Goals Keel You Grounded 05 Feb

Believe it or not, kids, there was a time without the Internet. A time where we learned about the birds and the bees instead of the two girls and their one cup. And while I could talk about the Internet as a jarring sexual introduction to children, I’d rather talk about something dramatically less important. Couches.

Well, not so much couches as people sitting on couches. Preferably groups of people playing video games. It was while recently playing Rayman Origins that I had an epiphany. I was high-fiving the guy next to me after narrowly completing a difficult time trial when someone else sent me a Battlefield 3 invite, and as I looked at the virtual RSVP with a complete lack of interest it dawned on me. At some point someone took our friends off the couch and put them online, and that’s not okay. The industry has turned its back on one of the greatest features of gaming: social interaction.

Moving Friends to the Internet

Basically the industry did this.

A generation is growing up without knowing the joys of couch co-op. Since when did “sitting in the same room with your friends” become only a feature on the Wii? The lack of social play is a detriment to all parties involved, and while I completely understand the desire to play with a faraway friend, I fear the effect on all of us is too high a price to pay.

Anonymity breeds vulgarity and dishonesty. It’s a sad fact of life, and it’s bleeding into our virtual worlds. Without a friendly face to look into we lose all inhibitions. The sheer vastness of profanity in online matches is mind-boggling, and from prepubescent mouths no less! A woman, a black man, a jew, or a homosexual should never have to sit through the spew that emanates from the untamed anonymous’s mouth.


The pinnacle of 90’s multiplayer!

Don’t get me wrong. I definitely condone insults and slander. I just want it done to my face. It’s more clever that way and usually less hurtful. Goldeneye for the N64 practically built the foundation for modern day multiplayer, and many people register it as one of the greatest experiences of their childhood. Was it because the game was great? Nope. By any standard Goldeneye played poorly and was only moderately well designed. What makes the game memorable is having all your friends in one room. It’s slapping someones back on a clutch win or chastising someone for picking Oddjob. It’s the group that made those memories.

We used to have a thing called LAN parties. Places where beer flowed like water and Hot Pockets flowed like beer. There was a crude joy that came with dragging several PCs and monitors or consoles  and TVs to a house and making an event of multiplayer games like Halo and Warcraft. It’s a shame to think LANs are a thing of the past, replaced with staticky headsets and dimly lit rooms. Now we have to go home to play with our friends–explain that to me.

Most damning is the effect a couchless world has inflicted on multiplay itself. You see, anonymous gaming has a terrible effect on our games and our psyche. Let me paint a picture for you:

I have three friends and we play games together. Obviously, I’m the best and my friends know that. In fact, we have constructed a hierarchical system in which my mates practice and adapt to my style in order to topple me from my throne. I am the benchmark everyone must rise to. In this competition, everyone gets better until one of them takes the top spot from me. Now he is the best and we all change in order to beat him.

Goals Keel You Grounded

Realistic goals are what keep you grounded.

This is something that has gone on forever. Groups of friends compete with each other to impress and dominate. It’s the reason I still play Super Smash Bros. Melee and Street Fighter II. I want to beat the guys who sit next to me and talk shit, i.e the person who in my world is the best. But with the takeover of online games with no local option the formula has taken a hazardous turn.

Now we have an infrastructure where there can be no “best”. With infinite players comes infinite playstyles and infinite variables. It’s like running a race with no finish line. This leads to one of two things happening:

Scenario One: You become an asshole. You play day and night, learning every trick and exploit until you’re not so much playing a game, but implementing a routine. You get insanely frustrated when others perform at lower standards and take joy in not outplaying your faceless opponent, but outwitting the game itself. You may become less focused on skill and more focused on exploits, glitches, and bugs. Without an identity you get no human connection and become an AI with the difficulty cranked to max.

Scenario Two: You simply cannot compete with the hardcore players willing to spend all their time striving to be the impossible best. You play as much as you can, hoping not to fall into a match against somebody who is so well versed that you don’t stand a chance. This continues until you either move on or become so strict on limiting the things that prevent you from winning that you sap the fun from the game. That, or you focus on griefing players to restore some imaginary lost honor. Basically, you become an asshole.

Online Flowchart

Here’s a flowchart for reference.

In both scenarios the result is the same. The game is boiled down to those willing to learn to beat it or how to limit the game so it can be beaten. It’s an endless cycle of improvement among all participants without a benchmark. The aforementioned hierarchy breaks down limiting the lifespan of the game to mere months. Most of all, it creates an unhealthy obsession of competition without any real competing. Without identities to compete against, what are you playing against? Neither experience will live on with you like fond memories of Twisted Metal 2 or the even original Halo.

There are plenty more reasons why Couch Co-Op needs to make a comeback. I love playing games with my significant other, but I’m not going to buy a second system for Uncharted and I really don’t want any part of Carnival Games. That’s why we played Monster Madness, a terrible Gauntlet clone, and loved every second of it. Sure, it’s an awful game, but in a group it’s incredibly redeemable. I remember games like Castle Crashers more than DC Universe Online. We can’t hope to incorporate non-gamers in our pasttime if part of it relies on alienating yourself from social activity.

The Internet is a supplement, not a feature. It pains me to see games like Bioshock get online multiplayer funneled in, and the strange need to shove everything online is madness. Am I wrong in assuming it’s cheaper to create local play over network play? At least then you don’t have to worry about server upkeep. Developers are getting more pressure to incorporate online where it isn’t needed.

Some games have tried. Resident Evil 5, Gears of War, and Borderlands all had good local play. Although, I still have a dark fear that my nearby friend might slowly disappear. I know my fondest memories are of me and my friends playing Super Mario 3 (it counts) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles together and I shutter to think others may not grow up with similar nostalgia. That’s why I implore our readers to support games that make local play a priority. Support games like Rayman Origins. Support games that make friends a priority.

7 thoughts on “Support Your Local Games”

  1. A good look at the recent lack of local multiplayer in games, but there are some flaws.

    All fighting games still have local multiplayer, and then there are party games, which are on all systems. Dance Central can only be played local when you do multiplayer, same with DDR. Little Big Planet is also local.

    Sure there is a lack of local multiplayer when it comes to first person shooters, but that shouldn’t be your only focus. The Halo franchise has always let you play online with three friends on the same system (split screen and being online). Now games like Battlefield and CoD not having that same feature is stupid, but EA and Activison respectively want to make more money and force you to buy a single copy.

    Now let’s move away from big name companies and look at indie games. Scott Pilgrim, Trine, Jamestown and Hard Corps. Uprising are just a few to be names that support local multiplayer same console.

    LAN parties were popular back in the day because internet was pretty slow and not everyone had internet (as you should know), so people held those events. Sure it isn’t as popular among the big companies, but some studios still support the feature.

    Now, if you look at the professional gaming scene, those guys and gals all play in the same room as each other, whether it be on the same console (fighting games), or on separate systems but still in the same game. The only way those people got good was to develop a relationship with one another and practice in private matches.

    I see that you are talking about the random matches, and that can be frustrating, but online also allows people to mess around and have fun. I have gotten mad at people online and stopped playing for a bit. I either just switched servers or stopped playing for a few days and then played the game again, and was fine.

    Instead of complaining about children not being able to have those experiences, people should highlight all the games you can enjoy with your friends on a couch or trying to huddle around one computer and try to play the same game using opposite sides of the keyboard (this is hilarious to do).

    I still regularly play with friends whether the games are board games, video games or trading card games. I don’t care whether I play online or offline, as long as I can have fun while doing it. Though playing with friends in person enjoying a few beers is a great time.

    1. I agree with a lot of what you say Keck, and although I might come across as completely negative to online play, I must say my main point is to support those games that make local play a priority.

      Also, I’ll take you one further and say I have fond memories of four people sitting around the keyboard playing You Don’t Know Jack. Good times… good times.

  2. Actually, from a technical perspective, doing local play can be just as hard as online. For instance, in first person shooters, you add another camera per extra player, so it’s basically twice as many objects for the engine to render for just two players. If they’re too far away from each other, you might have to have a lot of data stored up in memory which would get released with less cameras. All of this leads to either lower the graphics (which is fine by me), take some not-so-great design choices (Halo warps one player close to the other if they stray too far away) or just have worse performance. Worse performance isn’t really acceptable, since you now have more players and now’s the time the game has to be at its most responsive, so you’re really left with the first two.

    Not saying I’m against this, though, in fact, all the opposite. I loved Army of Two for this very reason and I still play Pro Evo weekly with friends, because it’s really the only way to play football.

    But I wouldn’t be so reductionist to say that all online play is reduced to griefing. Games like TF2 prove that you can have great co-op even with complete strangers. There’s not many of them, but it is possible.

    But yeah, couch play, has to make a comeback. It’s the reason I bought a PS3, and it’s lack thereof one of my biggest gripes with this generation.

  3. I really love this article, thanks alot for making it, I think it’s a good way of shoving in people’s faces what alot of them have turned their back on because all the internet play that’s sadly taken over.

    My best memories with games are with my old friend Geraint and his brother playing on the PS2, good old multi-tap =P

    I’d sleep over at his house some weekends and just bring a load of multiplayer games with me, we’d play through the day and all hours of the morning without noticing time disappear.

    Timesplitters 2 and Future Perfect, 007: From Russia With Love, Mashed, War of the Monsters, Freedom Fighters, Ratchet & Clank 3, Need for Speed Underground 2, Grooverider: slot car racing, all these we’d play against each other.

    It wouldn’t always be like that though, so many nice co-op games we used to play aswell like 007: Everything or Nothing, Ghost Recon, Ratchet Gladiator, Conflict Desert Storm 2 and Global Storm and Splinter Cell Chaos Theory.

    Oh, I’m about to have a nostalgia overload!

    I do like online play but only certain games because some really suit online play and you get to… bump into nice people, some people from my old xbox live days I’m still good friends with, I arranged to meet 2 in person(they live in the UK) and I get along well with them in real life aswell as on the game we played together on.

    I recently helped one of them build his first PC over windows live video thing, he’s very happy and proud of it.

    I really hope in the future there’s always gonna be some kind of split screen or local play with alot of games, I just prefer it, so much more fun and cool overall and this page proves I’m not the only one who thinks that, cheers to incredible memories =)

    Oh and @Keck282, you said
    – “LAN parties were popular back in the day because internet was pretty slow and not everyone had internet (as you should know), so people held those events. Sure it isn’t as popular among the big companies, but some studios still support the feature.”

    Only little companies focus on LAN? hahaha no, try telling that to Blizzard with the Starcraft 2 tournaments etc, Starcraft would probably even trample over crap of duty the size of it, and that’s just PC exclusive =/

    Point is, it’s all up to the developer to have both LAN/local play and internet play in the same game, I think it’s just distractions or laziness that stop them, maybe obsessing with having online play.

    Well that’s about it, fair play if you read all or most of this, and thanks, I’m typing from the heart.

    1. LAN = Local Area Network, Blizzard removed that in Starcraft II. You have to be online to play the game. See I am fully aware of the tournaments that are being held (hence in my comment to the article I pointed this out by talking about the pros). See, they are still connected online. Diablo III will be online only as well. There are CoD tournaments and other games in the MLG, but some are online only games, that they play in the same room and such, but it is through online (unless it is a special build of the game made specifically for the events that are LAN to prevent as much lag as possible.

      1. Oh, I didn’t know that, I heard that LAN doesn’t lag ever(unless someone’s PC slows down) but online there’s always at least a little bit of ‘latency’ or delay so I wouldn’t have thought they’d do that.

        Diablo 3 is suppose to be huge, I read somewhere but can’t remember that pre orders are already in the millions or more, shame that game isn’t going to go back to the old ways, they should, developers should really start bringing the nice stuff back.

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