Don’t Let Streamers Dominate The Call Of Duty Skill-Based Matchmaking Conversation

Don’t Let Streamers Dominate The Call Of Duty Skill-Based Matchmaking Conversation

Another Call of Duty has just launched, and with it so has another round of skill-based matchmaking discourse. SBMM is a concept that is as simple as it sounds; an attempt to match you up with players of a similar skill level online. If you're brand new at the game you play other noobs, if you're decent you'll play other experienced casuals, and if you're a die-hard you'll find yourself in the trenches against other veterans. Like any online system, it's imperfect, but over time you'll be matched against players who are similar to you. This is a core principle in most online games whether they be shooters, sports, or anything else – your rank determines your opponent, trying to make play as balanced for everyone. Every year there's a huge outcry over it in Call of Duty specifically though, and it's mostly from content creators who make up a tiny amount of the player base but have huge sway in the online conversation. We probably shouldn't listen to them.

The pros of SBMM is that whatever level you're at, you're going to have fun. That's basically the point of a video game. Sure, games are art, but when we consider the various political viewpoints and actions of Call of Duty, maybe fans shouldn't push back too hard that it's just meant to be silly, exciting fun. The cons of SBMM is that it makes it harder to pick on little kids. That's really all there is to it.

Perhaps I'm being a mite unfair. Those who advocate against SBMM will argue it stops them from ever seeing any real progression, and I sympathise to a point. If you're great at the game, you get put in tougher and tougher matches, meaning even as you improve, your overall stats don't see as much of a boost. Someone significantly worse at the game than you, playing against weaker opponents, may pull a similar K/D ratio even if you'd destroy them in a one v. one. But there are two problems with this argument.

The first is that in order to move up the ranks so highly that you're playing with the masters, you need to have been consistently dominating for prolonged periods. You don't get bumped up a rank for every kill you make and dropped for every death, it's more nuanced. So in order to be at that level, you must have already been running rampant through games. The point is not to boost you up so that you're constantly destroyed, and if you were, you'd be moved down anyway.

The second problem is that it completely ignores most of the playerbase. Call of Duty is the single-most casual-friendly game on the market, and that means most players would get stomped by shooter veterans. SBMM ensures these players can still have an enjoyable and competitive time against players similar to themselves. These people make up a far bigger market than the top 100 streamers on Twitch, who seem exclusively to be the ones who care about SBMM.

Now then we come to the secret, third problem. Content creators do not care about any of these arguments at all. It goes back to my original point that SBMM makes it harder to pick on little kids. Content creators need to create content, and it's much easier for them to create content if they can play kids who are completely new to FPS games, farming stylish headshots and racking up massive kill counts that they can then market on YouTube as CRAZY or INSANE or OTHER ABLEIST TERM WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS. When they play against other players who are good at the game, they have to try harder, their content takes longer to make, and they don't get to dominate.

What they are asking for is permission to ruin everyone else's fun by running amok with eight year olds playing their first video game so that they can make their YouTube videos faster. Content creators are a core part of the gaming ecosystem, but we shouldn't let them dominate the conversation around SBMM just because they talk the loudest. Playing with people who are as good as you is a core principle in almost every competitive area of life, and that shouldn't change in Call of Duty so streamers can farm low effort kills.

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