Mars Ain’t The Kind Of Place To Raise Your Kids

I have many, many games to play in my ‘Pile of Shame’, a phrase coined so often by gamers fighting the deluge of titles to play that it is starting to lose all meaning. I, unlike other gamers, don’t just include titles I’ve purchased but also games that I want to play that I haven’t yet purchased; wishlists, post-it notes, saved reviews – all of them contribute to my pile of shame – just because I don’t own it, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have already played it. None of that matters right now though, because Rocket League is out and it’s fucking awesome.

Prior to its release, I had shied well away from multiplayer games for nearly two years, following the disappointment that was Battlefield 4. A promotion, busy social calendar, and life generally saw to it that I didn’t have the time to give up to find something else that may or may not reinvigorate my desire to play with the unwashed masses. This allowed me to spend all my time tackling single-player adventures with the focus that the standard big release requires these days, and I made slow but steady progress; I finished a few different games - Dawn of War II, Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, and Killzone 3, and then started the slow slog through all the Fallout 3 DLC so that I could then finish up the main story, ready for Fallout 4.

Rocket League screwed all that right up.

The first time it came into my possession was via the excellent PlayStation Plus service as a free download. I thought it looked kind of colourful and cool so gave it a go but wasn’t automatically impressed. The lack of single player put me right off, fearing I would have to trust other people with my precious hours of entertainment. However, developers Psyonix weren’t ready for the massive influx of players caused by its PlayStation Plus release and the servers cracked and crumbled under the weight of popularity and so, for a short time, multiplayer was a laggy, pain-in-the-ass riddled affair. Despite the lack of multiplayer offerings, I was still enjoying playing the single player game with the questionable AI opponents, popping the occasional trophy for scoring six goals in a game, scoring a goal by bumping an enemy into the ball, or by flying through the air on a stream of boost like a small child who has had an accident with a tin of Dulux while suffering the consequences of eating too many baked beans.

It was around this time, some many hours in, that I reviewed the game, scoring it a nine out of ten and praising its somewhat irritating ability to make me horrendously addicted to something with such a shallow premise. Rocket League had unfortunately hit two very awkward spots for games to hit in a person’s brain – it was easy to learn, difficult to master, and stupidly addictive at the same time. This deadly combination was made all the more potent when the game had the audacity to actually be fun to play too. To quote one of Guy Richie’s better films “now we are fucked”.

If I wasn’t fucked when the game had sunk its claws into me, I certainly was once Psyonix fixed the servers. All of a sudden, there were millions upon millions of people to play and face. Hours were spent and days went by, with me playing random people, getting better and better. I played with friends, I played with randoms, and slowly all other games slipped into obscurity. Half of the addictive nature comes from the fact that you can be in and playing a match within ninety seconds of turning on your PlayStation 4.

Soon though, things took a turn for the worse – the pre-season games were concluded and ranked play commenced – season one had officially started. It was no longer about having fun regardless of the outcome – now it was about winning. I’m one of the worst people in terms of competitiveness. I’m happy to play casually but if some sort of ranking, reputation, or standing is on the line then I need to give it one-hundred percent every time. Anything less isn’t worth the time.

And so it begins again – the addiction, the countless games, the hours poured into something that ultimately has a very hollow return. I become obsessed with winning. I don’t care with whom, I don’t care how – I just need to win. It’s not even that to a degree – I don’t need to win, I just hate losing, especially when I’m better or more adept than the majority I play with or against. Every win is punctuated with a feeling of joy and a feverish button press to the next game. Every loss is met with a punch to an object and a feeling of disgust in the pit of my chest. That emotion of a negative outcome you feel you don’t deserve, like failing an exam you studied for or someone getting your order wrong at Burger King. I’m not a bad person – why didn’t I win?

It’s as pathetic as it is stupid, and yet I purchase the DLC. It’s not even good DLC that adds something worthwhile. It’s mostly cosmetics additions – even rolling the words around in my mouth is like chewing on a bag of salty dicks. When did I become the guy that paid for ‘go faster stripes’ for his virtual car? Fuck knows, but they aren’t working because I lost again, and now the rage descends.

It’s okay though, because I’m still clinging to my old life – the one where I’m not an rocket-obsessed cretin, telling people how good the game is, encouraging them to play and actually enjoying myself.

Meanwhile, other games act as dust collectors in the corner. They would love any kind of emotion from me, even if it were shouting a string of curses so bad my own mother would disown me as they exit my rabid mouth. But like a fool I return every day, and give in to my rocket-boosting cravings. I feel like an extra in Mad Max obsessed with fuel and cars.

The weeks roll on and I start playing before I go to work and when I get home. I steal minutes on it because what else is there do that provides me this much joy and fun? I tell myself I’m getting better, that I can burst into the silver leagues and earn a rightful place among my peers – millions of strangers who don’t even know I exist – but I want, nay need to stand amongst them and watch as the rest of the pathetic rabble attempt to claw its way into our good graces.

Then things start to seriously decline – I hate the human race. Every match with randoms is punctuated by the risk that I get paired with some complete moron. Of course this happens nearly all the time (or at least I perceive that it does) and all my losses are attributed to their shortcomings and not my own. Every mistake of mine is traced back to something they did prior to that. I’m disgruntled at their lack of skill and conviction, I’m pissed when I lose and I’m outright enraged when I can’t call them useless limp-dicked disgraces before they exit the game. They probably log off and embrace a loved one. I snarl and embrace the hatred. I feed it with every loss; justify it with every victory.

Soon, all the fun is worn away. Like all addictions this one is slowly destroying me, and it was only because of this article that I realised how much. I had started writing something about how much I loved Rocket League, and part of me really does, but part of me hates what it does to me. It reminds me why I only play online games with friends, why I don’t play in ‘casual clan games’, and why I’ll be hanging up my Rocket League wheels for now. I need to win, and playing with people who don’t share that need and believe it is the single most important thing is only hurting myself and them. I’ve become the very thing I detest – a sweary, ranty delusional idiot that represents all that is wrong with gaming. My quest to tackle the Pile of Shame has stalled and I have nothing of worth to show for it. I’ll dip back into my addiction with friends – feed the fun not the hate. I suppose it’s best described in a similar fashion to an old rhyme – when I’m good, I’m really a nice guy but when I’m bad, I’m fucking rotten to the core.

Last five articles by Chris


There are no comments, yet.

Why don’t you be the first? Come on, you know you want to!

Leave a Comment