Violence can be exhilarating. And violence is a major component of most Player-versus-Player (PVP) games. But is there more to it than a culture-wide epidemic of addiction to Tarantino movies, or is there something substantial to the PVP experience? Read on to find out all the details on why PVP games have taken off.
What is PVP?
Player-versus-player games are exactly what it says on the tin: you are playing against other players. Usually, all the players are gathered in an “arena” of an environment, online, often with the purposes of “battling” it out to be the last one standing and with variations of everything else in between. The most prevalent genre of PVP games is by far the battle royale genre, which usually sees teams of players competing to outlast the other or completing missions. They can range from the games depicting the horror of war like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, to the cheery and playful Fortnite and Overwatch, and the fantastical like World of Warcraft.
Where’s all the violence?
A lot of terms used above would indicate violence. There was an arena and the idea of last one standing, the genre of “battle”, and the fact that most of the examples given feature a gun.
However, to be quite reductive, all those terms are marketing terms. When experiencing the “battle royale” genre, it’s more likely to feel like an elaborate game of tag, where you aim and fire at a subject rather than tapping them on the shoulder.
The “violence” witnessed is actually very minimal, and a lot of games of the genre attempt to play down as much violence as possible. Would you say Fall Guys is violent? It features characters shoving, knocking, and scrabbling past each other like shoppers on Black Friday on an assault course designed to knock them back, but the cutesy graphics have granted it a PEGI 3 rating. For the uninitiated parents, that means anyone over 3 years old can play it.
When a player “dies”, unless they’re playing World of Warcraft, no one is likely to care. To die means you are simply out of this round of the game. Plus, you haven’t loved this character so there is no emotional trauma, again, unless you’re playing World of Warcraft where lovingly crafting your character takes a lot of time and effort. To lose that could cause the need for a therapist session.
What do you get out of it?
So, if there is so little violence to be had, what is the draw? Why are parents around the world begging their child to come down for dinner for the 20th time that night? Why are adult partners huffing on the bed while 3ft away their girlfriend or boyfriend has their headset on and hasn’t turned their head for hours?
Well, for one thing, a lot of these “battle royale” games tend to also cross genres in “strategy games” where a team will actually have to plan out and communicate what they are doing to win. This is why a lot of PVP games have crossed into eGaming. It takes a skill set more than “aim, fire, move-on”. You have to use tactics, know when to fire and where to sneak, communicate with your teammates, decide positions and actions, and actually think about what you need to do to win.
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This will also tap into the nature of the competitive gamer. As you build your skills, improve your tactics, and gain rankings, you can reach the top of the leaderboard, switching to the challenge of staying there as long as possible.
A lot of games offer a chance to play solo, or to play as part of a team, either allowing you to meet up with specific players or to be dropped into a random team. This allows for a social experience that a lot of other games cannot supply. Narrative-based games, for instance, often cannot allow for multiplayer. It wouldn’t make much sense to witness thousands of Lara Crofts all exploring the same cave. Players can come away with a “gaming pal” or a lifelong “IRL” friend.
PVP games are put against a lot of narrative-based games which can be “on rails”, offering you a single way to get to your character’s goal, with a lot of creatures to destroy along the way. These games can vary in tactics and difficulty, but when the narrative is the point, you want to get to the point eventually, so usually, they come down to “aim, fire, move on”.
There are a lot of players that can love both, but the narrative, vs non-narrative options give the player two very different experiences. The narrative experience is a pre-written story for the player to follow, whereas the non-narrative experience allows the player to be placed in a situation and to write their own story through the environment and situation. The latter is a staple of PVP games and gives players the chance to experience a story of their own and truly feel like they are the hero of their story.