in that mathematical relationship is that number reduced to zero?