By: Heather Ware of Mega Cat Studios
Since the dawn of time (or 1958), people have been playing video games and thinking “Hey, wouldn’t saving the world be cooler with my friends?” From this thought, an entirely new school of video game was born. People began playing games with friends at the height of the Golden Age of video games, and the progress couldn’t be stopped from there. Now many new releases completely focus on multiplayer and forego single-player campaigns entirely.
One of the latest developments in co-op gaming has been the birth of online multiplayer, where gamers can play with their friends regardless of location. While this new technology is exciting and offers new directions for video games to grow, it is important that the world of local co-op isn’t left behind. Online multiplayer may be a compelling new trend, but it will never be able to replace the feeling of sitting down with your best friend, looking them in the eye, and saying terrible things about their mother while lapping them in Mario Kart.
Positive Social Interaction
I’m not about to suggest that online co-op can’t provide social interaction. In fact, it’s pretty amazing that you can talk to anyone in the world while enjoying a game with them. The issue is that the quality of interaction plummets with the switch from local co-op to online play.
What’s the association with multiplayer today? It’s harassment, shouting matches with strangers and having racial slurs screamed at you by 12-year-olds. What kind of person wants that to experience any of that when they’re relaxing with a game? Multiplayer used to be fun. It used to be about settling bets and winning arguments, not making people afraid to play their favorite games. With couch co-op, you’re working together toward an objective, not listening to a child give you death threats for camping.
Sure, local multiplayer comes with some trash talk and a thrown controller every here and there. The difference is that nobody is encouraging you to kill yourself and, if someone really is being terrible, you can just kick them out of your home. You’re in control of your social interactions with couch co-op, and that just can’t be said for online gameplay.
I clearly remember racing with my dad on the Wii U as a child and just laughing my head off as we fought for second and third place (we kinda sucked). My brother and I stayed up all night playing Pokémon Stadium one Christmas Eve, and neither of us wanted to stop playing long enough to open our presents. There’s something magical about working with the people close to you toward a virtual objective, and that’s never going to be replaced by sitting in your computer chair and yelling at your team to GET ON THE DAMN PAYLOAD!
These aren’t just personal stories, either. Researchers at Arizona State University found that parents were missing a huge opportunity to bond with their children by not playing video games with them. Of course, this only applied to in-person gameplay, presumably because telling your toddler to “git gud noob” through a headset isn’t great for their emotional development. For parents who did play couch co-op video games with their children, they were rewarded with closer relationships and well-adjusted kids.
One interesting part of this research was that the genre of the video game didn’t make a difference on the results. Whether they were in Viking death-matches or running around as Mario, kids still developed better relationships with their parents than others who didn’t play via couch co-op.
If you’ve ever played an online video game with anything other than a supercomputer, then you’re certainly familiar with lag. For most gamers, nothing is more frustrating than watching an enemy hit ten feet in front of you, only for your head to come flying off four seconds later. It’s annoying, impossible to predict and an issue that is faced solely in online multiplayer.
Lag is caused when two systems can’t quite agree on what’s happening. Even if your internet is high-speed and running optimally, you can still experience lag if your opponent’s connection is anything less than amazing. When your two systems see two different events happening, you experience lag as they try to work out exactly who did what and, spoiler alert, they usually get it wrong. This leads to fairness concerns in the world of eSports as well as some very hurtful comments from KewlKid420.
For couch co-op games, lag is nonexistent. You’re all playing on the same system, so there’s no real way for it to get confused about what’s going on. When you hack your sister’s torso in half, you don’t have to worry about her teleporting behind you and reversing the situation. And isn’t that the kind of simple family bonding that we all want?
Cooperation Amongst Co-Op Games
Online multiplayer is an exciting new trend in the world of video games, but that doesn’t mean that it’s going to replace the staples of gaming. You can have fun playing online with strangers one day and still send your friends to Valhalla on the next. Video games are big enough for multiple types of online mode, just as long as we can all agree that modded controllers are the work of the devil.