Apparently it’s that time of year again. It’s time to talk about Skill Based Matchmaking. It’s inevitable really. Whenever a new Call of Duty releases, invariably the complaints about SBMM crop up. Nothing ever changes about them, and the scrungaloids complaining are always unequivocally wrong. But why is that? And what even is Skill Based Matchmaking?
For those who don’t play many competitive multiplayer titles: Skill Based Matchmaking is when a title tries to put you into games with similarly skilled players. The game will watch how you play, and make a decision about where to place you based on a handful of key data points. Or it’ll just assign a default number, which goes up or down based on how good or badly you perform. Either works really.
The intention of this system is to increase consistency in the play experience for the majority of players. Most players don’t like losing, but it’s even worse when they feel like they weren’t given a fighting chance. Wendy Wall-splat who has been playing Brimblo Breaker Versus for 500 hours shouldn’t be put up against Corey Combo Dropper that just started playing. That won’t provide either with the rich, competitive experience that the developers intended. Instead, both players should be matched according to their ability so they can exist in an environment where they’re able to compete.
Unfortunately, that’s not what most Call of Duty players think.
Twitter is – or was depending on when you’re reading this – flooded with complaints about SBMM this past week. Claims that it is ruining not just Call of Duty, but all of gaming were foisted out into the open for everyone to see like an unwelcome turd in a swimming pool. If my language didn’t already make it apparent, I am very in favour of SBMM. Even though I lambasted Strive’s poor implementation of it earlier this year, I’m still glad it exists. The quality of games would be so much worse if who you played was always a complete free-for-all.
What really pisses in my Cheerios’ though, is the reason that many of these chuds are parading around as their justification. The argument against SBMM boils down to the game not being fun if you’re trapped in a match with a bunch of sweats – players who want to compete on a serious level with one another. This, some would argue, is the whole point of playing a competitive game. Games like Among Us, or Fall Guys don’t feature SBMM because they’re focused on providing a fun party experience. By contrast, Call of Duty, and Guilty Gear Strive are about competing, so they use SBMM to help facilitate that competition.
However, what really gets me is how completely egocentric that argument even is. You can’t have fun if you’re not dunking on other players, getting an insane kill streak, or popping off on stream? Ok. What about the other people in the match. Why should a bunch of less-skilled players be stuck in a match with hypothetical bro-gamer who plays Call of Duty for 6 hours a day on Twitch? Why should they have to endure the ultra sweaty gamer chad? They shouldn’t – you’re a selfish prick for insisting that only your experience matters.
And that is why I can’t take the argument against SBMM seriously. It comes from an incredibly selfish mindset. All players should be able to have fun. That doesn’t mean that everyone wins, obviously that’s not possible in a competitive environment. However, everyone should be presented with an experience that they can engage with. An experience where they feel they can compete. Insisting you’re somehow more important is ridiculous.
This whole rant may or may not have been motivated by a particular clip that’s been doing the rounds on Twitter. Where do you stand though? Feel free to sound off in the comments – I promise I’ll use more restrained language than I did in the article.