I love playing games with friends. There is something about playing a game with someone next to you, or even accross the country, who you are both going towards a common goal (be it against you, or a cooporativly). Some of my most memorable experiences playing have others tightly involved with how my experience was shaped and how the memory was formed.
What does multi-player mean to me? Why should you even care?
Maybe the biggest thing to start off with is history. Does my experience start with my friends Atari 2600 playing Combat? Probably, it’s my first experiences with “deathmatch” style game play. I think that where it really started was with a lot of single player games with the experience shared between many. I can think of so many experiences like this but I’ll only share a couple.
Phantasie III. One of those early role playing games, with stats and monsters and an epic quest you had to complete. RPG’s have traditionaly been a solo experience. One person at the keyboard, who controls the entire party. My friend Spencer and I did what we did with a lot of games. We each created our characters and played. I had input on what I wanted my characters to do, he on his. We’d share loot, we’d decide together where to explore next. I never mattered really who was at the keyboard. We were both playing, we both experienced the game. Part of the fun of the game was defeating it together.
Space Quest 3 was another experience in multiplayer gaming with a single player game. With the old Sierra On-Line adventure games, you had a vast game with so many puzzles and tasks to do that you’d often get stuck. When your two best friends have a copy of the game and are slogging through the same puzzles, and thinking in different ways about them, they make breakthroughs where you might get stuck. It became the topic of discussion for weeks between us. Each of us figuring out a new section and helping or hinting to the others on how to beat it. I remember the night we beat Space Quest III while all of our parents were talking after dinner in the other room. We had played for a couple of months and brought it all together at the end and each watched as the game was beat. Who was actually at the keyboard? Who knows, who cares.
My point is, that from an early age, it didn’t matter if a game was multiplayer. We found ways to enjoy it together. Nowadays, I realized that we were in the minority. I get strange looks from my wife when I tell her about playing a game like that with my friends, or when my sister would watch me play King’s Quest IV. My sister still clearly remembers that game with me, and still remembers some of the puzzles and characters. She never was at the keyboard, but she was part of the game experience.
Playing a game with others doesn’t have have to have everyone with a controller or keyboard. I like that fact. It’s much more rare these days I suppose, but thats more because I’ve grown up and have less free time to kill with my friends doing games, swimming and playing football. I’m thinking more about multi-player games that are meant and are played with more than one person doing the controlling. More on that later.