How Plants vs. Zombies Can Teach Us About Multiplayer Shaming

If there is any one kind of game I am really bad at, I think it’s competitive multiplayer. I’m not “Jumping off a bridge would be just as good” bad, but I have trouble stringing together a series of kills. As such, I loathe the summary reports at the end of games like Battlefield and Call of Duty.

Both titles clearly show how well each player did on respective teams, and what the kill/death ratio is. This might appear as 8 kills and 12 deaths for instance, but mine tend to be more lopsided. It’s especially embarrassing when you see someone who has a score that only Hawkeye would go “pfft” at. No, not embarrassing – crushing. It’s enough to make me wonder why I spent $60+ on a game when I am so undeniably bad at it. That kind of feeling does not make me interested to continue a game franchise, or, at best, play the single-player mode and then move on.  So imagine my surprise when it took a multiplayer only title to make other titles look bad. Enter Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare.

So, what do I mean? Well, Garden Warfare has a lot of the same modes you might expect in a Battlefield title along with a few that seem very much made for Plants vs. Zombies. And it manages to create a very exciting third-person shooter experience. But what really sets it apart are it’s summary screens after the battle. See, Garden Warfare will tell everyone how many vanquishes (the game’s version of kills) and how many coins you earned. Coins can be earned for a variety of different tasks like healing others, destroying fortifications, and even for just trying! But you notice what’s missing? Your death count is not publicly disclosed to the other players. Instead, if you really want to know, you can view how many deaths – and indeed your ratio – on a separate, private screen.

This simple little change gets rid of what I like to call “Multiplayer Shaming”. That feeling you get when you realize one way or another that you aren’t as good as you thought you were.  When you don’t have to worry about how that looks, suddenly every little vanquish you get helps out! Why don’t more games do this? My only assumption is that a game like Halo or Call of Duty has a huge Professional Circuit and wants to keep it professional and the pros want those stats.

Aside from that one reason I can only think of more reasons to hide the death count from other players. Garden Warfare is also a title where shooting your opponent isn’t always the goal you need to aim for. Take the Cactus character for example. It has the practical role of being the plant’s sniper. But aside from that it has three very distinct abilities which can turn the tide of battle. It can lay down potato mines which work exactly how you would expect. But they can also lay down some Wall-nuts which a zombie has to either break down or walk around to bypass. But the last ability is the most flexible. The Cactus can summon either a Garlic or Artichoke Drone that the player controls to fly overhead and pelt zombies with pin-prick shots or call in a corn airstrike. Did I mention the game is on the zany side?

And maybe that zaniness is the key to the multiplayer shaming. Where actually having fun with the games and trying to not take them so seriously is the best thing to do. Despite this, the atmosphere of a game can lead itself to a certain environment. But why so many multiplayer titles choose to take the more serious approach is beyond me. But maybe with Garden Warfare leading the charge, multiplayer shaming will eventually fade.

Xbox One Download of Garden Warfare

Xbox 360 Download

PlayStation 4 Download

PlayStation 3 Download

PC Download via Origin