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Empty Multiplayer

Illustration for article titled Empty Multiplayer

Over a decade ago, my brother and I would take turns with a PlayStation 2 and indulge in online gaming. He would play Metal Gear Solid Online, an online multiplayer feature included in Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence. When I finally got my hands on the controller, I’d play a game that coincidentally was also a threequel, Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal (UYA). The first two Ratchet & Clank games were single-player experiences. UYA was the first in the series to add online multiplayer. The game modes were standard fare: deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, and siege mode in which two teams attempt to capture each other’s base.


When I think about the overall time I spent playing UYA, it’s not the gameplay or even the single-player mode that I remember with fondness, it’s this one track from the game’s soundtrack.


It sounds meditative and eerie. Back then, it encapsulated my experience with the game’s online multiplayer perfectly. I had played the game several years after it was released and its online servers were populated by a small group of dedicated and skilled players. It’s common for online multiplayer games to be less active as time goes on and UYA was no different. As a result of the small amount of players and the rarity of available matches to join, I spent more time in the game’s lobby listening to that track than actually playing. The track, the small amount of players, and the time I spent just sitting around in the lobby created this atmosphere for me that felt calm, reflective, and even desolate. It felt like I was exploring the past of a digital space that had been largely abandoned. Here I was in these digital battlegrounds, years after the game had been released, having battles of my own. I can’t completely recall the matches I had but I do remember the fast-paced nature of the gameplay. I can also remember one-on-one fights that consisted of constantly jumping sideways, and the realization that a blaster-wielding snowman managed to infiltrate my team’s base.


UYA’s online multiplayer returned when the game, along with the two previous Ratchet & Clank games, were included in the Ratchet & Clank: Collection for the PS3. I revisited the online multiplayer and discovered that it was almost as empty as it was years ago. I enjoyed the very few matches I had though, and I’m glad I got the chance to experience that same feeling of calmness and desolateness once again.

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