Just like so many among us, I have been playing video games for most of my life. Growing up with three brothers and a good amount of friends, obviously some multiplayer games came into the mix. I went from getting my butt whooped in Street Fighter II, to playing cooperative in Halo: Combat Evolved, to checking my kill to death ratio every 30 seconds in Call of Duty. As happy as I am with all of those experiences, my memories of Call of Duty lack in comparison to the others because I was sitting along in my room with a headset on.
Jim Carrey’s character from The Cable Guy truly had it right when he said, “The future is now! You can do your shopping at home, or play Mortal Kombat with a friend from Vietnam. There’s no end to the possibilities!” Ok, so maybe his character was a little crazy, but in 1996 he really did predict the future of gaming. But here’s what’s wrong with his statement. You don’t have a friend from Vietnam.
The best part of multiplayer games is either to team up with your buddies to take down the evil alien army trying to take over the galaxy, or go head to head and hold it over someone every time you land that sick ultra combo. Trying to play co-op with a stranger online is probably the most awkward experience for any gamer. If you don’t have a headset, you have to aggressively walk in the direction you want to go in, constantly checking to see if they are following, or you are following them and have no way to tell them if you think you should go a different way. Not to mention you’ll be fighting for every ammo box and health kit along the way. If you do have a headset, it’s pretty much the same thing with more yelling. Arguing about directions and who gets what gun is natural in any co-op game, but it seems more appropriate when it’s done with a friend and not a stranger.
Versing someone online can be just as painful. If you lose, you’re a noob and you should be playing the computer instead of wasting their time and bothering online. If you win, you’re a cheater and their WiFi was acting funny anyways. This is especially true for team matches. Better not have a bad game or else you’ll be ridiculed by both opponents and teammates alike about how much you suck. Once again, all of this normal for a competitive game, but it is just out of place when a stranger across the country is yelling at you with references too inappropriate for this piece.
I know that I could be playing online with friends and not just strangers. I also know I sound like someone who thought he was good at video games before online games ruined his dreams. That’s because I am, but there are reasons beyond my own loss of innocence to prove local multiplayer’s superiority.
Most games that are featured as E-Sports, such as League of Legends, Counter Strike, and Starcraft, all have online capabilities, but the major tournaments are held in single locations and use the Local Area Network (LAN) for everyone to play together. This is because it causes much less lag and all of the games can be shown in higher quality. Microsoft recently tried to host an all online tournament, but it was cancelled due to technical difficulties with the network. Obviously a big reason for hosting tournaments in a single location is also for large crowds and excitement, but that is just another aspect of local multiplayer. Having spectators waiting for their turns who yell and cheer when you beat your friend might as well be a slam dunk at Madison Square Garden.
At the end of the day, online gaming is an amazing feat. It is right up there with the first cooperative play and the first 4-person multiplayer, maybe higher. I do believe, however, it should be used as a substitute for playing localy with friends. When my roommate bought Bungie’s popular title Destiny, he invited a friend over to our place to play it with him. Imagine their confusion when they realized the game did not have any local multiplayer feature.
Video games, as all games, are better when playing with friends and everything actually works. I hope games like Destiny don’t start a trend and have us lose local multiplayer for good.