The latest issue of Xbox World is on sale now.
After writing "hell is other people", it's said that the philosopher Jean-Paul Satre sat back in his chair, smiled to himself, and enjoyed a moment's transcendent joy that the other people he had to deal with had never come armed with a plasma rifle or - worse - a headset. Nothing destroys a great game like letting other people into it.
We all know that wandering onto the average public server means mixing it up with every racist, sexist, shrieking little monster capable of finding their parents' credit cards, and every new game is their playground far more than it's ours. Anonymity, a guarantee of not being punched in the face and a high-testosterone environment all go together to breed spectacular acts of dickishness, and you need only check sites like fatuglyorslutty.com to see just how bad people can get. The spelling and grammar alone...
But they're only part of the problem. Even friends can break the game, because their presence destroys the fantasy. In a shooter for instance, the single-player is usually about feeling like the ultimate badass. Correct? Correct. Maybe you're a space marine type, or an unstoppable Duke Nukem-esque force of nature, mankind's last best hope.
Jump into the multiplayer mode though, and you instantly revert to just being Jack Pot 86 and Tom Bola 89, two regular humans, separated by miles, shooting the shit and also some people. That feeling of being special in a world where you're the star? It doesn't exist when eight of you are taking on a team of clones in different costumes.
Even if you win, what have you won? A single, meaningless round, instantly forgotten as the next rolls in and resets the score counter. That's not much of a reward for being constantly shouted at, often insulted, and regularly teabagged, is it? Didn't you sign up for this to save the world? More importantly, didn't you pay about fifty quid? Sure, you'll have great rounds where everything clicks... but when the round is over, what are you left with?