In my last post I enlightened you on some of the more interesting aspects of PvP gaming history. There I promised a closer look into the heart of modern PvP gaming. Without further ado we begin that promised voyage with a look at the types of PvP games available.
Types of PvP Games
There are many types of modern PvP games but they have a tendency to fall into categories. Here are the categories in roughly chronological order:
These games attempt to take historical or futuristic scenarios and turn them into games. The hallmark of these games is their effort to maintain a link to real world realities. Even simulations based in the future like Sid Meyer’s Beyond Earth attempt to maintain verisimilitude. Some examples of this kind of game would be the Civilization series, most offerings on wargaming.net (IE World of Tanks, World of Warplanes, etc), and the Sims series.
First Person Shooters (or FPS)
These are the games many people think of when considering PvP gaming. The hallmark of this style of game is that your view of the world is limited to the perspective of the character you are playing, and you do not actually see your character. This kind of game attempts to simulate what you would see looking out of the characters eyes. This genre consists of a large proportion of console games and includes titles like DOOM, Halo, Overwatch, and the Battlefield series.
These games are typified by two player controlled fighters facing off in a mostly two-dimensional arena. Using multiple moves accomplished by button and controller movements one player’s fighter attempts to reduce the other player’s fighter to no health. Games of this type include the Street Fighter series, the Mortal Combat series, the Killer Instinct series, and many, many similar titles. Recently there has been an uptick in a new type of fighter that allows more than two players to fight each other. A good example of this type of fighter would be Super Smash Bros.
Real Time Strategy Games
Real time strategy or RTS games are very similar to simulation games and could be considered a sub genre of that category. In RTS games you create masses of different types of units in an attempt to overwhelm your opponent or opponents. The difference between RTS and simulation games is that all the unit and building creation goes on simultaneously instead of in a turn based manner like most army building simulation games. Star Craft 2 is probably the best example of this kind of game in modern times.
Massively Multi-Player Online Roleplaying Games (or MMORPGs)
These games are incredibly prevalent at this time in the PC gaming realm. They are also incredibly popular. While most of the focus in an MMORPG is on player versus environment gaming, every one created thus far also has a PvP element. The basics of this style of games is the creation of an avatar character, that is then played through the challenges of the game to level up and become stronger. A big difference between an MMORPG and similar FPS games is a focus more on character growth versus the typical FPS focus on equipment upgrades. Examples of this kind of game would be World of Warcraft, Elder Scrolls Online, Guild Wars, and EVE online.
Multi-Player Online Battle Arena (MOBA)
This style of PvP is a mutation of the Real Time Strategy genre. The original MOBA is known as Defense of the Ancients or DOTA. DOTA began life as a player creation for Blizzards Entertainment’s RTS Warcraft 3. DOTA’s popularity spawned an entirely new PvP genre. For this style of PvP you generally see groups of five players facing each other in a top down perspective map. The teams attempt to storm across the map taking out fortifications until they destroy the enemy base, while preventing their opponents from doing the same. This is different from an RTS in that each player has one hero for the entire match, and from MMORPGs in that hero stats earned during play don’t carry over from match to match. Games in this group would be League of Legends, SMITE, and Heroes of the Storm.
Collectible Card Games (CCG) Online
This style incorporates an offline gaming idea into online gaming. Collectible card games are a way to play a card game with a deck you customize yourself. The first popular online form of this style of game was Blizzard’s Hearthstone. Hearthstone became so popular that the original CCG, Magic the Gathering, created its Arena gaming platform. There have been many other online CCG’s that have tried to topple these two.
Realities of PvP
Due to the nature of the global reach of online PvP gaming there are many aspects to take into consideration.
First is that PvP gaming is a social endeavor. When games were restricted to what the game designers presented to the player, said designers could dictate what influences the player was subjected to. In modern PvP gaming this is no longer possible. The game designer can create the canvas that player’s play on, but have little immediate control of the social atmosphere of a game. Bans and chat silences can occur after an infraction, but there is little designers can do about social issues in real time. This means that you will encounter trolling while playing PvP. You will encounter adult conversations and language while PvPing. In fact some PvP communities have a reputation for extreme toxicity. Others are known to encourage and support new players, and work to make everyone a better competitor. However, when people and competition are involved, negative responses and interactions are not far behind
Second is that PvP is competitive. With the explosion of the E sports scene and the possibility of professional standing in PvP gaming, competition is high. In the highest echelon of any given PvP game, where purses in the $1000’s are not uncommon, mistakes are viewed with alarm and censure. This attitude flows down to the rank and file causing some of the social toxicity talked about above. Competition brings out the best and worst in people, and video game PvP is no exception.
Third is that PvP can become expensive. Getting highly competitive in PvP can be very expensive. Most PvP games are at the top of equipment requirements for the time they come out. Maintaining hardware capable of effectively running newer PvP games can become daunting. Also, games played over a network require internet connectivity by definition. More competitive play requires higher quality network connections. Higher competitive play can also be enhanced by game specific peripherals such as mice, keyboards, and headsets. Some simulation games allow even more peripherals like wheels and pedals for racing games. Even though many PvP games are “free to play” most have in game, real money transactions. Good PvP games ensure that these transactions are for purely cosmetic elements such as new appearances for a chosen character, or weapon. Other games, often referred to as “pay to win”, give highly unbalancing advantages to players willing to spend actual money. For all these reasons PvP gaming can be pricey.
Fourth is the amount of time PvP gaming can take. All gaming is guilty of this attribute. Video games take time away from other pursuits. However, the amount of dedication required to be competitive in PvP gaming can only be compared to extremely high level group play in PvE gaming. You have to play a game to get good at a game. When your opponents are not just highly programmed AI controlled enemies but other humans just as crafty as you, even more time must be dedicated to getting good at a game.
My Trip — Your Invitation
PvP gaming is an aspect of gaming culture that I have not had a lot of experience with. I have however realized that I play more PvP game than I originally thought, since I play MtG Arena, and Hearthstone. I made the decision that I am going to take the time to explore the PvP world and invite you along for the trip.
On this voyage I plan to look at many of the different games available for PvPing. Analyze the difficulties of getting adequate, if not good, at the game. How expensive the game is or might become, and finally the social atmosphere created by the games community. For now this voyage is focused on the realm of the PC, and I hope my experiences may prove useful to those entertaining the idea of joining or just wondering about the strange world that is PvP gaming.
A Look to the Future
When next we talk I hope to begin the journey with you into the chaotic but entertaining world of online global PvP. My intent is to focus on a particular niche of modern PvP gaming and describe my trip for your entertainment and enlightenment. The journey ahead has many painful losses and hopefully some epic wins! For the sake of the adventure and mutual curiosity, I set sail into the unknown. I am looking forward to the voyage.