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Archive for the ‘Left 4 Dead’ Category

It's all about the teamwork.
It’s all about the teamwork.

I’ve never been in love with competition. I engage in it with testosterone-fueled bitterness and determination, but I’ve always preferred building my base to blowing my neighbor’s up. I still like those games, but often I stick to single player campaigns, and focus on beating computer simulations instead of real people. So when it comes to multiplayer games, the Left 4 Dead series has been one of my favorites since I first had the opportunity to try the original game.

I play public games, but only on Normal or below, despite my skill being sufficient for Advanced or Expert play; the reason is simply because some players at the high end take the game very seriously. These occasional super-hardcore players rush through things, expect a high minimum level of performance from their allies, and are unhesitant to criticize and insult other players when they make mistakes. I’m not generally the target of such hostility, but even so, that is not the experience I play the game for.

At its best, Left 4 Dead becomes a bonding experience fueled by social niceties we often overlook. You thank your friends for helping you up, and complement their shooting when they take out the special infected. Then you heal and protect them in return, and show off strong moves of your own. All while engaging in a deliberately paced challenge of skill in an unpredictable and ever-changing environment.

I suppose it’s old news by now, but for me, that’s what makes Left 4 Dead so special. The AI Director, though a very under-appreciated element that keeps the game from getting as stale as it would be otherwise, is only a supporting element in a game whose crowning achievement is the way that the mechanics encourage cooperation.

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