Returning to the couch, for better or worse

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There appears to be a movement to return gaming to where it started, the couch. Many successful games over the last year or so have done away with online multiplayer in favor of local multiplayer only. For society I think this is great, for me, it sucks.

To be fair, my console gaming time is virtually non-existent thanks to a new baby in the house, which is easily the best excuse not to play video games. However, even before my family grew in size and I was gaming daily, I was playing online in games big and small…Call of Duty, Forza, Street Fighter…many of those live and die by multiplayer.

Responsibility kills

As a 30-something gamer with limited time, online is the only way to play with people. Inviting friends over on a whim isn’t an option. When I was in college or high school, that wasn’t a problem. What else were we doing? You could call up three buds and within the half hour you’d be battling it out in front of the same TV. We’d play all night and go home happy, ready to play again the next day. Now that I’m out of that demographic, I’m finding the call to return to local multiplayer a harder pill to swallow.

Local multiplayer

Battleground

Don’t get me wrong, I love playing face-to-face with people. It creates a better game and more memorable experience. And personally, I play better when there is an audience. The days of shoulder-to-shoulder in the arcade and something I want back…just like the days of tangled cords, sitting in front of the Playstation were awesome. The yelling, the passing of controllers, the cheers, the pizza…just general friendship thrived under those conditions. Playing online with friends (or strangers) just doesn’t offer that type of experience.

But at the same time, I can’t afford that type of experience anymore. Games like Nidhogg, Towerfall and Killer Queen might be great games that require you to crowd around the TV, and that’s great, but that requires a lot of effort now. To assemble a crew of friends to play local now becomes an event in and of itself. Someone has to offer their house, then find a time that works, then make sure they have enough controllers…it’s just quite the effort. When those game nights happen they’re wonderful and memorable but they’re just too rare. Plus in some ways when you plan weeks out for a game night to accommodate everyone, the whole things needs to live up to expectations that just might not happen (with no one person at fault).

Local gaming is great and I’m happy to see it getting some traction with games not giving in to the pressures of online multiplayer. People need to have that experience, whether they be young or old. We can’t have stories of gaming face-to-face be ones told only by grandparents. Yet, at the same time I’m not sure how to overcome the realities of growing up to afford that experience.

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Brian is a staff writer at TMA. He races Hot Wheels at RedlineDerby.com while watching cartoons with his kid. You can follow @morningtoast on Twitter.

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