Jason takes a solid look at Alliance of Valiant Arms with a mixed reaction to their MP community.

Every gaming community has certain traits that tend to define some of its players, whether those traits are good or bad. In the current era of gaming where multiplayer generally dominates the focus, each genre tends to have its own community of players. As more players rally around the banner of their favorite genre, and especially the banner of their favorite game, these commonly noted traits become much more obvious. I spent the week playing Alliance of Valiant Arms (A.V.A.), a first-person shooter, and I’d like to use this game as an example of pointing out some of these traits that need to be discussed within the FPS community in general.

A.V.A. was developed by REDDUCK, and service for the game is provided by ijji. One can also find A.V.A. on Steam under the free games listings. It utilizes the Unreal 3 engine as well, and it shows. The level design and modeling in the game looks good and isn’t overdone in an attempt to beat out the visuals of modern titles. Attentive players will quickly pick up on the arcade feel and style to the game. The familiar class roles and generally fast-paced action gives A.V.A. a nice pick-up-and-play sort of feel. Most of the common game modes involve rounds of about two minutes each and play to a best-of series. In addition to what is essentially team deathmatch and a Counter-Strike mode with a bomb, there is a tank escort mission and an escape scenario.

Being a free-to-play game, there are premium weapons and gear sold for a special currency only attainable by real-world money (Gcoin). Players will be delighted to know this is in no way required whatsoever. Nearly everything can be purchased with ingame currency (Euro), even though this currency can be difficult to get later on. Some gear can be bought permanently, as long as it is repaired, but there are certain items that last for a specific number of days. This is a common system in free games, but A.V.A. also features gear that is listed as “expendable” only. This simply means once the item’s durability runs out, it disappears from the player’s inventory and must be repurchased. This system ends up preventing players from being unnecessarily handicapped when facing off with opponents that purchase content in the game, as no weapon or item is so utterly broken that it makes anyone a virtual avatar of death and destruction.

I also have to openly state that I really enjoyed this game. It was enough to pull me away from Red Orchestra 2 for nearly an entire week, and I may keep an active account going with this game. However, there was one constant problem that keeps nagging at me through my genuinely entertaining experience, and that problem is my interaction with the rest of the community that plays A.V.A.

For most of my first two levels or ranks, I probably got kicked from the lobby of any game forming up around 50% of the time. This got most frustrating when I would do something like finish a round with a pretty decent kill/death ratio (1.5+) and the #2 position on my team, then get immediately booted from the lobby after the match ended. Kill three opponents in a row with a sniper rifle at medium range? Apparently I’m hacking and not in any way skilled or exceedingly lucky. Do I seem to be dominating someone on the other team? That makes me a noob, especially when it’s done with a weapon that player doesn’t like (I’m looking at you, Remington shotgun). Then there’s my favorite: Is your team completely rolling the other team so hard you’ve managed to corral them into their own spawn? This makes you a “tryhard.” Yes, in this community, that’s actually an acceptable insult. I wish I were freaking making that up.

I point this out not to discourage anyone from trying the game for themselves, as it’s truly an exciting, fun time. I mainly want to a step back from the things I’ve taken away from games themselves in order to make some points about the community at large. This sort of attitude isn’t just common in A.V.A., it’s also common in other FPS games (although not quite as common). There was an interesting article that appeared in Joystiq on September 30th about an older man in the UK who tracked down and choked a 13 year-old kid who relentlessly taunted him in Call of Duty: Black Ops (Source:  http://www.joystiq.com/2011/09/30/guy-chokes-a-kid-after-being-made-fun-of-in-black-ops-were/). As shocking as it may be that an older man would attack a child like this, I think Joystiq makes an excellent point about the culture surrounding FPS games.

            Heavy trash talking needs to go.

I’m not talking about inter-clan rivalries or competitive tournament play—I’m talking about public games with scrubs and casual players that are mainly shooting at each other to blow off some steam from the day and relax. I understand how frustrating it is to go 2 and 13 on your team, feeling like you aren’t contributing and somehow each loss is a little bit more your fault than everyone else’s. We’ve all been there at least 50 times in the past couple months or so. But when a player calls another an “unborn faggot” because the latter player didn’t ready up fast enough to start a match (which did happen), other players need to step up and stop that nonsense. There’s always going to be some trash talking and players that are too harsh on others, but there needs to be some expected level of civility to which we can all agree, or it will only keep getting worse.

The odd thing about this situation is when I started telling other players “oh, stop it” or something similar when the baseless accusations of “noob,” “lagger,” and “fking haxs” started to fly, other players generally let go of the insults for several rounds. Being that FPS games in general consist of twichy, adrenaline-fueled players, it seems like most of the source of such comments are general frustration rather than anger or a need to feel superior. It’s almost as if all of us FPS players the community wide develop a temporary case of Tourette’s when we aren’t on top of our game (yes, I’m also guilty).

I’ve seen examples of this same phenomenon in TF2 (especially when it went free-2-play), Enemy Territory, Brink, Killing Floor, and Red Orchestra 2, and Call of Duty is notorious for this general attitude being par for the course. Friends of mine have also confirmed there is some present in MMOs like World of Warcraft, but this sentiment dominates FPS games so much it is almost expected these days. I’m not foolish enough to believe it will ever completely stop, nor would I necessarily want it to completely stop, but I do think the majority of gamers need to open some serious dialogue about where the general etiquette should draw the line. We certainly don’t want companies like Activision-Blizzard making the call about how far is too far, and we’re certainly all here to have fun instead of playing just to find someone new to hate for the day. It might be worth the time we could spend thinking about how we interact with gamers just like us instead of falling victim to John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory (Source:  http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19). Maybe those of us who are tired of this attitude defining FPS gamers in the public view should stop passively agreeing to be the audience.

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