Entertainment

Critical Moves: multiplayer

Multiplayer. It is one of the main facets of gaming in our current environment. Many of the most popular games in the industry are multiplayer — and for good reason. Games that have multiplayer feed into themselves as more players invite others to try out their game, and thus create a bigger fan base. These games for many are the only games that they play in their free time. I, myself, spend a considerable amount of time playing games such as “DOTA2” and “Dead by Daylight.” However, while I do find that there are many positives to the world of multiplayer games, there are obvious downsides to the push of multiplayer that I am not a fan of: the notion that single player games are dead or should be phased out.

While that sounds absurd nowadays with games like “Sekiro” and “God of War,” let us not forget that even industry figure heads have constantly told the public that single-player games are dead. In 2017, Forbes even ran an article with the title, “Yes, AAA Single-Player Games Are Dying, And That’s Fine.” The article talked about how, at the time, many single player games performed below expectations — which has very little meaning in the video gaming world, since it never seems to have a game that performs within expectations.

While the mentality of single-player games being dead is itself quite long gone, the sister statement of “phased out” is something that I hear often.

While the mentality of single-player games being dead is itself quite long gone, the sister statement of “phased out” is something that I hear often. Amongst my group of peers as well as in conversations online, I have seen people say that many games would be improved if there were multiplayer. While it may make sense for some games to have that mindset, for others obviously not. To simply slap multiplayer into every game imaginable is what has led to things such as “DOOM’s” multiplayer mode — a forgettable snore-fest of an experience that is completely overshadowed by the single player campaign.

That said, I have been told in the past that some of their purchases hinge on the multiplayer aspect of a game. Some people that I have talked to have even said that it doesn’t matter if the game is good or bad if there is multiplayer. They would rather play a bad game together than play a good game alone. That is an extremely unhelpful thing for the industry to hear. If it truly doesn’t matter whether or not the game is good, then why even bother buying new games when there are plenty of multiplayer games that are already liked? This social aspect of a game exists even within single player games, anyway. Conversations about the mechanics of a game exist all over the place, regardless of the number of people that can play the game together.

All that aside, however, there are many aspects to a game that often get neutered due to the nature of the game being multiplayer. That aspect is story.

There are plenty of multiplayer games that have story, yes, but is that ever the main draw of those games? Does anyone playing “Overwatch” seriously engage in the question of why they are there in the first place? Do people in “COD” or “Battlefield” even know where they are fighting? Let’s change genres and see if that helps. There is this game called “Divinity Original Sin 2,” a top-down turn based RPG, that I have played with my friends many times, and which desperately attempts to have a decent story despite multiplayer. And while I have played through the opening of that game maybe 30 times, I can’t for the life of me remember some key aspects of the narrative even in the starting location because my friends are all there being silly and talking to one another. The only time I was able to really get into the game’s narrative was when I played through the story alone. When one plays with a group of friends, are they engaged with the story of the game or immersed in the world? Of course not. Such aspects of a game hinge on one’s investment in the story, something that requires undivided attention. Let me give an example.

There are two games that I have played more of, despite the fact that college and work absorb both my life-force and my free time: “Pulsar: Lost Colony” and “Disco Elysium.” These two games are the exact opposite of one another in more ways than one.

“Pulsar” is a game that I play with my friends and I feel that there is no feasible possibility to enjoy the game any other way. It was built from the ground up to force cooperation amongst five individuals or, in the case of my friends, four and one really stupid bot. The game feels no need to immerse you in their world because of how they built their world. They built it to be explored with other people. They built their game to be multiplayer.

In short, there are benefits to both kinds of games, so to say two-dimensionally that one is better than the other is a shallow and frankly inaccurate thing to say.

“Disco Elysium,” on the other hand, was a game with no multiplayer function and thus had to be experienced alone. With my undivided attention, the story and dialogue of the game grabbed me in a way like no other. I found it very difficult to keep track of time while I played the game. That doesn’t mean I played a lot of it— it simply felt like I just had. In half the time I’ve played “Pulsar,” I enjoyed myself just as much and possibly even more so without the company of others. Some people then might say that I’d probably enjoy the experience even more with someone else. I’ve given that self-imposed question some thought and came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t because of how the game is structured around the life of  the player. Not the life of them if you catch what I mean. I will most likely do a solo review of this game later.

In short, there are benefits to both kinds of games, so to say two-dimensionally that one is better than the other is a shallow and frankly inaccurate thing to say.

Edward Park is a third-year student majoring in English education. EP909756@wcupa.edu

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