In some gaming circles, camper is one of the worst things you can call someone. Campers are noobs. Campers are cheaters. Campers ruin the game for everyone else. So what is camping and why do people hate it so much?

Essentially, camping is staying in one place to gain a tactical advantage over your enemies. This can take the form of finding a corner inside a room and killing anyone who pokes their head in the door or sitting on the roof of a building and sniping enemies from across the map.

I was introduced to the concept of camping while playing SOCOM: US Navy Seals on Playstation 2, back in 2002. That was my first real exposure to multiplayer shooters (with voice comms at least). Since then I’ve probably seen the term at least once every time I play a shooter. I’ve seen it so often the word camper has begun to lose all meaning.

I was prompted to make this video after a recent round of Insurgency where someone complained about all the camping. I know many players take a black and white view on camping. They’d say campers have an advantage over their targets and therefore that’s a form of cheating. Like many issues in gaming, however, I see camping in shades of grey, with a spectrum of acceptable behaviour that changes according to game and mode.

In my experience, you’re more likely to be called a camper in action shooters like Battlefield 4 or Call of Duty rather than more tactical shooters like Insurgency or Red Orchestra 2. If someone gets killed by the same person in the same location more than once, they’ll accuse their killer of camping. Or if someone’s sitting on a rooftop with a sniper rifle, they’ll get called a camper. It’s become a go-to derogatory term in shooters, on par with calling someone a noob.

I tend to be pretty mobile when playing shooters, even occasionally rushing in like an idiot. That said, I can definitely see situations where protecting an area for an extended period would be helpful to your team, especially in more tactical game modes. There’s a time and a place for camping behaviour and you’re more likely to be called out on it in Deathmatch-style modes.

Ironically, modern shooters like BF4 and Call of Duty have systems in place that help deter camping, like minimap spotting and killcams. Insurgency doesn’t have these elements but camping doesn’t seem to be such a pervasive complaint as compared to AAA titles. This could be down to the smaller player base or the more tactical nature of Insurgency. Because Insurgency is such a different game to Battlefield and Call of Duty, you’ve got to adjust your playstyle accordingly. As you can be killed so quickly, players will normally move methodically through the maps and check every room carefully. Is it camping if you’re watching the doorway leading to a contested capture point?

Even within games, different game modes seem to generate different reactions to perceived camping. In Battlefield’s Rush mode, teams are split into attackers and defenders. The two sides fight over MCOM points, with attackers looking to destroy them and defenders looking to protect them. The territorial nature of this gameplay means there’ll always be a number of defending players guarding the MCOMs. Are these defenders camping the MCOM? Or are they playing the objective?

Sniping is another target for camper rage in shooters. Over the years I’ve heard a load of Battlefield players complaining about recons sitting close to their spawnpoint and trying to snipe enemy players with ridiculous scopes, totally ignoring the game mode objectives. And nothing gets people crying camper faster than sitting on a rooftop, picking off enemies who have no idea you’re there.

This comes back to the idea of advantage: sniping from a hidden position gives you a definite advantage. There are methods to counteract these snipers and part of the fun for me is finding these methods. Recon and sniper classes are designed to be most effective from a distance but least effective in close quarters. Having different classes with different advantages and disadvantages is part of modern shooters and helps players find a play style that works for them. Every player is different and has a different experience.

To me, what one person calls camping another person calls playing the game. When you call someone a camper this basically means you don’t agree with how he plays the game. Of course there are situations where camping behaviour is wholly unacceptable, like spawn camping or base raping. Both show poor gamesmanship and I’ll leave any match where I see that happening.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a proponent of camping. If everyone just stayed in the same spot all match nothing would happen. I’ve seen situations in Insurgency when there’s only one player left on my side and they just sat there until the timer ran out and we lost the round. If they’d just moved down a bit to capture a point everyone could’ve respawned and got back into the fight instead of sitting there, staring at him sitting there. That said, I don’t think camping is the cause of all ruin in shooters.

The perception of camping is largely subjective. Depending on how you look at it, camping can help or harm your team. You can be playing the objective or wasting everyone’s time. Camping isn’t a black and white issue but a field of grey and it’s a topic worthy of further discussion.

Do you feel that campers harm the game or are they an integral part of first person shooters?