As we are all too aware, the video game industry is a fast moving place that waits for no-one. It’s like the little kid in the toy shop running excitedly from aisle to aisle looking for something better than the last. And at times it really pisses me off that I let myself get dragged along by it.
No sooner have I finally found something of a groove on FIFA, or managed to shoot relatively straight on Call of Duty than the next instalment is already looming large on the horizon, casting a shadow over my newly acquired skills as I realise I’m about to go back to square one…again.
As the games arrive, the thriving, and generally massive, communities that inhabit the lobbies and battlefields move along too. It’s become something akin to a conveyor belt in a factory that we’re all more than happy to hop on and roll along to the next chapter in whichever franchise takes our collective fancies. I’ve done it myself time and time again.
But, I’m here to shout about the world that gets left behind. The rapidly emptying online realms that are left to gather dust by the vast majority as they leave and never look back. And I’m here to tell you that if you’re one of those that never looks back, you’re missing something truly special.
What I’ve encountered in my time as a player that frequently returns to games, is that as the players move on, the community left behind only gets stronger.
To try and put it into context, let’s say when Black Ops III was released, that game becomes the world. Its population is huge and expansive, you’ll bump into people once in a lobby and then maybe never see them in game again, like passing someone in the street.
Meanwhile, Advanced Warfare, the game just superseded, has seen its population shrink. This game is now akin to a big city where you’ll still generally be strangers passing in the street, but from time to time you might see a familiar face and say hello.
The game prior to that has shrunk twice and now resembles a town. Decent numbers and more chance of bumping into friends forged within that town.
Then down the line we come to the real beauty of staying behind, or being a frequent visitor to long forgotten places. The villages. Places with far smaller numbers but where genuinely strong community bonds have been formed. Like Cheers, everyone knows your name, and it’s entirely from being in the same place at the same time in this much smaller little slice of the vast gaming universe. True friendships are born, and at the same time enemies are too in interesting little feuds. It’s never dull. Black Ops III may consider another player your nemesis, but in so many other older games, you can acquire a real nemesis! How cool is that?
My own little village would be Call of Duty 3 on the Xbox 360. When so many others moved on, I stayed behind and kept the lamplights burning. I used to have a friends list made up of a few random players I’d encountered in the odd game or two. From the village of CoD3 I built a huge list of other village dwellers who made up a part of the tight knit and interesting community of those sticking around. And much like real life in a small place, it’s a village full of good humour, tiny feuds and friendly folk.
It’s incredibly easy to be swept along on the wave of hype that rolls in alongside a new franchise game, to move with the flock and open the next chapter. But I’d urge you to once in a while go and visit those places you used to play, those maps you used to love, because I’d wager that what you’ll find is a great little community of players keen to welcome newcomers, or returning players as it may be, with wide open arms in the interest of seeing their little village survive, and even thrive, in an ever expanding universe.