Multiplayer games are all the rage. E-sports have quickly grown in popularity as MOBAs, MMOs, and online shooters are released one after another. Entire games are completely devoted to multiplayer arenas, with little to no attention paid to the single player campaign. Even games that are traditionally single player now have online multiplayer modes. This isn’t to say that single player games are going out of style, but they certainly aren’t the focus.
This trend has allowed the gaming community to come together and strengthen as a whole. Yet, it does so while leaving some of us behind. I absolutely, without a doubt, prefer single player games. I know I’m not the only one. The market focus is on the online, multiplayer experience — even local multiplayer has taken a bit of a hit.
What is it about multiplayer games that myself and others don’t find appealing? For me, I enjoy the ability to explore and experience a game on my own terms. I like being able to wander off or goof around without being beholden to another player. I don’t feel the need to compete with others from around the world, or even interact with them. Multiplayer games are about cooperation. They require patience and teamwork, which is something that I lack in games. For players like myself, there just isn’t much a multiplayer game can offer.
This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy playing with other people. In fact, I enjoy it a lot, but in a very different way. My favorite way to play games with others is to have a friend sitting next to me as we play a single player game.
Playing a single player game with friends is a strange concept. Single player games are, by their very nature, meant to be played by one person at a time. However, they can offer a unique, local, multiplayer experience similar to parallel play.
Parallel play is defined as a developmental phenomenon that typically occurs in children around two or three years old. Toddlers will form groups and will each engage in an independent activity. Often times, the activity that each child chooses is similar, but they won’t have any influence on each other. This is an important stage of development for young children. They learn basic social skills by observing each other’s actions. However, children aren’t the only ones that engage in parallel play — adults can too. College students in study groups, people exercising at the gym, or gamers playing in arcades are all forms of parallel play.
Playing a single player game with my friends is similar to parallel play. Typically, we would take turns playing the game. I first started doing this with my sibling when we were kids. We’d play The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time together. We would pass the controller every twenty minutes or so. If one of us got stuck, the other could take a crack at it. It allowed us to play to our strengths and pick sections we knew we were good at. Or, if we were feeling brave, we’d attempt something we knew we were bad at. If we ended biting off more than we could chew, the other would come in for the rescue. It added a kind of heart pounding excitement as we scrambled to pass the controller fast enough to avoid the next attack.
The other way we go about tackling single player games is by having only one of us play the game. Many of my friends simply enjoy watching me play, just as I enjoy watching them. This is typically best suited for when one person can’t play a particular game very well. The person watching can still experience the game without having the frustration of constantly failing. Or better yet, laughing as their friend fails. The spectator can interact through commentary, pointing out an easy to miss secret, or even warning the player of an impending danger.
There is something nice about having another person in the room with you as you play a video game. It’s why arcades are still so popular in Japan. It is a low pressure way of bonding through a common interest. For some, just having the presence of another person is enough. This kind of shared experience can’t be replicated online.
I know I’m not the only one who enjoys playing games in this manner. However, it’s not for everyone. If you don’t have the right mindset or aren’t with the right people, it can get very boring, very quickly. Still, it would be nice to see a game that catered to this kind of play style.
What are your thoughts on this issue? Let us know in the comments below.