Whilst I'm a fan of some "me time", smashing a single-player game, there's definitely a different type of thrill to be had in sharing gaming with others. Multiplayer has been around for years in various guises, but there has definitely been a shift over the last few years, particularly in the last couple of gaming generations, to focus more on online multiplayer. Steps forward in technology have allowed for people all across the world to join together in their gaming experiences. And it has been widely embraced as a result, so many people worldwide now enjoy a spot of online multiplayer as part of their game time.
But I'm here today to tell you why I prefer my multiplayer a little bit closer to home. Why for me, local multiplayer is king when it comes to group gaming.
Who Are You?
The first, and perhaps most fundamental reason why I prefer local multiplayer is because in my opinion, the best fun you can have is with people who you know. If you're playing against people you know, then that automatically brings a whole host of sub-plots, backgrounds, competitiveness, history and all-round fun that quite simply isn't there when you're going up a against faceless enemy number 2,549. And that's because before even turning on the machine, you're all bringing shared stories to the table, little comedy nuances and points of intrigue that could shape the gaming session.
Will the guy who normally finishes last pull a surprise? Will the habitual rage quitter hold their nerve and stick with it throughout the whole session? What about the new recruit, who doesn't normally play, how will they hold up?
And of course let's not forget what happened the last time we played this!
It's this familiarity with each other that brings excitement and enjoyment to gaming before you've even started and it means that you're more likely to not only go on and have a good time, but ultimately come back for more. It's no surprise then for me that even when I embrace online multiplayer, I find myself doing so not against random other people, but lobbying up with people I either know personally, or have met on internet forums and feel like I've developed a relationship with. It means that whenever I'm playing multiplayer, I'm doing it with people I have a degree of familiarity with, people I know I get on with, and people who I've shared and generated stories and anecdotes with.
Sure it doesn't mean we won't team up and face off against people I've never met, but the focus is very much an "us vs them" - a sort of lesser competitive clan mentality - but ultimately I'm not playing to get one up on someone I have never met, but more to help the guys I do know who are on my team, and have a good time as possible with them whilst I'm doing it.
As such even the online multiplayer I've embraced is a more of a local multiplayer variant, in that it's familiar and not with strangers, and that's what I prefer. For me gaming is about the experience, and that's best enjoyed with people you know, even if you can't see them.
The Look On Your Face
... there is a key component to local multiplayer that trumps even the most familiar people playing together online. And that is getting a group of mates together in one living room huddled around a console, each trying to outperform the other. I defy anyone in gaming to find a more satisfying multiplayer gaming moment than seeing the look on your mates face when you've just scored the winning goal in FIFA in the dying seconds/blue-shelled your mate just before the line and taken victory in Mario Kart /completed a superb strafe-and-shoot move on the guy who's hogging the Golden Gun in Goldeneye / insert your moment here etc etc.
You see, there's just something so gratifying on witnessing the fruits of your victory, something that simply isn't possible with local multiplayer. You can see the impact a victory or a loss has had, and the obligatory banter that ensues afterwards. There's no escaping it in a room full of gamers, and it makes not only the experience during the game even more heated and exciting, but even those moments in between games become just a continuation of the fun as well.
It's why Nintendoland - the Wii U launch title - is such a great local multiplayer game, because despite the fact it wasn't as intuitive and all-encompassing as it's launch title predecessor Wii Sports, what Nintendoland did right was understand this 'look on your face' aspect, and is one of the few Wii U titles to use the gamepad's camera well to show this in game emotion. It's why local multiplayer minigames such as Mario Chase work so well as by showing the player's face on screen in game it forms as a continuation of the local multiplayer plus point. Plus y'know, you can pull funny faces, and that's hilarious too. Ahem.
OK, so we're two points down, and if you're a fan of online multiplayer, you may be sitting here thinking, they're relatively weak arguments (you'd be wrong of course, but I respect your opinion), but now let me ask you something. Think of the greatest multiplayer memory you have. What's the first one that pops into your head? Now be honest, was it an online multiplayer experience against people you've never met, and have no connection with? Or, was it either an online multiplayer moment, where you knew who you were playing with, or a local multiplayer moment where something hilarious / amazing happened?
I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say for the majority of people it was probably the latter, and it's because of the reasons I stated above. My greatest multiplayer moment was watching my friend trying to tackle Korn's Freak On A Leash's rap/grunt style middle section, during a group session on Guitar Hero: World Tour, before the drinking got serious one New Year's Eve. He was hilariously terrible at it, in case you're interested. But the point is, memories are memories for a reason. They are moments that we want to remember because of the times we had and how they made us feel. And as such they are difficult to argue against, when you're thinking of where you have more fun when you're gaming.
Memories are fundamental to us playing and enjoying games, as well as continuing to pursue it as a hobby. If we don't experience enough good moments whilst playing, that we don't remember them, then our enthusiasm for gaming is likely to wane. It's why such memories - likely to be made up from local multiplayer moments, as well as single player achievements - are fundamental to our support of gaming, and as such should be celebrated.
This Is Console Gaming
But in addition to the memories they give us, and reinforce our commitment to the genre, there is an even more fundamental reason why we should back local multiplayer. It is pure and simply the bread and butter of console gaming. Despite the fact that consoles have embraced online multiplayer in the past few years, PCs have always been one step ahead, in terms of capability, offerings and dedicated fanbase. The lifespan of consoles will always put them in second place as PC technology is constantly improving, and whilst the specs aren't what always makes games, with a monitor, keyboard and mouse set up, PCs are set up for online multiplayers whereas with a big tv, and multiple controllers, the console rules for local multiplayer.
So we should embrace what we can do best rather than move away from it. We should get behind what made console gaming great in the first instance and not shy away from the local multiplayer. It's so easy in the age of Call of Duty and Battlefield to think that the be all and end all of console multiplayer is online, and there's obviously a lot of people who enjoy such endeavours. However where consoles can truly shine is through the interactive fun that can only derive from getting some mates around a TV and seeing who has brought their 'A' game today.
So that's why I'm a fan of the local multiplayer. I believe that the best fun you can have with others is when you're sitting right next to people you know well, gently taking the piss out of them, and heckling each other about their performance, living the elation and the disappointment in person. It's where the best gaming memories are likely to come from, and it's also the format that is best suited to console gaming.
But as always, it's not just what I think. What do you think readers, do you appreciate a good local multiplayer, or are you a fan of the region free fun of online? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.