Couch Co-Op: A Dying Breed

“Come on over and let’s complete this campaign.” “Grab a controller and help me decimate this boss.” “Bring some snacks over and we can crawl these dungeons.”

These phrases can be heard as echos of the past through the homes of the 90s and 2000s. A time when the LAN party reigned supreme. The gaming days of yesteryear. A bonding experience between console brothers [or sisters] in arms, celebrating every time a cheer and confetti shot out from a grunts head.

I can think back upon those days and remember the planning that went into one of these sessions over a weekend. Setting out goals to accomplish and complete certain ventures over strict timelines. Retreating to find a spawn point to bring back your fallen couch comrade. While co-op and multiplayer has not gone away completely, the landscape and means has changed vastly.

Today with the day of instant gratification, you can instantly sign online to see your friend playing a game, send an invite or even just join them. No planning, traveling, or snack gathering necessary. While the level of convenience is improved, never worrying about splitting the screen, and debating over who gets to be first player, something still feels lost.

Many current game developers do not even allow for the option of a split screen co-operative mode, in favor of pushing for only online campaigns, open worlds or multiplayer. Even games series that were leaders in couch collaboration, such as Halo, have left split screen on the editor’s cutting room floor. This forces individuals within a house hold to utilize multiple consoles, copies of the games and often online memberships to even play together. Yes I know that there are exceptions to this rule [i.e. Lego games] and ways to share memberships and games within a household, however that is still not readily shared information unless searched in detail online.

Now I feel that I must clarify, I have no ill will or feelings towards this direction of online party games. There are many benefits as I listed above. I absolutely love having a screen fully available to myself . No longer squinting to see aspects of the ill fitted HUD. In fact often my free time can be found exploring these wastelands, fantasy lands, and far reaches of space.

So what is my stance on this issue? It’s simple; Let the players decide. Developers put these modes back into the game. Allow players to once again sit side by side with their friends, family, and significant others to take on hordes of enemies and ride in your warthog towards the sunset.

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