Where Did All The N00bs Go?

the noob

There was a time that I could enter the fray of pretty much any online gaming arena and be respectably competitive, no matter the genre. From any of the numerous first person shooters, down to the more specialised racing sims, I could generally hold my own without really trying – in fact, due to how I used to game, I would quite often be under the influence of alcohol as well. Sure, there would always be better players – especially in the fore mentioned racing sims – but, due to an abundance of worse players, I’d always find myself duking it out at the front of the pack.

Recently, I’ve noticed this is no longer the case. I’m a fickle gamer and tend to bounce between games like Tigger after too many redbulls. This lack of specialisation in one game was never an issue though, not with so many of the basic gaming skills being transferable between titles. Where as before I felt like some kind of gaming ninja, leaping from game to game, leaving a trail of destruction in my wake, I now feel more akin to one of those parkour fail compilations on you tube.

A “wise” man once said “It’s not the winning that counts but the taking part” – well, that bloke wasn’t wise, he was a bellend. Repeatedly getting your arse handed to you each time you spawn in isn’t fun, it’s demoralising. For a n00b it may well be part of the learning curve, but for a seasoned gamer it simply feels like a exercise in futility. You’re not making any of the hundreds of school boy errors that you can learn and correct: you’re simply (and consistently) not as good as the person at the other end of the internet.

Sure, I could blame it on “chuffing lag” or people cheating and then shout profanity at the TV as I proclaim insightful commentary such as “That’s fucking bollocks” and “There’s no fucking way” or, I could just accept that something(s) has changed.

Clutching at straws for more logical excuses for my shit performance than “he must be using a modded controller”, I think there may be a few factors at play. Firstly, I am older, but I don’t think I’ve reached an age were my decrepit body and sluggish reactions are an issue (I hope). I think it’s more that with age, seems to come a lack of free time. I’m neither putting in the hours any more, or at the cutting edge, picking up games on day one. My gaming backlog means that by the time I start playing a game, everyone else already knows all the maps, has unlocked all the weapons and found their own personal preferred loadout. These aren’t critical factors, but they give you an edge and mine has been blunted.

I think there’s a more major factor here though. I’m playing Battlefield 4 at the moment, but it’s far from the 4th in the series. Forza 6 is on the horizon and I’ve lost count of the Call of Duty iterations. Simply put: there are no n00bs any more. You may take the field as a level 1 private, but that doesn’t mean you’ve not clocked up 1000 hours in the previous game(s), it doesn’t mean you’re not already a finely honed killing machine, it doesn’t mean you’re not already a veteran. These games are now all populated with the cream of gamings crop. Online gaming, especially that of console, is no longer in its infancy. Online multiplayer is and has been the norm for more than a decade.

What does this mean for gaming? Well, I’m no longer happily ploughing the field, hitting the occasional rock. I’m now ploughing a field of rocks, working for every foot. The result of this seems to be higher highs and lower lows. The urge to rage quit, something I pride myself on never doing, has increased. However, on the flip side, I’ve been feeling more ecstatic at a win. I feel more engaged now, like I’m trying and concentrating harder –  like more blood, sweat and tears are going into it. When I get that win, or even a mere kill, it feels more like I worked for and earned it. It feels good.

The last thing I’ve noticed is, chances are, if you find yourself in a game that seems completely devoid of n00bs, it doesn’t mean there aren’t any, it just means the n00b is you!