Thursday, March 7, 2013

Move Over: Couch Gamers are here, and they're bored

I'd like to write this week about cooperative games, which I've had quite a bit of experience with due to me being at the beach for a week, with my friends, an Xbox 360, and no Internet connection.

One of the most frustrating parts of the latest waves of games is the lack of co-operative play. Splitting games with your friends has become less and less an option, with most games; Far Cry 3, Batman: Arkham City, Tomb Raider, all having little to no multiplayer components. Even Dead Space 3, where you lost content due to not playing with another person, wouldn't allow you to play the game split screen.

For Dead Space, this was a peculiar problem. The game, whose predecessors thrived on cultivating a feeling of isolation, felt exhausting playing by yourself. You grew incredibly tired of having reasons for Isaac to be separated from the rest of the group. I played through the game just craving for Isaac to be able to talk to somebody and not have to face the insanity of necro-morphs alone. But perhaps by saying that I'm condemning myself against Dead Space fans.

One of the games who did this very well recently was Castle Crashers. A game with a solid single player and an incredibly effective supplementary multiplayer was possibly the best purchase I've ever made on my Xbox. I have other multiplayer games; Halo, Geometry Wars 2, Monday Night Combat, but none of them have the staying power and the appeal of Castle Crashers. The controls are obvious enough that even people that don't play video games can pick it up, you can drop people in and out easily, and the art style and humor is easily accessible. Castle Crashers is one of the best purchases I've made on my Xbox, if not the best.

The decline of couch culture video games is one that depresses me, though I can see the cause of it. As video games diverge into hardcore gamers and casual gamers, and the diamond in the gem diagram of those two shrinks, casual gaming platforms such as Kinect and the Wii dive deeper and deeper into the niche of party games, while groups of gamer friends have to scoop up more than $100 if they want to play Dead Space together.

I can appreciate the quality of games that focus solely on their single player campaign, and I don't want it to sound like I think that all releases should have a split screen or multiplayer component - quite the opposite. I'm simply trying to point out that the market for multiple couch gamers is alive and well, and game companies would do well to notice things like that. Features such as DLC or microtransactions go down a lot easier if you're splitting it with a friend(s).

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go prove to my friends that the Red Castle Crasher Knight is the best. Lightning OP.

News Editor
John Schwartz

Picture Source: The Gamer's Wife


  1. Interesting piece and more social gaming is something that I hope is addressed with next-gen. Split screen has been tarred with the 'last-gen' brush and I get the impression that many devs see it as outdated now we're all online... truth is every now and again you have friends over and want to play this way. Online coop could be used as an extended demo in the next gen with Gaikai streaming; if your friend owns the game you can join selected coop only missions (the like of which are seen in Dead Space 3 and Far Cry 3), however trophies, multiplayer and full game coop could be restricted to game owners?!

  2. I get what you're say but there are still games that cater for the same couch brigade. I can think if three great 4 great examples Rayman Origins & LBP games I played with my non-gaming girlfriend. Killzone 3 story I played with a friend. Also generally sports games like FIFA allow for up to 7 players at once.
    Games do tend to foster a more competitive side for couch gaming ie CoD 4 player split screen or Beat em ups.
    Interesting read.