As brought up by fellow MP1st writer Gav in his latest article, a case could be made that YouTube and its communities is responsible for a lot of trends in online FPS gaming. Quickscoping montages, how-to videos, gun reviews, loadout suggestions, etc., have all helped create a culture of improving as an individual player. While I agree that working on getting better at FPS games is all well and good, it seems to me like the culture surrounding getting better has benefited individual players at the expense of improved teamwork and cooperation. We’ve all gotten those “quickscoping-only lobby” invites and watched as players go 5 and 30 in a game of Domination while trying to get 360 no-scope clips. We’ve all had to deal with players that do nothing but rack up kills and ignore the objective while running the Specialist Strike Package in MW3. And I think it’s safe to say that 2/3rds of everyone we play with has absolutely no desire to put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of a win (capping the B flag or defending a planted MCOM Station).
But is YouTube responsible?
I’ve been running my own channel on YouTube for over a year now. I’ve been actively watching and following other channels for more than 2 years. So it’s safe to say I know a thing or two about what’s going on with YouTube these days. Tutorial-focussed channels get thousands of views every day on how-to, tips and tricks, and weapon statistics videos. That’s thousands of people getting specialized and accurate information about the games they play. That’s thousands of people hearing a handful of people saying gun “X” is the fastest killing, or use “Y” killstreak/perk combo for the most effective loadout. That’s thousands of people being shown what spots on a given map are dangerous and should be avoided. And that’s thousands of people forgoing hours of online experience and getting a filtered version of someone else’s experience and expertise. At the very least, all those thousands of views count as at least a large minority of players.
A great example of what I mean can be found in both Black Ops and MW3. Black Ops had the FAMAS. Pre-nerf, the gun was a laser rifle that couldn’t be beat by anything 1v1 (aside from the equally OP AK74u-Rapid Fire). But the FN FAL killed in less shots than the FAMAS, so did the M14, the M16, the G11, the AK-47, the Galil, the Commando, and basically every other assault rifle short of the Enfield (one of my personal favorites). So why did everyone use the FAMAS over the more powerful assault rifles? Firstly, it was fairly obvious that once you unlocked the FAMAS, you instantly started winning more 1v1 gunfights and did better overall. Secondly, EVERY commentator made at least 1 video describing at great length the ultimate lethality of the FAMAS. Players didn’t need to play with each gun for a few games or hours to get a feel for how good it was, they just worked to unlock whatever gun their favorite YouTubers told them works best and stopped thinking about the matter altogether.
MW3 has the Blind Eye> Assassin >Dead Silence (or Stalker/ Sitrep) perk combination that Robert Bowling himself suggested players try out to find greater success on DLC maps (which has in turn led to a camping epidemic on MW3). Combine being basically invisible with lethal killstreaks that string together across deaths, and you get was has basically ruined (among a lot of other things) the MW3 experience for serious players. And guess what, if you do a quick search on YouTube, you will find hundreds of videos with thousands of views each describing that exact class setup and what makes it so good.
What you get as a result of all this filtering and all these tips and tricks, suggestions, and how-to videos is a lack of experimentation and trying to do as well as possible, even if that means ignoring the objective and your teammates. While only a large minority of players might be watching these videos, their effect spreads because of things like killcams, playercards/ELITE showing what weapons people use and how well they do with them, and word of mouth (of which there is PLENTY of in lobbies). The end result is essentially what happened to MW2. Everyone starts running OMA+Danger Close noob tubes, effectively ruining the game. Treyarch has had to patch/nerf the FAMAS at least twice to make it less powerful. And MW3 is easily one of the most frustrating games I have ever played when I try to take it seriously and you know, win games.
Obviously, YouTube has had an impact on FPS gaming, I don’t think there’s any room for debate in that regard. The question is how big and what kind of impact. If you were to ask me, I’d say it’s about 50/50 good and bad. On one hand, you have players getting more solid information that helps them understand these games and how to play them better than has ever been available. But on the other hand, all that information is delivered under the premise that using it to inform their playstyle and what their classes should be has lead to an overwhelming lack of diversity and inspired a lot of selfish behavior.
Everyone’s trying to be as good as Sandy Ravage, everybody’s trying to out-snipe zzGrizz, and everybody is under the impression that doing well means not dying. But then you have guys like Woody’s Gamertag and Drift0r who inspire people to play the objective and never rage quit. The end result is that the people watching these guys on YouTube are either going to play like a jerk or play like a team player (how well they actually do comes down to their skills). The people that don’t watch them are just going to play how they want to play, trying new guns and perks as they progress. Bottom line is that we’re seeing less diversity in player skill and loadout selection. Part of what has made BO1 and MW3 so frustrating is always getting killed by the FAMAS or someone camping with all the stealth perks. Would the problem be less severe without YouTube? Well, maybe. But there’d be a lot less informed and educated players that take the games we play seriously without YouTube.
In summary, as a YouTuber that wholly gave up on the notion of teaching people how to play CoD better, I can say that while I appreciate the good that YouTube has done for gaming, I think it comes with a lot of baggage and frustration. In the end, we’re better off in that more people understand how to play these games properly, but we have to deal with a lot more stupid and unsupportive behavior these days than back when COD4 was the latest and greatest thing in FPS gaming.
So I leave you with some advice, the next time you hear a commentator tell you what gun is the best in a given game, keep in mind that there’s a lot of fun and experience to be had and gained in experimenting with guns and class loadouts that you might miss out on if you just do whatever the video tells you to.
Also, check out this montage by my friend and fellow Youtuber Simaul. I think it’s different than a lot of what’s out there as far as gameplay montages go and chances are you’ll enjoy it if you hate 360 No Scope montages.
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Leave your thoughts below and thank you for reading.