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Dangerous Gaming Trends: Multiplayer

Playing with friends has been a part of videogames since the beginning; whether it was co-op, competitive, or even passing the controller back and forth. Regardless of what you preferred, the option has been around. At times it was viewed purely as a bonus – a treat from the developer to go alongside the single player campaign. In other instances it came across as a last minute add-on. Either way, the motives behind each approach were the same: they’re gonna give the people what they want.

Years ago before gaming had really caught on with the mainstream crowd, gamers weren’t necessarily known for their outgoing nature. Gaming wasn’t something people associated with parties, or social events. Now, it’s hard to go to a gathering of any kind without seeing someone dig out their plastic guitar or pull out their Wii-motes.

Some of my favorite multiplayer memories always stem from 4-player split screen games from years ago. I’m talking GoldenEye, Mario Kart 64, Twisted Metal 2, Worms Armageddon and so on. The games that got your friends all over in one place to sit around and have a blast.

Once online multiplayer really caught on with console gamers, everything seemed to change. The sense of community grew, but the sense of togetherness seemed to fade away. The memories of sitting in a living room with a bunch of friends, a pizza guy knocking on the door, pop cans scattered about have all but been replaced by the image of one person sitting in a dark bedroom with a headset on. X Box Live brought multiplayer to the masses and for better or worse changed things forever. But you can’t argue with numbers; the people still love it.

What I want to look at more closely in this article is more so the dangers of multiplayer. What happens when originality disappears? When that sense of freshness is gone, and we’re left with the dull and the uncreative? With anything in life, the more popular something is, the more you see it, the more desensitized you become to it, and therefore the more boring it eventually becomes.

Call me old fashioned but for me, gaming will always be first and foremost a single player affair. I see multiplayer for the most part as an addition to prolong and extend a game’s appeal. But for me, the main dish is the single player. But now, with almost every game offering some sort of multiplayer component, it’s hard to stand out. And that’s the problem.

I feel like too many developers are feeling pressured to include some sort of multiplayer component to their game, be it cooperative or adversarial. What this equates to is not only a weak addition into the online world, but one that feels tacked on, poorly thought out, and forced. Or even worse, routine. The worst part is that it also takes away time for the developers to focus on the single player experience, so in the end you’re left with two portions of a game, neither of them shining through as they could have or should have been. Either that or the focus and work goes into one component over the other, and lately multiplayer seems to be taking precedence.

My qualm is that more and more, it seems like multiplayer is quickly becoming the preferred way to play. Which wouldn’t be bad if it evolved or changed, and didn’t distract from the main story. But all I’m seeing is release after release of the same thing over and over again, while the single player portion is slowly being pushed to the side.

I feel like developers should begin to keep making solid single player games, and if the game benefits from multiplayer then include it. But rather than release a sequel out the door a year later knowing that it can slack on the single player and crank out a few more maps and charge another full priced packaged, they should begin selling multiplayer upgrades throughout the franchise’s lifespan. Not only would this retain the integrity of the franchise, but would be easier on the developer, and cost friendly for the consumer.

For example, you would see a Call of Duty title released, with single player, and multiplayer components in tact. From there, they could keep supporting just the multiplayer portion through major DLC packs, or even physical retail packages but at half the cost. They could slow down and focus on single player stories and release those stand alone, spaced out more reasonably, and maybe include everything that has been released during the 2 or 3 years since the first initial release.

I’m just sick and almost depressed at how quickly gamers continue to buy the same thing over and over again. How many times is deathmatch going to seem new and appealing? How many other franchises do we really need to see include deathmatch? Do I really need Big Daddy’s, Nathan Drakes, and a handful of army dudes all doing the same thing? When it boils down to it, we keep paying full price for the same product, when all it really is, is an over priced map pack, with (sometimes) slightly improved visuals.

Now I know I represent only the equation that prefers single player first, and multiplayer second, but even those who are multiplayer crazy; how much longer can you be sold the same contents? And I’m not saying every game that includes multiplayer does this, there’s plenty of games that include strong components in both single player and online. But the threat is looming, and I see it more and more. From Condemned, and Bioshock, to Bad Company, and many more. I’m craving originality, like the grossly under-appreciated Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow multiplayer.

This is something I feel the videogame industry needs to change and revamp. Things are growing stale, and I want something else. With casual games taking over, and multiplayer raging on, I’m finding it tougher and tougher to satisfy my gaming hunger. I think critics should stop lowering scores when games don’t include multiplayer, and we need to see some fresh/original ideas hit the market soon.

What do you think? Is the multiplayer aspect to gaming stale to you, or are you still in love with it?

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  • Great article and is exactly how I feel towards multiplayer. They need to re-invent some new game modes instead of deathmatch.

    • Pharsyde99

      I 100% agree with you. I feel as if too many developers are pushing the same mutiplayer into any game. I personaly enjoy co-op over anything else. And I’m not just talking about network play either but split screen co-op (i loved army of 2 and gears of war for this very reason).

      I know all too well why you called out the COD games in your article. COD4 was a great game and had a solid single player game as well as great multi-player (all be it the same as other but still fun) but then you get COD-MW2 and you have a decent single player game but very short and the same multi-player with better skins and new maps. It made me a little mad to have blown $60 on a game that I didn’t really care to play multi-player too much.

  • mediaphile

    Exactly how many competitive modes of gaming do you think there are?

    Take a look at, for example, sports. How many different types of sports games are there? You have one on one (e.g., tennis), free for all (e.g., golf), and team (the vast majority of sports). These are the only possible fair ways of competing against other people.

    What else could their possibly be?

  • Mike

    While it’s a nice proposal, your idea is a bit far-fetched; more of a fantasy of how developers should be making games and I think you’re losing sight of what gaming developers actually look to do by releasing games. Profit. It’s a business after all. And sure, it would be nice if EA and InfinityWard focused on providing top notch, quality single player campaigns that lasted more than 4 hours, in fact it would be awesome, but they know that by giving their market a strong multiplayer aspect to latch onto, they are going to be able to increase their profits by making sure that more people are still playing their game – a la Modern Warfare 2, Battlefield Bad Company etc etc.
    An alternative to this I think is quickly releasing sequels to a franchise with a strong single player aspect, like for example, with Splinter Cell. I think that the problem with this though is how long can a publisher keep this up? Ubisoft released three splinter cell games that were pretty much exactly identical in gameplay, but with different story lines, and to a point I think they were successful (although some people didn’t like Chaos Theory or Pandora Tomorrow, whatever) but then they tried something innovative with Double Agent, and their fans disliked the change.

    So, I mean really, you have to look at the bigger picture. Gaming companies don’t just release games because they’re interested in providing top quality campaigns with immersive gameplay. They make and develop games because they’re all looking for the most profit they can get out of it. And this is done partly by appealing to the largest market of gamers and/or non gamers they can. And so you end up with games like Modern Warfare 2 where InfinityWard have pumped out a pathetically short (but action packed) single player of about 8 hours, and then put a large focus on their multiplayer aspect. And you only need to look at the amount of exposure, and the amount of people still playing MW2 online to realise they’ve been pretty successful in their approach. Same with the Battlefield line, mediocre single player with a strong multiplayer focus.

    Also, I agree with what mediaphile has said, how do you provide innovation on competing with other people? It’s pretty set in stone, the whole deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag etc type gameplays that are around for multiplayer games. I see your point with Pandora Tomorrow’s MP though, that was the shit 😀 Haha

    Peace.

  • Can’t tell ya. :D

    I do partially agree with this, even though multiplayer is a great addition. I mean even though most multiplayer’s are very similar, I do believe that a large effort is put into the main story. What I find quite enjoyable is some of those older games with a multiplayer campaign. Although if you’ve played the new Assassins Creed Brotherhood’s multiplayer, it’s really enjoyable. The only bad thing is now I can’t play multiplayer because the community is so immature that they must cuss 172 times every 2 minutes. But the cool thing about online multiplayer is that you always get a new and interesting experience.

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