Couch Co-op: A Past-Pastime in an Online World
I remember the days of spending hours playing Goldeneye on Nintendo 64. Nothing was more infuriating or exciting as the split screen face-off where you and three of your friends hunted each other down. And this may be amazing to many new generation gamers: we had to always be in the same room to play! There was no online world. There were just four people eating junk food and plotting how to kill each other. The world of gaming co-op is much different today, and completely offline co-op games are becoming a thing of the past. It does not seem to be a lack of interests on gamers’ part, but more of a push for online gaming from gaming industries.
For those not familiar with the various terms of multiplayer gaming, there are different types of multiplayer modes: co-op, competitive, massive, and general two-player. Co-op is the abbreviation for “cooperative”, as in cooperative or group gaming in which players can work together in teams to reach a common goal. It is also sometimes referred to as local (or couch) co-op or online co-op. Co-op lets players share a playing screen, or they may use a split screen mode where each player has an independent view. Competitive multiplayer is when players challenge each other in combat or activities (such as in Goldeneye mentioned above). A massive multiplayer is a game played online simultaneously with numerous other gamers like World of Warcraft. A general two-player mode is when players take turns playing the game, usually with different characters, such as the numerous games in the Super Mario Brothers franchise.
Offline co-op was not just a game option of early arcade games and many console games of the 1990s. Cooperative play was first available as simultaneous game play on console as far back as 1979’s Asteroids for Atari. The gaming experience outside of the arcade was amazing enough, but the advancement of simultaneous game play launched copious gaming systems and games. Many games launched on the original Nintendo system were released with 2 player modes. Others, like the original Super Mario Brothers, were not actually co-op games, but they allowed gamers to share the gaming experience. Titles such as the original Double Dragon introduced more at-home gamers to the cooperative play experience. As consoles advanced, so did the co-op experience. Many games that emerged in the 1990s were of the competitive co-op type, such as Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. With the development of the Xbox, PlayStation, and Wii, numerous co-op and multiplayer games arrived. With advancements in consoles came the advancements in technology as well. Gamers from all over the world are now able to connect to each other. But with this exciting phenomena, the couch co-opers have been left with fewer options every year.
Today, most co-op or multiplayer games are only available with an internet connection, and each participating person has to be using a different console to play. This does, believe it or not, leave out a portion of the gaming community who do not have reliable or any available connection to the online world. This is largely due to lack of broadband or affordable broadband connection in rural or low income areas. This can be frustrating when so many games are marketed for their great online content.
The joy of playing co-op is sharing the gaming adventure in what is normally an isolated activity. It creates camaraderie among players and becomes a social activity. Take any sport for example. Sure shooting hoops by yourself can be relaxing and rewarding on its own, but the competition of the game helps us improve. It involves communication, and seeing your partners’ faces when they face defeat can be deviously rewarding. Co-op gaming is cost effective; there is no need to subscribe to an online service, and both players can use one console. It also creates a “safe” gaming experience for novices or those critical of video games. Some of the “loner” stigma dissipates when we occasionally take part in multiplayer gaming. People of all ages and levels of gaming experience can engage in multiplayer games as an introduction to the exuberance video games have to offer. There are co-op or multiplayer games available for all interests: mild-mannered sports games on Wii to games such as Resident Evil 5 for the more hardcore gamers.
There are a few great offline games available today such as the Left 4 Dead, Borderlands, Portal 2, Halo, and the Call of Duty franchise. But all the features in these games are not entirely accessible without internet access. Be wary when you purchase a game if you are looking for offline co-op. Games such as Dead Island advertise on their box that they are offline co-op, but they actually may only allow you to play when connected to the internet, depending on your console. To check out what co-op features a game offers before you buy, I recommend Co-Optimus. This site allows you to look up games by name, console, or online/offline co-op preference marketed for their online content.
This is not intended to disregard online gaming. There are great benefits to it, such as finding a co-player anytime of the day. There are plenty of exciting challenges in both single player and online multiplayer games. Most gamers probably have fond memories of completing their first game solo. Mine was the original Zelda, and I anxiously awaited future installments of the series to take on. But with new consoles emerging every few years, games that can be played as completely offline co-op games are becoming harder to find. Should all gamers just get with the modern world of gaming technology and accept the inevitability of offline co-op games going extinct? I, for one, hope not. Like me and many “older” gamers out there, I hope there are game creators who cherish the couch play nostalgia just as much.
What do you think? Leave a comment.