As I write this the sound in our gaming space is punctuated with the fire of gunshot. It takes me out of my train of thought for a moment but it’s suitably apt. When did the term “multiplayer gaming” become so synonymous with first person shooters and MMOs?
It’s fantastic that we can so easily play games with others online, and it’s a key part of life as a gamer now. I just wish we all had more opportunities to play with others together – in the same room. It’s my de-facto gaming experience, and here’s why.
A good atmosphere
Playing games with others takes me back to my very first experiences of gaming. As a young gamer I used to experiment with games that I found difficult by playing them co-op with my friends. We used to pass the controller back and forth as we each struggled with moments that we found difficult. It’s a beautiful metaphor for local co-op games. There’s an indescribable pleasure in co-op gaming, you’re sharing a pastime that you adore directly with another, and they are often with the people closest to you. You talk, share ideas, and enjoy the game together.
As annoying as games without online co-op play are. I can’t help but be a little bit gleeful when games are made with no online support. Take Scott Pilgrim (pictured) as an example. It’s a vibrant, action-packed, scrolling beat-em-up. Which can only be played with others when done in the same room. It makes the chances you do get to play all the more special. No matter how inconvenient finding someone to play with might be, I can’t help but agree a little bit with the decision. Seeking out someone who’ll try a particular game with you, and finding the time to do so regularly can be the making of a game.
This “intended” method of play can become crucial to a games sense of magic, with every session as anticipated and exciting as the last. The electricity of play isn’t just on the screen, but it spills around the room too. It’s a neat way to include people that may not always play video games. Your confidence as a gamer can often get non-gamers involved and serves as a backup to those who need a bit of extra help and guidance.
I love playing video games with other people. I think it’s the main aspiration I have for my game-playing time. I enjoy gaming a great deal, but there’s something even more wonderful about playing games with another person. The experience becomes as much about the atmosphere in the room, the company of the person or people that you’re spending your gaming time with and the banter you share as you play. Other people are an important sounding board for difficulty, as you can battle on together to solve a problem, rather than struggling alone.
This is backed up by my extensive list of favourite games. (Of which Phantasy Star Online and Monster Hunter are but two). So many of the games I could continue playing forever are cooperative experiences. That said, while I enjoyed playing PSO online a great deal, I enjoyed the experience of playing it split-screen far more, but as a general point I can think of a great many games that come into their own when played with others.
To me the primary benefit of gaming is how inclusive it is. Many of us enjoy playing games with someone else in the room, but how often do we get a chance to do so? The added convenience of online play seems to have diminished the need for local co-op. As superb as online gaming is, I can’t help but think it’s diluted our need to play gaming in it’s most natural state. Games like Rock Band can be played online, but overall you get a better experience (and something closer to the one the developers imagined) from encouraging three others to play with you in person. A great deal of that is due to the pleasure of using the instruments, watching others using them, and the particular sense you experience by having people over to play in your band, but the same principle applies for many multiplayer games.
Video games can be quite complex upon occasion. In the process of playing a new game you learn how to control the game, how to navigate the menus and find the information you need. You also embark on a series of objectives whether explained literally, or understood over the course of the narrative. It’s a slow process that we as gamers do almost naturally. Multiplayer games are a great way to balance the complexity of games against their inherent sense of fun. You muddle through a game together, talking through approaches, and experimenting with a friend or friends.
Let’s make the time to play together more often, we’ll only get better and more frequent co-op experiences if we demand them (and use them).