Have you heard of Xbox Live? Playstation Network? How about Steam?
If you haven’t heard of any of these, you most likely live under a rock – on the moon – with noise-cancelling earphones on. If you have, you’re like almost every gamer and participate in online gaming. That’s right grandpa, you can play video games with other people through the Internets. The younger generations grew up with this gift. Others experienced multiplayer gaming by gathering all of your friends at the house of whoever had the Nintendo Entertainment System (yes, that means leaving your cave), blowing on the cartridge and taking turns playing Super Mario Bros or Metroid.
Let’s think back to when the NES was released. It was 1985, Reagan was president and the Xbox 360 was 20 years away. This was a time when you could only play video games with a friend, only if you could walk or ride your bike to their house. You were actually friends with the people you played with, which made the gaming experience much more enjoyable. You could then talk about the game during recess at school the next day.
What Early Offline Multiplayer Meant
There are a plethora of restrictions that come with one-console multiplayer gaming. Most of these come from the fact that with one console, there is only one screen. With games where you take turns playing, this is not a problem. For games where all play simultaneously, gamers had to use clever tricks to keep everyone separated. The most popular method is putting an imaginary wall in front of each player. This breaks the immersive experience. The solution to this is split-screen, which is very limited if you have a small screen TV.
Another problem that comes with offline multiplayer is that you can’t have many players. Four was usually the max number, making the newly-created FPS genre basically impossible. This restricts the types of games available with offline multiplayer.
All cons aside, any game is more fun with gamers/friends sitting around you. You can’t celebrate finding the hidden warpzone to world 8 with your controller, and your randomly-chosen opponent in Call of Duty can’t see your victory dance after you tomahawk kill him from halfway across the map. Bottom line, celebrating anything in a video game is much more fun with a friend at your side.
Today’s Multiplayer Experience
Today’s gamers do not have to travel far to celebrate that victory with another player miles away. Whether it’s two blocks or two countries away, you can play with anyone who has a console and an internet connection.
Think back to the last time you played a video game. It probably wasn’t at your friend’s house. And it was almost definitely not at an arcade. If you’re like most gamers, it was on your couch, lights turned down with some form of sustenance to fuel your habit and get to the next level. Online multiplayer is a great innovation in gaming. But the only problem with it is anonymity. With online multiplayer, you don’t know the guy on the other end as John Smith, you know him as XXX_h34d$hotz_XXX. If he’s a complete jerk, you can’t warn you’re friends to stay away from him. Even if you did, it wouldn’t affect him, because there are millions of players to play online with and be a jerk to. Online gaming’s greatest feature is also its biggest flaw.
This is also the same with everything online – from Call of Duty to YouTube comments. No one knows who you are, so you can say and do whatever you want to. Every so often though, you can find friends. The internet is filled with many people to play games with, but it is never as enjoyable as playing with your friends.