Problem number one is that most of my friends either play games on a different platform to me, or don't play games at all anymore, because I murdered them in their sleep, hilariously.
Problem number two is that the few friends I know who play games online seem to keep different gaming hours to me.
Not that I even have regular gaming hours. I mean, it's a case of squeezing it in where I can find it. So to speak.
For a couple of weeks now, the great Larry Bundy Jr and I - if you've not subscribed to his YouTube channel, you should, because he's lovely - tried to find time to record a gameplay video of The Division together. We failed utterly, because we simply couldn't get our hours in synch.
This is a familiar story for me. Too familiar. Consequently, I tend to find myself heading online and playing with strangers. So to speak.
I never know who I'm on a team with, beyond their screen name. Never know a thing about them. Don't venture to look at their profile. But I don't need to. See, these one-off friends and I... we share a knowing that goes, like, deeper than knowing.
...I don't know what that means.
Basically, what I'm saying is this. People often mention that co-op only really works when you're playing with friends, communicating through headsets. Shooting the shiz, as these young people they have nowadays seem to say.
I prefer the opposite. I like it when I don't have to make conversation, partly because I'm profoundly antisocial. I mean, I even bought a new headset last week, and I still haven't taken it out of the box.
See, there's something that happens occasionally when you're playing online, that I find pretty amazing. It's been happening a lot in The Division, and the last time it happened for me was in Journey (a game which is almost entirely about nonverbal communication). And that thing is this thing: the players somehow unconsciously know what one another needs.
You don't tend to get it in your Call of Duties or Star Wars Battlefronts. Those games are too chaotic, too full of pyrotechnics. You see it when you have a game with a more considered pace, such as Journey, or one with a more strategic ebb-and-flow, like The Division.
The combination of bullet-sponge enemies, and a cover system means that the only real way to succeed in The Division is to suppress and flank; one player shooting at an enemy from the front, while the other sneaks around the side, like a dirty pig.
However, because I've become so profoundly anti-social, there's no way of being able to tell another player what I need from them, or being able to hear what they might need from me.
What's the strategy? Who's in charge? Who's doing what?
We have to communicate through subtle cues and tells; "Ohh... so that's what they want me to do...". Or I'll start doing something, and watch as a teammate hopefully follows my cue. And when that happens, it's a beautiful thing.
I don't even know why it's happening. I mean, we all communicate in the real world in a number of unspoken ways. Facial expressions. Body language. Even appearance; whoever coined a phrase 'don't judge a book by its cover' was clearly an idiot. Our appearance, what we present to the world, is always a reflection of something about who we actually are. It might be a way to invite the world in, or push it away, or project how we want to be perceived.
Yet you don't get all of this in The Division. It's stripped away. Alright, there's a modest character creation menu at the start of the game, but it doesn't exactly let you go nuts. It isn't Saints Row IV. Every player is reduced to some fairly limited sort of generic army man or woman.
And yet... somehow... we're able to communicate without any of the sorts of tools we have in the real world. How? How is that? Witchcraft? Telepathy? What? How?
Is it simply this: because in The Division there's no room for lone wolves? You're there to achieve a common goal. You need to pull together, support one another. By helping someone else you're helping yourself.
Like in one mission, where my four man team and I tried four times to get into an enemy base, and each time we were wiped out.
On our fifth attempt, without anyone even laying out a plan, we held back. Picked the enemies off from afar, instead of rushing in. We learned that we had to watch one another's backs, and we learned what our roles were. I went up high and picked off enemies with my sniper scope. Two of my teammates crouched behind cover. Another flanked to the left and caused the herd to break up. From that point on, every skirmish was some version of that strategy.
I love it when that happens, and it has happened pretty much every time I've played. That's why I don't like playing with a headset, because I enjoy seeing that nonverbal communication, that trust and teamwork, develop between a group of players. It's something that can't be programmed into a game.
It's something that only comes from an element that's outside of the developers' control: people being people. Sometimes we're awesome.