I love Rocket League. I love it because it’s a game I can play together with my friends on the same couch on the same TV in the same room. It’s easy to pick up, understand, and begin playing. It’s a blast together. Rocket League inspires camaraderie like the best local multiplayer experiences. However, games like this are becoming rarer and rarer, almost extinct in the AAA sphere. This makes me so sad. I love being able to share gaming experiences with my friends in person much more than via less tangible online multiplayer. But, perhaps there are other gaming experiences that exist to fill this seeming void.
Left 4 Dead 2
Rocket League is the latest game to satisfy my love of local multiplayer, but there hasn’t been another on my PS4 (or the Xbox One) in a long time. The last one I can recall is Towerfall Ascension, which came out over a year ago. The only AAA local multiplayer game on PS4 that I even know of is LittleBigPlanet 3, but that is by no means a new gaming experience. Sure, there are fighting games like Street Fighter, but the barrier to entry to those is so high that it prevents many (including me) from playing. Game publishers and studios have been trending towards online multiplayer for a while now, and we have reached the point where most don’t even consider putting local multiplayer in their games. For me, the nail in the coffin so-to-speak was the announcement that Halo 5, the newest game in a series so loved for its wonderful local multiplayer, wouldn’t have split-screen play.
4 Player Split Screen Play in Halo: Reach
There are good reasons for this trend. Most significantly, local multiplayer is plain hard to do – especially split-screen. Split-screen requires rendering the image twice, which can be a big drain on resources and make it harder to maintain a high frame rate. Another reason online multiplayer is preferable for many publishers because it can function as a sort of DRM to prevent piracy. It also allows studios/publishers to gather information (meta-data) on players to help them design their games. With local multiplayer, if you’re not connected to the internet studios have no way of collecting data from you in regards to balancing, mechanics, and other design elements. All of this makes online multiplayer much more appealing. But something fundamental is lost when you can only play with people online. My favorite times are the days when my friends come over or I go to their place and we have dinner, maybe watch a movie, and play video games together late into the night. I can’t do that without local multiplayer.
Portal 2 Split Screen
Nintendo is the only big player who consistently releases games with local multiplayer, and bless them. They’ve even expanded local multiplayer options with crazy modes like 8-player Smash. I have played literally hundreds of hours of Smash Bros. with my friends. They put local multiplayer into all of their games that make sense to have it and that is the biggest reason I own a Wii U. On the PS4 and Xbox One though, we must now look to indie developers for local multiplayer experiences such as Rocket League, Towerfall Ascension, and Mercenary Kings. Don’t get me wrong, these are great games. There’s just something that I miss about higher fidelity, grand scale co-op games like Halo or Left 4 Dead. But, are there other spaces we can look for these similar experiences?
8-Player Smash Bros. on Wii U
Earlier this year my friends and I began to have board game nights every Friday. It started out as just a few of us, but it grew to the point that at least twenty people are there every week. It helps that we all live on campus at our college. I had enjoyed tabletop gaming beforehand, but now I have a whole new appreciation for it. I have had incredible, captivating, and even emotional experiences with tabletop games. Every week I go out; I play a game I know with good friends; I try out a new game; I join a game with some people I’ve seen around but haven’t had the opportunity to become friends with yet. I have made new friends and gotten closer to ones I already had…just like playing the best local multiplayer games.
Dead of Winter
Tabletop gaming has entered my life and has filled the gap left by the shrinking local multiplayer video game sphere. I miss the times that I had with friends playing Halo’s campaigns on Legendary, fighting the endless waves of zombies in Left 4 Dead, or the insane puzzles of Portal 2. I genuinely hope these make a resurgence someday. However, tabletop games have offered me brand new gaming experiences while giving my friends and me something to bond over.
If you’re looking for recommendations to get into tabletop gaming, I’ve got plenty to offer. The Resistance involves deceiving your friends and trying to find the traitors in an intense (and often stressful), but very simple manner. Cosmic Encounter is a game about space colonization, that never takes itself seriously, and whose rules can change drastically based on the alien race you’re playing as – offering an insane amount of replayablity. Pandemic is a wonderfully challenging co-operative experience about saving the world from a plague. Dead of Winter is brutal zombie apocalypse game where each turn could force you to make a difficult decision with the game’s unique and compelling crossroads system. If any of these sound interesting, I highly suggest you either check out a local tabletop game store or Amazon. You may just fall in love like I did.
What do you think of split-screen gaming? Are you sad at its decline? Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter, @TotallyKyle95! And if you enjoyed this piece stay tuned here, GamesWithFriendsWrites.WordPress.com, for more of my musings and opinions on video games and more! You can also check out my YouTube channel for my Let’s Plays and The Games With Friends Show. Enjoy!