As lots of people will be writing on the subject of co- op gaming and I thrive on the need to be seen as original I decided to come at this topic from a slightly different angle. I started thinking about some of the best times I had playing games with friends and a few murky memories surfaced of some of my favourite moments produced when we created our rules and game types. Sometimes out of necessity such as not having enough controllers or all wanting to play the latest game but it being only single player. Not sure what I’m getting at? Let me throw some examples you’re way and if you catch them we can high five.
The classic example I’m sure most people are used to is playing single player but taking goes and turns. Passing the controller every time you die and letting someone else have a go.This form of gaming was oft called upon in my youngest years as multiple controllers were but a hazy dream. You got one controller and were happy with it.
My friend and I once did this with a game called Body Harvest, an open world game made by the creators of Grand Theft Auto. In this game you ran around, shot massive aliens and could jump in numerous different vehicles, including cars, boats and planes. We saw the planes as holy grails. Big flying holy grails. Movement on foot was difficult, with constant alien attack and flying in an open world was just not something we experienced before. Together we spent all night battling our way into an army base, where we had spied some planes. At 3 in the morning we eventually got our greasy little mitts on the hallowed technology. I was playing and had cleared the base, jumped in the plane and taken off, finally realising our shared dream. My friend asked to have a go with the plane, being a fair sort I thought it only fair but advised him not to crash into the nearby mountains. Like some kind of horribly derivative sitcom the first thing he did was try to fly between two peaks, clip both the wings and blow the plane up. This left us in the middle of a lava field. I grabbed the controller declared that only my skill could get us out of this mess, found a boat and crashed it into some lava.
My point here is that its not always the games constructed to be enjoyed co-op that are the most fun with friends. Even those that are can be improved with player enforced rule changes. Another example (lots of stories from my childhood here, we did go outside sometimes too) is when I had enough friends to play 4 player Virtua Tennis on the Dreamcast. Having a console with as many excellent arcade games as the Dreamcast seems a pipe dream now, as does having four friends. Anyway, not having four actual controllers we substituted controllers 3 and 4 for the Dreamcast fishing rod controller and light gun. The motion sensors in the fishing rod acting as the “a” button or simple hit. Essentially we had invented the Wii years before Nintendo. Lucky for them I’m not the suing type. Plus I’m pretty sure lots of other people had the idea as well…….. and I have no money
Sometimes even the need for co- operation is created by the organically. When playing four player Age of Empires, it soon became obvious one of our group actually knew what he was doing and was easily slaughtering us all. A truce was quickly formed between the rest of us for the next game. Our combined civilizations would prove a more formidable enemy. Having seen tales of my gaming prowess up to now I’m sure you can imagine what happened. When my society were still hitting each other round the head with clubs in a naive attempt to understand what their function was, our mutual enemy rode in on chariots and wiped us all out again before we could even join our forces.
Thinking of these examples has made me realise how much competitive multiplayer has taken over my game playing habits and while I do massively enjoy these games they tend to punish stupidity and enforce the rules rather than let you treat them fluidly. Being punished for stupidity does not favour me. I literally cannot tell you how many times I have thrown a flash grenade into a wall rather than over it in Call of Duty. This drop in friendly gaming partly due to increased distance between me and my friends and also the reduction of co-op in modern games. A sad trend I think is beginning to see a reversal. Also the loss of fishing rod controllers.
Whenever I have friends over and we are looking to fill some time we turn to FIFA, passing the controller from loser to loser, or playing the most recent WWE game in my collection. We always play hell in a cell and the point is not to win but to get on top and try and throw each other off and through it. This is when I’m reminded most of the beauty of four men sat in a room jabbing at each other, laughing like morons at the sight of four virtual wrestlers unable to move due to too many falls from a great height.
A well crafted multiplayer co-op or competitive game is a beautiful sight but some of my most memorable gaming moments come from those organically produced games you invented yourself within games. Not to get too soppy but its the people you play with not the games themselves.