Tag-Team Gaming

The intense popularity and ever-growing userbase of Xbox Live is surely evidence that online play has become a staple in the lives of many gamers, and furthermore, is a clear indicator that multiplayer gaming is a driving force in the future direction of the gaming industry, as a whole.

With every new generation of consoles, new opportunities have been made available for multiple users to enjoy software together. First, there were two controllers, then split-screen play, then four controllers, LAN play, internet, ad-hoc net, SEVEN controllers… Multiplayer gaming has certainly been on the rise, but has something been forgotten along the way?

Cooperative play. Even in the midst of this online multiplayer explosion, there are very few co-op games. Most of the multiplayer emphasis is put on deathmatches and the like – competitive play. While it is true that in many of these games, players operate as part of a team in order to defeat their opponents, the traditional “story mode” co-op has become a rare treasure. By this, I refer to the ability to play through the main storyline portion of the game with more than one player, old-school style.

Back in the NES era, if a game had a multiplayer option, it was very often a cooperative effort. Games like Contra and TMNT 2 spring to mind, the arcade influence shining through in these early game styles. Playing video games “with a friend” was just that – two players, playing at the same time, working together. Strategies could be generated on-the-fly, and players could always watch each others’ backs. Co-op play is real teamwork.

Alternatively, there is the noncompetitive, turn-taking style, most notably found in Super Mario Bros games. Although it doesn’t allow for simultaneous play, it still encourages a feeling of partnership between the players as they work together to clear level after level. Again, this is a style of multiplayer gameplay that has decreased in frequency over the years.

It’s really unfortunate that the trend has been away from co-op and toward competition, because much of the time there is a sizable gap between the skill levels of players. This is incongruous with many other types of games (sports excluded), which usually require only slight amounts of skill, with much of the outcome left to chance. The “luck of the draw” is a key part of card games, and dice rolls dictate a huge percentage of board game results.

In video games, one player – I’ll call him the “killer” – is usually significantly better at the game than the other – the “victim”. Sitting down for a little deathmatch with a friend can become an exercise in frustration for both parties. The killer can become bored with the paltry challenge, while the victim simply wants to quit because they keep dying. I’ve experienced this scenario many times, especially back in my days of Goldeneye GODHOOD. ;-) It’s not fun to have your friends quit the game after a few rounds.

A cooperative game doesn’t suffer the same fate because the two players work together to accomplish common goals, with the better player picking up the slack for the less skilled. Unless they are pure @$$holes, it’s all good, and the game is fun.

Cooperative play is a great way to get non-gamers converted over to OUR side, as well. It becomes a much less daunting task for these newbies when they know that there is a “pro” on their side. “We can play on the same team?!” is a common reaction when a co-op game is introduced to them. Now they are interested. Want your girlfriend to play video games with you? Start with co-op.

One of the most recent games to feature a good story mode co-op option is Gears of War for the Xbox 360. This game has sold over 4 million copies already – 3 million in just 10 weeks. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s just about 43,000 copies per day, on average. Granted, the game is rock-solid, but I’m sure the co-op play didn’t hurt that number. Allowing for team play in a game that already presents a great solo experience (not to mention putting that same co-op mode online) is just icing on the cake, and a huge draw to a community that wets its pants whenever co-op is mentioned in an upcoming release.

Isn’t it obvious yet? Gamers and game critics alike get excited at the mere mention of cooperative play, so let’s see some more of them. Games of other types are almost universally multiplayer affairs, so why should this medium be any different. Video games just seem to be more fun when played together.


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Myspace
  • Google Buzz
  • Reddit
  • Stumnleupon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Technorati
Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

Leave A Response

You must be logged in to post a comment.