Video game enthusiasts should consider returning to a more collaborative gaming experience.
Gaming is not an anti-social hobby, so don’t make it one. Obviously not all games can be played with friends, but the perception of games as a force of isolation upsets me. I’ve forged friendships through games. The Super Smash Bros. series is one of my favorite of all time because it brought my friends and I together with our favorite characters and a great combat system. Competition among friends is something I enjoy, but cooperation is an aspect of multiplayer games I feel goes overlooked.
I recently started playing Helldivers (Developed by Arrowhead Game Studios) with the guys in my house. Helldivers seems like a typical top-down-twin-stick-shooter. While playing alone, the game was mainly a glorified game of asteroids, challenging but not necessarily rewarding or fulfilling. After playing with three other people, we quickly realized that the real game was communicating effectively amongst ourselves and the alien enemies that attacked us in waves were mere obstacles. Helldivers is meant to be played in a platoon of four people. That being said, friendly fire is active so almost anything you do could end up killing a teammate. Friendly fire killed us more than the aliens did, but that was the fun of it.
When playing alone, games come down to reading and reacting. Most games have enemies with some kind of tell, an audio or visual cue that tells the player what to do/when to do it (i.e a boss raising its sword to tell you it will attack in a downward strike). Games like Dark Souls challenge the player to read and react faster than the enemy can as the protagonist travels through a dangerous landscape. They are difficult, but fair. As long as you put in the proper inputs, you stay standing while the enemy falls.
In Helldivers, that’s not exactly the case. Sure you can read and react to the A.I. enemies on screen because over time, you learn how they move and how they attack. People can play through classic platformers like Mario, Mega Man, and Sonic with their eyes closed because they know the map layout, enemy placement and the timing they’ll need to complete levels. It is the same every time. Predictable.
Now add the human element of surprise. No longer predictable.
Having other people not only adds to the element of the unknown, but it personalizes the experience. I love Destiny 2, but I’d rather take on the Cabal with my friends than alone. A hype moment in a campaign is great, but having everyone in the living room standing and screaming while they try to survive a challenging wave of enemies is an experience unparalleled. It’s not just a “good game” at that point. It’s an experience you create with people.
Every Smash Bros. game comes with the option to play against CPU characters, but would anyone really play if their friend couldn’t plug in a controller?
Segaro “Bo” Bozart is a third-year IMC major who always beats his friends at Smash Bros. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.