The living room fell silent, the coffee maker drops only one cup of coffee, and gaming friends are just a voice in headphones or avatar on the screen. A few years ago, something happened in the game industry. Games that could be played on a shared screen with a friend disappeared.
I bought the PlayStation 3 because it was something that I could play with friends. Multiple games could be played co-operatively on the same couch. Games like Army of Two, Rainbox Six Vegas, and Need For Speeds gathered people over. Missions felt much easier to accomplish when working in collaboration. Split-screen was the reason I ever got a second controller. Then came the eighth generation of consoles. Now the second controllers’ only job is to be there if the first controllers’ battery runs out.
After new generation consoles came out, there have been fewer and fewer couch co-operative games. Even racing games have given up on split-screen mode. Multiplayer has also superseded good stories. Story mode seems to be less important than multiplayer, and some gamers say that they don’t even try the story mode. The story is more like a feature than the actual beef of the game.
The game industry developed a compromise. Online co-op is close to playing couch co-op. I can speak through microphones, complete missions with friends, and actually, see their avatar running in-game. But something is missing. It just doesn’t feel the same.
Multiplayer requires high-speed internet and PlayStation also charges a fee for online gaming. Zack Millsap’s article on CBR.com says that multiplayer made split-screen mode obsolete, and gamers no longer have to wait for their friends to get off from school or work. Couch co-op will probably vanish in a few years.
There are also new types of games that have no story at all, like battle royals. Call of Duty Warzone is at its best when playing in a squad full of friends. Strategic negotiations and disputes are handled through a microphone.
Though, the possibility to play online games with friends has saved many nights during this COVID-19 pandemic. Through multiplayer players can also meet people that they wouldn’t otherwise meet.
Luckily, some game developers just can’t give up the split-screen. Sports games still must be two, three, or even four-player games. NFL, UFC, and NHL are still shareable entertainment that can be enjoyed on the same couch.
I think console gaming has gone back to the time when PC’s were carried to a LAN party. Everyone playing the game needs their own copy of the game and to feel the actual couch co-operative experience, players must carry their gaming equipment to one place. Even though a screen shared with four incredibly small pieces were not the most enjoyable way to play video games, I still miss the days I could share the gaming experience from the same couch. There is another reason for saving old consoles.
Picture credit by the author.
Zack Millasp: Why couch co-op games are dying out: https://www.cbr.com/couch-co-op-video-games-dying-out/
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