I’m still relatively new to the fast, frenetic world of competitive online shooters, and I’m also not as young as I used to be. I’m telling you this, not because it’s therapeutic to get it off my chest, but because I’m setting up for a rant (or perhaps, more accurately, a counter-rant) in defence of Camping in gameswhich is overwhelmingly considered a “bad” thing but which, thanks to the two previously mentioned things, is a tactic I’m not totally averse to employing. I appreciate that might make me something of a pariah, but honestly, hear me out…..

Call-Of-Duty-Ghosts-sightBack when I entered into Ghosts multiplayer I really struggled at first, but eventually, when I did finally start to get the hang of it and began picking up kills here and there, I noticed something that I didn’t even understand initially – namely that, in those few seconds when you get to hear the reaction of the person you’ve just killed, I was often getting slight variations of “camping motherf@cker” thrown at me.

Now in the beginning, being new to the genre, and not really being au fait with the lingo and that, I just sort of assumed this was the yoof’s way of respectfully doffing their cap in my direction and offering up a “well played fine sir, you’ve certainly got the better off me in this particular situation –huzzah for you!”. As it continued to happen though, and as the language became considerably more colourful, I wondered whether I’d perhaps misread the situation slightly, so I googled “camping” just to be sure. Turns out there was no respectful doffing of the cap intended at all, and that, in fact, all those invitations for me to do anatomically implausible things weren’t made in admiration – but in utter contempt. See, I was deemed to be “camping”, which is apparently a cardinal sin within the surprisingly rigid moral framework of online First Person Shooters (where your sole aim is to shoot people in the face). Who knew, eh!?

AW purpleAnyways, I was a bit nonplussed by this at first, and not least because what was described everywhere as camping (and it was a pretty broad definition) – and worthy of scorn and derision – seemed to me like eminently sensible ways of entering into, like, warfare and that. To start with, being hard to see (and consequently difficult to shoot) seemed like war 101 to me, and is, I suspect, a big part of the reason no modern army goes into battle wearing day-glo pink jumpsuits. Yet, in CoD hiding, crouching, or just generally not dancing around waving a big “shoot me in the ass” flag was considered “dirty”.
Then there was the sticking to walls/corners thing, which was overwhelming regarded as cowardly at best, or downright cheating at worst. Again, this confused me because I figured that if you’re somewhere bullets are flying around everywhere, reducing the angle that one could hit you at from 360° to 180°, or even 90° is just common sense, right!? Again though, in the world of MP FPS, not so much.

Later, after reading the internet for quite a while, it became apparent that pretty much anything that wasn’t running around in the centre of a particular map like a lemming on PCP was, more often than not, considered camping, and generally to be derided, criticised and otherwise frowned upon. Moreover, it had already been pre-ordained that anybody who did “camp”, anywhere, and for any length of time was to be given levels of respect akin to those given a leper using his hands at a public buffet. And now, as if to emphasise the point, it very much seems like in Advanced Warfare, significant efforts have been made to reduce the opportunities to camp. Obviously, the exo-suits make maps smaller, more open, but in terms of map-design there seems to have been a fairly dramatic attempt to eradicate the practice.

But is “camping” really that bad?

Ghosts sniperSure, I’ve been picked off by a sniper I failed to notice, and I wasn’t exactly thrilled about it, but usually my ire is at least equally directed at myself for not seeing them, and for not being aware of the fact that there could be somebody in that particular spot. In fact, if I’m being really honest, I’d even acknowledge that I have a grudging respect for somebody who’s effectively out-thought, or tactically bested me. Hell, I’ve already made my peace with the fact that 13 year olds with fairly obvious energy drink addictions are going to out-twitch me a lot of the time – that’s just the nature of relative youth and shit-loads of caffeine – but when somebody’s outwitted me, I genuinely feel that’s both admirable, and something I can ultimately learn from.

And that’s very much subjective, I get that, but what about if we look at camping objectively – or, if you’ll forgive the pun, objective-ly – as in, in terms of in-game objectives. Let’s take Team Deathmatch, for example. On its most fundamental level, the point of Team Deathmatch is to be the first team to clock up x kills (usually 75), so killing loads of people is a pretty big step in the right direction, obviously. But, it works both ways though, so if you’re killing loads, but also being killed a lot too, you’re helping the other team reach their goal – this is the old K/D ratio. Come the end of a round, rarely am I top of the scoreboard measured in Kills and Assists (for the record, it has happened), but I’m often rocking one of the better K/D ratios on the team. There are obviously players who have awesome scores in both respects, but frequently you’ll notice guys with a high score, but who got killed a lot, and whose overall impact on the round was negative (ie they got killed more than they killed). Considering you usually get awarded double match XP for victory in a round, shouldn’t the guy who, whilst perhaps not getting *loads* of kills, ended up with a positive K/D rating – effectively contributing positively to the race to 75 – be afforded at least some respect.

AW KDStill not convinced? Well, consider the impact “campers” can have on the performance of all the alpha, twitcher types who are so quick to deride the former. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve saved the ass of a high-scorer by helping them in a firefight from a distance, or even spotting and picking off people who were about to kill them all different kinds of ways. Most of the time, they didn’t even know about it. If that happened to be the difference between them reaching a scorestreak, or not, it’s fair to say a big chunk of their eventual score is actually down to that “camping motherf@cker” who had their back while they were being all Chuck Norris and shit.

And, just to be clear at this point, I don’t stay in the same spot for the whole round, and in Advanced Warfare, I’ve only actually used a sniper rifle once or twice, but I do tend to take advantage of sight-lines, or strategic positioning, and I utilise guns that at least have a decent range option – but that’s still sufficient to be considered a camper by many. In practice, it means that instead of just storming into a bottleneck from one direction, I’ll maybe find cover and a wait few seconds to see if somebody storms through it from the other end. Or, if I happen to spawn near a building or window that I know gives me a great view of high traffic areas, I’ll maybe take advantage of that for a bit before moving on to somewhere else. In that context, having control over high-value areas – even for a minute or so – is an advantage to the team, surely, and moreover, whilst you’re in control of it, the enemy’s not, right!? Isn’t it a fairly legitimate tactic to have control of the best areas in a map, and conversely, to try and stop the opposing team from having them?

Ghosts warhawkIn fact, one of the things I really liked in Ghosts was that you could often find other players who appreciated the tactical advantage (to the whole team) of controlling particular areas, and ad-hoc mini-teams would form to defend and hold them – even if it meant players might end up with a lesser individual score. I’d frequently be at an upper floor window and notice that some guy on my team *literally* had my back, and was happy to forego their own individual score in order to protect a guy who was helping the team win a match. Obviously, multiplayer shooters aren’t where you’d generally go for friendship, feelz and sentimentality, but even so, I always thought that was a really nice touch, and genuinely quite cool. It still happens occasionally in AW, but the vast majority of the “teamwork” I’ve seen is a fairly self-interested ‘safety in numbers approach’ to running-and-gunning.

OK, so that’s the case for the defence, but what about the prosecution? Three of the most frequent/recurring objections I’ve seen to camping are that a) it’s cowardly, b) it’s not in the spirit of the game, and c) it’s not fair to everyone else because it gives you an unfair advantage.

campingThe first one is, let’s be honest, a bit laughable, and fairly easy to dismiss. It’s not like, you know, deaths in-game are in anyway tied to real-life, and even though it’s admittedly frustrating, being killed in a Team Deathmatch has little to no element of, like, actual danger for anybody whatsoever. If anything, given the level of actual, real-life abuse players can get if anybody even suspects they’re camping, I’d argue there’s more to fear from doing it than not – and furthermore, if you’re a person who equates the number of kills you pick up in a videogame with bravery, I’d suggest people camping in that game are the least of your problems.

The second thing, however, is slightly more compelling, though not necessarily watertight. This spirit of the game thing – who decides that, then? For the most part, I’ve paid as much as the next guy to participate in multiplayer games, so why does the next guy get to dictate how I should play the game? If he’s better than me at running-and-gunning, that’s great for him I’m sure, but does that mean I have to do it too? Even though I never camp for a whole game, or anything close to it, should I alter the way I play so that I never, ever do anything that might even nearly be considered camping, and always play it according to what some other person reckons is better for them? I mean, that’s just crazy-talk, right!?

reddeadredemption_sc005And where do you draw the line anyway? If, in the process of running-and-gunning I happen to pass a window and see a bunch of the other team, should I keep on running because it’s not in the spirit of the game, given I’m in an elevated position and have a distinct advantage? Should I run to where I can intercept them face-to-face, even though there’s three of them and one of me? Can you ever shoot anybody in the back, or should FPS multiplayer games introduce some kind of “holla” option so all firefights are old-school, Wild West style encounters? I’m being glib, sure, but if you follow the ‘not in the spirit of the game’ thing to it’s logical conclusion, these are the sort of areas you get into, especially if the ‘Spirit of the Game’ is something more profound than “try to kill people/try not to get killed”. Which, in all honesty, is about as profound as it can ever really be, right!?

Finally, this whole ‘not fair because it gives you an advantage’ thing. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the whole point of games like Call of Duty to maximise your advantages?Isn’t that why there’s loads of different weapons, perks and extras – and why you’re encouraged to try and unlock better ones? At one point, I shit you not, I was on the receiving end of some pretty colourful (and, to his credit, really quite creative) invective from a guy who was hollering and whatnot about fairness and cheating, but later, when he killed me, I noticed he had a gun and other shit that he’d paid extra for from the Advanced Warfare store.

AW gunHow is having better, souped-up weapons that your paid extra for not cheating or unfair, but occupying an upstairs room with a weapon decent at range beyond the pale? Indeed, if the game was purely about performing better than other people in genuine like-for-like encounters, wouldn’t it be better, indeed fairer, if everyone, in every game mode and every map, had exactly the same gun, loadout and perks?

And, going back to the legitimate tactics thing, and come to think of it, the spirit of the game thing too, isn’t any war game considerably more realistic, and arguably more worthwhile, if it’s, you know, a bit like actual warfare? Obviously that sounds slightly daft in the context of a speed-boosting, double-jumping game like Advanced Warfare, but you get my point! What’s really so wrong with approaching a game with the intention of not getting killed a shitload and, say, thinking about tactics and strategy as well!? I appreciate it’s never going to be up there with rocket-science, but isn’t using a bit of thought and brainpower in a CoD game as laudable as having slightly quicker reactions than somebody else?

Anyway, that’s pretty much the end of my (counter)rant. I’m not, for one minute, suggesting that everybody should abandon their own approach and spend entire matches hiding in a bush, but I am genuinely interested in whether “camping” is as despised as the internet suggests it is, or whether there’s room for it – perhaps even a bona fide place for it – in multiplayer shooters. At the very least, I think the perceived wisdom that absolutely anything that isn’t running/gunning is, by default, camping – and consequently deplorable – is fundamentally flawed, and needs drastically re-thinking.

Do you have any thoughts on the matter? Do you despise camping? Are you a camper yourself? Are you a runner/gunner who appreciates having a more strategic person watching your back? Let us know in the comments below…..