I like the idea of going online for multiplayer gaming – I really do – but I just can’t seem to bring myself to do it. For me, multiplayer gaming always meant that you simply had to be in the same room as the other players, otherwise, what’s the point? But I get it, it’s not always possible to be in the same location as your gamer buddies; heck, you might even live in different cities. But that said, the best way to play multiplayer will always be offline and splitscreen with other people by your side.
We live in an age where multiplayer gaming has gone way, way beyond four controller Nintendo 64 setup for epic GoldenEye and Mario Kart battles. I feel like multiplayer gaming has reached an ironic level of being communal, yet also distant. It’s gone to a place that I just can’t reach anymore. I want to see the reactions of my fellow gamers as I make an incredible move; I want to hear their taunts not through a bad connection in my headphones, but straight to my face. I want to experience those fun moments where you unplug someone else’s controller when they keep winning. Call me stubborn, but if I can’t have that, then I don’t want any multiplayer.
When it comes to online multiplayer, believe me, I’ve tried it… oh, how I tried. I’d constantly lose badly to swearing teenagers on everything from Call of Duty to Halo to NBA 2K. And don’t get me wrong, I’ll lose fair and square – I’m not bitter. I’d play the game as best I could and sometimes even win, but still feel completely disconnected from the experience because there was no one physically with me. I would put down the controller and simply go on with my day, not able to celebrate the competitiveness of it all. Plus, the online battlegrounds are so frantic and there are too many people in one space. It seems we’re far more likely to engage with strangers than our own friends nowadays.
As a result of my discontent for online multiplayer gaming, I have been choosing mostly to focus on solo campaigns. This is where I’m the most peaceful. I can take my time and settle into the game. I can study the AI’s ways and use that to exploit them. Video games just help me relax and unwind, whereas I feel like I’m going to have a meltdown with online multiplayer. I understand that human players are perhaps more interesting to play against, as they don’t think and act like the AI do. But again, I’m here to have some fun, not get worked up after already having a hard day at work.
The New Wave of Online Gamers
Online multiplayer might not be for me, but I really enjoy knowing that there is a new type of gaming experience on the rise: eSports. Games like League of Legends, DOTA 2, and CS: GO have revolutionized competitive gaming. I have to admit it, the more I read about eSports, the more I like it. Not for myself, of course, I’m a million miles away from these professional players, but I love the notion that gaming is becoming a communal thing once again. I see videos and pictures of sold-out stadiums full up with people cheering on these talented players, and I think it brings back that wonderful feeling of competitiveness and togetherness that I once had in video games.
Plus, let’s not forget those experienced gaming clans themselves. With regards to League of Legends, in particular, those teams are real teams. They’ll win together and lose together, but throughout everything that happens, it’s – you guessed it – together. I’ve seen documentaries that cover the entire journey of these teams from practice at home to competitions in giant arenas, and it’s utterly fascinating. I read about high schoolers getting into college with scholarships because that institution has a pro eSports team. I even found this: a web hosting company advertising the means to create a website for their gaming clan. This is all serious stuff now and it’s bringing gaming into the spotlight, but more importantly, it’s making people relearn the aspect of truly communal gaming. I think it’s great, and if I were a younger man I’d probably try to get into it all now. But alas, these kids are too quick for me.
I know many games include a splitscreen mode, but a lot of these aren’t major titles. Plus, there are simply not enough available. I also know that a lot of it comes down to hardware issues, as graphics and frame rates are said to dip considerably with these newer games because the processing power just isn’t able to keep up with up to four screens on one TV. This is a shame, but I find it hard to believe that there isn’t a solution somewhere. I hear that many gamers resort to somewhat odd solutions just to play offline multiplayer in the same room, which means having two televisions, two consoles, and two copies of the game.
Getting a bunch of friends together in the same room for offline multiplayer gaming might be on the decline, but there is some hope for the future. Halo 6 and Battlefront II have both been announced to include splitscreen multiplayer and co-op, and of course, the likes of Mario Party and Mario Kart will always continue to keep that flame alive. This is great news for those of us who despise being reliant on bad internet connections and getting verbally abused by trolls.
I think it’s a huge shame that so many of today’s games don’t have an offline splitscreen multiplayer or co-op mode. What about friends or siblings, partners or even fathers and sons who simply want to play together in the same space? Why is every game assuming we want to play alone? I had some incredible and hilarious experiences playing Halo 3 and COD’s Zombie mode on multiplayer and co-op splitscreen. I don’t want those to end and I simply don't understand why it’s not part of the gaming ethos right now.
Maybe it’s an age thing, as kids of today just wouldn’t know (now I sound old) what it's like to play in the same room. I read through gaming forums and so many people are happy enough playing in their own home without anyone next to them. Times have changed, I guess, but I refuse to change with them. And I know I’m not alone. Now, who wants to come around to my place for some Halo 2 multiplayer? I’ll provide the beers and snacks.
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