No one can deny that video games are an ingrained and popular part of our culture. They have traveled from the realm of scientists playing with their underpowered and oversized computers to the living and dorm rooms of most young men and women across the country. No part of the video game industry has grown as powerfully or as fast as the multiplayer portion. Perhaps you’re familiar with what’s available, but I’m here to share all the natural flavors of the multiplayer experience.
I suppose the highest level of multiplayer distinction would be the difference between Online Multiplayer versus Couch Multiplayer. Couch Multiplayer is the oldest video game form of multiplayer, where all of the players are in the same room playing on the same console, either on the same screen, on a split screen, or taking turns. While this has always been fun and continues to show up in such games as Injustice: Gods Among Us and the Mario Party series the multiplayer portion of gaming has moved away from this and onto the information super highway. With the advent of online play, the size of game matches as well as variety of players has skyrocketed. These days, games such as Socom and Call of Duty have you playing against individuals from as far as Germany and Australia in matches from 2 to 64 players. It is worth noting that there is a step in between the same screen and the super highway, and that is LAN party. Even today, gamers with custom computers or the original Xbox gather in computer centers, basements, or entire houses and create their own private network in which to play their games with their friends, without letting the internet butt in.
The most obvious form of multiplayer is competitive. Who doesn’t love some healthy competition among friends? The most popular of these games these days has to be the Call of Duty series, but it is far from the only one. Third person shooters such as the Halo Series and more unique competitive games such as the Assassin’s Creed Series have groups of players connecting to games and competing for kills, points, captured bases, and destroyed targets to find out who is #1.
Team games have been a staple of video games for the longest time. Team Fortress is far from the first team competitive game, but it is one of the most endearing. In recent years team cooperative play has become a staple of the genre with games like the wildly entertaining Borderlands series and the recently released and critically acclaimed Destiny. These games focus almost entirely on working as a team, playing through the story and completing insurmountable tasks. Evolve has even taken this idea and turned it into a team competitive game once more, by pitting several players on a team against one player playing as a difficult and overpowered monster.
Online gaming would not be completely covered without at least mentioning friend-based gaming. These are games from companies like Zynga (Farmville, Mafia Wars, and Castleville) or Pogo Games. This type of gaming includes a heavy reliance on gathering friends and completing quests or missions. In addition there are games that are just better to play with friends like Uno and Scrabble online or even card and casino games like you might find here.
Finally, we cannot ignore the Massively Multiplayer Online gaming community. The hugely successful and enduring World of Warcraft places millions of players in a large sandbox of a world complete with single player quests, potential competitive player versus player, and Raids pitting groups of 40 players or more against different series of bosses. MMOs are really the all-encompassing multiplayer experience.
I feel that I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that multiplayer has come full circle in at least one game: Hitman: Absolution. This form of multiplayer has gamers playing through a level free form, creating your challenges at the best speed you can, and then giving other players online a turn to try and beat you. Feels just like trying to beat my best friends at Super Mario Bros.
No matter how you like to play, there seems to be a multiplayer aspect for just about anyone.