21 December 2009

The Dad's Guide to Modern Warfare 2: Communication

This is part of a series of strategy guides for players of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. If you haven't already done so, check out the first post in the series here. As always, keep in mind the audience for these guides is not hardcore gamers but rather the casual "dad" gamers trying to stay competitive.

I would argue that one of the most (if not the most) important themes is communication. And strangely enough it is often the most ignored. Most (but not all) players play with a headset and microphone to allow easy communications with your teammates. It would seem to be a no brainer that actually communicating during the game would be a key factor in your team's success, but amazingly enough this isn't always the case.

I've been on both sides of the fence here: I have played games with teammates that communicated virtually everything happening on the map (generally to success); and I've played entire games with microphone-enabled teammmates who didn't say a single word at any portion of the game.

Communication goes hand in hand with teamwork, which is often a measure of familiarity with your opponents. A few nights ago I played on a team with seven other guys that I know (having actually met most of them in person) and have played with on multiple occasions. We lost a couple of matches, but quickly went on a five or six game winning streak (and most of these matches weren't even close; a 200-69 final score in Domination mode was one example). And the matches we did lose were to an obviously well-organized team; so I can't exactly complain about this one!

On the other hand, playing with strangers has the tendency to lead to poor communication and a subsequent lack of teamwork. Players run around the board at their own whim and overall success comes down to a roll of the dice; is the other team communicating just as poorly (where we may win despite our lack of communication) or are they working together (where we don't have much of a chance).

You won't always have an opportunity to do so, but in general, I recommend playing with familiar teammates. Even if they're people you've never met in person, playing with the same people develops familiarity with your teammates' styles of play, encourages communication, and helps drive an overall team strategy. Also, in my experience, playing with friends is just more fun (which is/or should be the point!).

However, it would be lacking of me to recommend that you simply "communicate!" without making reference to how you should communicate. The overall goal of communication should be to build the situational awareness (SA) of your teammates such that they can know what's going on beyond their individual screen. Here are a few things I like to talk about in the course of a game:
  • At the beginning of the game, review the overall team objectives of the game based upon the map and your team's starting location. Do you play to occupy and hold down one particular section of the map? If you're playing Domination, what flags do you plan to go after (more on this one in a later post addressing Domination strategy)?
  • Discuss the location of the enemy players and their movements; are they coordinated (indicative of teamwork and enemy communication) or do they run around with no idea of strategy?
  • When you have something important to contribute to the offensive beyond your ordinary individual arsenal, let your teammates know; perhaps they can help you employ it more effectively. Here I'm talking about a precision air strike, or sentry gun, or something along those lines. If your teammates know where the enemy is massing, you can employ your air strike with greater effect or place the sentry gun in a critical area. Likewise, it can be helpful to your teammates if you communicate with them your attempt to shoot down a Harrier or helo with a surface to air missile (i.e., Stinger) so they can concentrate their efforts elsewhere.
On the other hand, too much communication is possible:
  • If you have someone screaming in the same room as you, this can bleed over the mic and annoy your teammates. The same goes for music, no one wants to hear your music so stop rebroadcasting it to the room.
  • Some trash talking is generally acceptable, but it can quickly get annoying (especially to the other team while not in the actual gameplay), so temper your emotions. This also goes for language; you certainly won't have virgin ears after a while, but there really is no need to pile on. You're not going to "win" an argument with a loudmouth braggart 13 year old (and yes, he's probably better than you).
  • Also, technical issues with your microphone (feedback) and breathing issues (literally, hearing you breathe every breath) will probably get you muted; this kind of kills your ability to contribute to the communication effort, so fix them!
That being said, I can't say that I've ever played in a game where I was overwhelmed by useful communications. So keep the chatter relevant and I think you'll succeed more often than not.

What are your thoughts on communication (good or bad)? How how it helped to contribute to (or from) your gameplay?
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