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It has recently occurred to me that for what might be the first time in my gaming career, the majority of my current efforts are focused on multiplayer affairs. This is a confusing and unexpected turn of events. My normally reclusive self would be horrified if he knew about this new me, this me willing to dive into the perils of online gaming and risk loss against an army of foul-mouthed twelve-year-olds. 

To deny the truth would be futile, however. My time is currently split between Dirt 3 and Mortal Kombat, the latter of which I have developed a particular obsession with. Admitting that I am paying far more attention to multiplayer than is my norm is different from claiming something preposterous like having not battled a CPU in weeks. Nonsense. My presence in both games is still firmly rooted in a base of single-player used to warm up or pass the time in a less stressful manner.

Still, the fact remains: I’m playing nearly as much multiplayer as single player right now. That has almost certainly never happened before. I had thought myself incapable of caring about competition enough to pull off this feat. Whenever I’ve attempted to dedicate myself to a multiplayer mode in the past, it’s always been by placing it alongside a single player game that I can use to calm my frayed nerves in my downtime. Not so here. Competition is my primary focus now in both games. Every battle in Mortal Kombat a step toward becoming a better fighter, every race in Dirt 3 bringing me a bit closer to memorizing the tracks and securing another podium finish amongst fellow humans.

The situation is precarious, I fear. It may only be happenstance that two such compelling multiplayer experiences happened along at the same time without a story-driven something or other to pull me away. Already there’s the looming threat of L.A. Noire lurking in the background, just waiting to replace one of these pesky competitive titles with its lush story, gloriously non-human NPCs, and pre-determined outcomes. 

A part of me finds this rather refreshing though. I’ve wanted to do more multiplayer stuff for ages. It’s very difficult to rope my friends into playing anything with me (see my numerous failed attempts at convincing even one of them to play Mortal Kombat for proof of that), so random online matchmaking is my only option. Add to that the unfortunate fact that shooters aren’t a big draw for me and you’ve pretty much eliminated 90 percent of all of the multiplayer games out there. 

I bought Dirt 3 precisely because it held multiplayer possibilities that didn’t involve shooting things. I could have waited and played the still awesome single player game at a cheaper price, but I wanted to give racing other humans a try. I’m glad I did. I can’t say whether it will be a long-term draw or a short-term dalliance (I fear the latter, but perhaps that’s just holding it against the unfair measuring stick of my devotion to Mortal Kombat), but I’m having a great time all the same. 

My experience with Mortal Kombat is even more frighteningly uncharacteristic. Considering the noticeable lag and frequent disconnects that its spotty netcode brings, and combining that with the immensely intimidating online communities usually seen in fighting games, and it’s amazing I’m still playing it. My love for this game must run deep indeed. I’m heartbroken that my adoration remains bottled up inside of me, with no geeky friend to gush about it with. Turning it into a shared experience would truly make it perfect.  

Online competition can be annoying and frustrating in many ways, but there really is no replacement for the thrill of duking it out with other living organisms. I shall have to make a point of actually trying these modes more often in the future instead of brushing them off like unwanted cobwebs stuck to the box of an otherwise delicious box of single-player donuts. 

Have I mentioned before that I’m terrible at analogies?

Now if only developers would start making fun games to play with other people that aren’t shooters.

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