Tag Archives: social gaming

Play Together

Easily the highlight of my time playing Destiny was Vault of Glass. It’s a raid, that is a really difficult mission that requires serious teamwork and a pretty major time investment. It took work to even find a group to play with: I play on the PS4 and didn’t know anyone else who played Destiny. So I had to the internet to find a group who wanted to run Vault of Glass and were okay with bringing someone along who hadn’t done it before (me).

It took us around five hours.

Destiny’s raids are notoriously Big Deals. There are enemies to fight you won’t find anywhere else in the game, some fights necessitate really specific strategies to get through, and the final boss is really, really hard. It’s also the most fun thing in the game. The five others and I were all mic’d up, coming up with plans on the fly and, y’know, teamworking our way through it. Lots of calling out plans, asking for help (or telling the other to not help us as it was a lot cause), and so on. There was also a great deal of banter; complimenting each other’s work and comparing gear. Part of the fun was certainly the challenge of it, but much of it came from the camaraderie of spending that much time working together.

Teamwork is an aspect of multiplayer games that often gets downplayed in favor of competition. A game like Battlefront II isn’t so much about working as a cohesive unit as it is about beating the other faction and, ideally, playing the objective. Super Smash Bros. is all about beating each other up. There’s a bit of a reason for this; pitting human players against other human players allows for more complex games. There are things that AI is simply not good at doing in games, whether it’s balancing objective completion with combat or the on-the-fly countering that Smash lends itself to. It’s one reason why I gravitate towards games like Lovers In A Dangerous Spacetime or Overcooked; yes, I love on-the-couch multiplayer, but I also enjoy having to figure out how to work together to do something.

Overcooked is frustratingly hectic, as everyone’s running around the virtual kitchen trying to serve up orders while not falling off the iceberg the kitchen happens to be on (or dealing with ghosts moving kitchenware about, or not letting rats steal your ingredients). Maybe this means assigning people roles or just constantly yelling about what needs doing and all, but most times we’ve managed to get all three stars on a particularly hard challenge was when we somehow started to really gel as a team.

My brother’s been playing Destiny since the game came out in 2014. But since he had an XBox, we couldn’t play together as there’s no cross-platform multiplayer. Courtesy of a recent sale, though, he picked up his own PS4 and with it, of course Destiny. Because now, after four years, he and I can finally play the game together.

And it’s like Vault of Glass all over. Granted, he’s still early on in the game and I’m piggybacking along while he gets back in the realm of where he was on his old account, but there’s still those elements of teamwork (“Let me know when your Super’s charged and we’ll tag-team them”) and plenty of banter — I’ve lost count of the amount of times one of us has yelled “Yoink!” into the mic upon stealing the other’s kill.

Destiny, despite all its narrative foibles, is a really fun game. One of my biggest disappointments is how, up to now, I’ve essentially been playing it alone. Now that I’m not, I’m reminded of how much darn fun the game is — especially when sharing it with another person. It’s an annoying amount of hoops to have to jump through, but now that I’m here, yeah, it’s pretty great.

Which means I’ll have to grab Destiny 2 at some point in the future to continue these adventures.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Antisocial Gaming

My brother recently got Titanfall which means that I got to go a few rounds at it. That game is fun. It’s also unique in that there’s no traditional single player mode; the only way to play is competitive online multiplayer. It makes sense. There are plenty of games out there where the single player campaign is often passed over in favor of the far more popular multiplayer. But here’s the thing aboutTitanfall: only one person can play per console. If you want to play with a friend, they’ll need their own copy of the game and their own console and tv to play.

What strikes me as odd is how opposed this is to what gaming used to be. When video games first went mainstream with Pong back in the ‘70s, the arcade cabinet was designed so that when people were playing it they’d be forced to be almost shoulder to shoulder. In this brave new world of digital gaming there would still be interaction with other people. Sure, single player games against AIs were there too, but there was always the option to play a game with someone.

I’ve always loved playing video games with someone else. Sometimes this would mean scrambling to find my cable so I could battle that kid’s Pokémon team with my own. I have many fond memories of hours spent playing Crash Team Racing and Bomberman Party Edition while growing up. Heck, we even found ways to make single player games in the Mega Man series multiplayer by taking turns every game over/level.

In recent years this could be four of us yelling and taunting each other while playing Fifa or the hilarity that inevitably ensues when playing Super Smash Bros at four in the morning. Then there are the hours spent playing Halo in one form or another, or running around Lego New York with a friend in LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. Sure, these games can be played alone and you don’t necessarily even need to be in the same room as someone else to play with them, but there’s something special about sitting on the couch and playing against or with those around you. There’s a shared enjoyment for the comedy of what can play out on screen, or even the simple knowledge that someone saw that awesome move you just pulled.

Social-on-the-couch-with-your-friends-gaming probably hit its peak with Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Those games let you live out your rockstar fantasies and were that much more fun when you have some friends playing members of your band. You could play on your own, and it was still fun, but the experience was enhanced by having people with you. These games were designed around sociality. By having the controllers be plastic instruments rather than tapping buttons on a gamepad, players were encouraged to really immerse themselves not only in the game, but in the fantasy of being in a band on stage. And c’mon, if you’re gonna play a cover of “Livin’ On A Prayer” you can’t do it alone.

But as those plastic controllers have gotten dustier it seems that less and less games are aiming for that on-the-couch interaction. No, not all games need to have local multiplayer. Some do very well without it: The Last Of Us’ incredible atmosphere works best when it’s only one person using the television. But even then, when racing games with local multiplayer are becoming less and less common, it’s worrisome.

Don’t get me wrong, I think some of the stuff that’s happening in games is great. Titanfall making the campaign a competitive multiplayer is a cool idea and Destiny’s amalgamation of the FPS and MMO genres is not only unique but a hell of a lot of fun. Destiny in particular fosters a sense of togetherness by letting you team up with other Guardians roaming the wastes. It’s fun, especially if players have other friends with the same game and console. I just want there to always be games for those of us on the couch.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized