Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Splitscreen Multiplayer - Ryviews Special Ryport

I recently wrote an article about multiplayer etiquette online, but now I wanted to focus on the splitscreen experience, both local and online.

I would probably still be playing this if it had splitscreen.

It seems to me that these days most "Triple A" shy away from offering splitscreen multiplayer. Even online cooperative games like Mass Effect 3 did not provide any way of sharing the console. Being someone who happily plays video games with my significant other on a regular basis, I feel like that market is much smaller than it should be. I love big, grandiose video games, but for the most part if the game doesn't offer local splitscreen then I have precious little time to play it.

Splitscreen embodies the essence of multiplayer in video games. The idea of being able to play alongside a friend or an enemy has long been present in arcades, and I think it's a very rewarding experience. Sure, with chat functions and headsets you can get by through online play and you might still feel that sense of comradery, but for me nothing compares to the excitement of playing through a game like Halo with someone beside me on the couch. It's more active, it's more alive. And I think it's a much more personal experience.

Obviously there are ways around this. You could have multiple televisions and consoles in one room, thereby allowing multiple gamers to share a couch while not sharing a screen. But even that loses some of the splitscreen feeling. There's something about the shared experience that you lose if you're looking at different things, even when you're sitting right next to one another.

Source: http://www.product-reviews.net/wp-content/uploads/Mario-Kart-8-split-screen.jpg
Nintendo still gets it.

But the root of the question is really this: why does that matter? Why is it important to me that the local cooperative experience exists? Why does it matter if the gamers are looking at the same screen, or that they're in the same room? The game doesn't change. And honestly, even the result doesn't particularly change. If I'm playing a team game in Halo, I don't really think I'm more effective if I have 3 teammates locally rather than online. If I'm on my headset then I can be just as effective for strategy. So what is it?

I think, for me, it boils down to what I want from my video games. Sure, I love playing all manner of games. I love single player only games that have immersive stories. I love shooting space aliens in the face. And I love commanding a group of soldiers to level an enemy base. But at the end of the day, gaming for me is much better when it's a social event. I like it when I can interact with another gamer. When I was growing up, my first experience with video games was watching my dad play through Super Mario Bros. on the NES. I certainly didn't have the skills to get through the game. And that was bonding through video games.

So, while I certainly don't think every game needs a multiplayer experience to be complete, I think games should remember what makes arcades feel alive. It's a place for gamers to be with other gamers. It's not an exclusive club, but at least there's a shared interest. And you lose something when the multiplayer arena is just full of immobilized gamers sitting on the couch with their mouths open staring at their television. The multiplayer experience is much more lively when you're able to be physically with another gamer, then you're able to share each other's excitement and disappointment.

And at the end of the day, I think how well a game is received and how fun you have playing it doesn't depend on the game, it depends on the gamer(s).

Until next time,


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