If you break a video game down to its core, you could say it falls into either the single player or multiplayer category. Single player games can provide great gameplay and entertaining stories, however, multiplayer games provide everything I look for when I game.
By the end of a single player game, the story you have experienced and have been told is the same story that everyone else has experienced and has been told. Everyone killed the giant monster to save the world, everyone witnessed the death of character X (in most cases) and everyone else saw the same ending as you (in most cases). You may have travelled through the story in a slightly different way, but, ultimately, your experience was extremely similar to your neighbour’s. This is not true for multiplayer games.
In a multiplayer game, such as Battlefield 3 for example, every time you play you experience a different, unique story and turn of events. Sure, in the end, you see one of two endings- win or lose- but the way you get there will almost always be completely different to every other player in the game. Only you slowly forced your way through the enemy forces to capture a crucial objective while your ammo was nearly depleted; only you held out from a last minute push by the enemy team in a zerg of vehicles; only you jumped out of your jet and blew up a jet chasing you before jumping back in your jet- well, this guy did. The stories created from a multiplayer session are unique to one gamer, and one gamer only, no one else can tell the same story. The stories experienced in games are unique to gaming, and that is what is so great about video games. However, being able to create my own stories of triumph or failure that only have meaning to me makes gaming a deeper personal, rewarding and fun experience.
*Warning, some parts NSFW*
Co-op games bring a social aspect to gaming. Multiplayer means multiple players, right? Well how is anything not better with friends? Multiplayer games allow gamers to unite on one couch, under one roof, or in one server to interact, have fun and enjoy the wonder that is gaming. I am the kind of person who asks the “what if?” or “wouldn’t it?” questions. The world of Tamriel is big and gorgeous and I enjoy exploring it, but wouldn’t it be better with more people? What if there were two protagonists and not just one lonely guy/ girl? Skyrim is a great game- an amazing game even- but the experience and enjoyment attained from Skyrim could definitely be at least doubled if there were two people causing mischief in the one world. Moreover, while the single player aspect of Portal 2 was fun and challenging, I found the co-op section to be much more enjoyable and rewarding. Two heads are better than one, but not so effective when the puzzles require lots of standing around, staring and laughing about how in the world the two of you are going to work out the puzzle looming ahead. Co-op experiences, in my opinion, make for a richer gaming experience than going solo because they allow new, unique experiences to be created that would not be possible with one person.
Having grown up with the Internet for much of my young life, I am used to being connected to my friends and family. The idea of being always connected and being able to share an experience with someone is a key factor for why I play video games.
The social aspect of multiplayer games is not just limited to friends and family, though. With the Internet, gamers from all over the world are able to play games with each other. Even if no attempt at voice or text based communication is made, every player knows that they have to find ways to co-operate with each other in order for everyone to have success. This feature is most obvious in MMOs. MMOs feature massive battles where it is nearly impossible for one or two people to survive. A whole group of players must join forces to overcome and overpower the obstacle threatening progression. So when everyone knows this, and a large group of people all defeat one enemy, there is a large sense of a unified community present. That is what we, as gamers, are. We are a community. We all share a common interest and we all hope to see the video game industry strive. There is nothing more showing of this than a community of players in a multiplayer game who unify to achieve a common goal. That is why multiplayer gaming is my go to choice, because the level of social interaction present in multiplayer games is not found in single player games.
Working together is fun, but we, as humans, like to compete; it is in our nature. Athletes want to come first, employees want that bonus at work, chefs want to be the best in the business, and video games give us a means to compete for virtual bragging rights. The notion of multiplayer gaming often involves a clash between two teams to see who is the best. Who is the best driver? Who is the best shooter? Who can solve puzzles the fastest? A lot of gamers want to be the best and want to be able to say they are the best, that’s what multiplayer games allows us to do. Some single player games allow leaderboard chasing too, but beating someone in the virtual flesh is ten times more rewarding than beating a number on a leaderboard. Moreover, the joy acquired from claiming victory over a real opponent brings many more benefits than beating an AI. For instance, being able to rub your win in your opponent’s face- constantly. Human players are much more unpredictable and more fun can be found playing against a human opponent rather than an AI opponent because you know you are besting someone with a brain, not a programmed code.
When gamers are trying to outsmart a real opponent, they unintentionally try to stretch and bend the mechanics of the game. In a single player game, you utilise the gameplay elements to help you succeed because that is how the game was made to be played. This does not apply in multiplayer games- unless you want to lose. The desire to win forces gamers to search for more creative ways of utilising a game’s mechanics. This keeps every participant alert and constantly experimenting to find something unique that no one else knows about to gain an advantage. Gamers even try to push the limits of what a sandbox game like Minecraft can do. Intricate death traps are created by utilising Minecraft’s mechanics to the fullest, and we are fuelled by a will to find new and interesting ways to trick our friends to a humorous demise. The fulfilment of our natural desire to compete makes multiplayer games my first pick when playing video games. The level of unpredictability and skill of other players allows you to improve the way you play, while at the same time witnessing some truly incredible moments which are not possible in a world populated by artificial intelligence.
Everyone has different preferences when it comes to the types of video games they play. Some prefer a solid single player narrative and a world they can explore for hours, while others, like me, find that multiplayer games tick all the boxes on the “why I game” list. With the next generation of gaming hastily arriving, it looks like the grounds between single player and multiplayer experiences are going to be blurred. It is an interesting direction to take and one I am looking quite forward too. For now, it is great that we have an industry that can cater for everyone, regardless of their preferences.
This is just one man’s opinion about multiplayer games. What do you prefer, single player or multiplayer? Participate in our poll, and sound off in the comments below!