Multiplayer in games has grown more and more in gaming’s recent years. The general progression from the arcade to the internet has affected how games are not only designed but how we look at games as a whole. But something that has existed since gaming’s early days is the idea of co-operative playing, or co-op for short. Co-op in games has often meant having the “player 2” right next to you in the same room, though this has started to change. Co-op and multiplayer have generally meant the same thing, but now the two are truly merging into one. So is this a bad thing?
I have two brothers, one older and one younger. We all played video games growing up, meaning there were many games we tried to play together, such as Halo or Star Wars Battlefront 2. It was absurdly fun, and probably one of the reasons games are such a big part of my life. Nowadays, I play games almost exclusively on my PC and use online multiplayer for various games. So which is the better experience? Despite the charm of playing games sitting on the couch with my brothers, I would be lying if I said online gaming didn’t make things easier to play with friends across the country. Other than social networking websites such as Facebook, online gaming has been a way for me to stay in touch with friends I wouldn’t be able to easily meet up with in person.
I think that Co-op has still managed to survive in modern games. Some game series, such as Payday or Borderlands only allow for groups of up to 4 players. This keeps things small, and allows for me to play with just friends if I want to. Using apps such as Skype, we can speak to each other directly, and sometimes it’s easy to forget that they’re not in the same room. We’ll make a lobby, get a game going, and play from our computers despite being hundreds of miles apart. Arguably, that is the purpose of co-op and multiplayer. Gaming can still be social even if I’m not on the same couch as the people I’m playing with (there’s also LAN parties, but that’s a whole different beast).
MMORPG’s take things up to the next step. Not only can you play with friends, but the game’s servers throw you into a world populated by dozens of other players. I would say that this is “true multiplayer” compared to the smaller scale co-op. However, my use of the word “true” shouldn’t imply “better” since I actually prefer the smaller co-op games, but games like Planetside 2 (pictured below) or the famous World of Warcraft. I play games like these from time to time, but I always return to the smaller stuff. I’ve found that even in these larger games, guilds and clans allow for players to stick with their friends.
I suppose what I’m trying to get at is multiplayer an co-op are similar, but different. I see multiplayer as the big stuff, that allows for playing with people from all over the world. Co-op is like the little brother that allows you to play with just your friends to get away from the larger crowds. Though I have a preference for online co-op, I will still play that bigger games when I want to.
In the end, this post only scratches the surface. Multiplayer has gone on to become a huge part in forming online communities, as well as lead the way for e-sport games such as Dota 2, League of Legends, or Counter-Strike, all of which can be considered to have both co-op and multiplayer elements. (I didn’t touch upon games and topics such as this, as I think it’d be better to leave that to someone more knowledgeable on the subject. I also didn’t want to ramble on any longer than I needed to.)