Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Death of Split-Screen Games?

It's not just you. If the landscape of co-op and multiplayer gaming seems to be changing, you would be correct. For those growing up before online games became a thing (so let's just say before the year 2000), our options on playing with another person required the second, third, or fourth player to be in the same room as you. All with a controller in hand, playing off of one console as you try and fight for the best spot on the floor for a better view of the television. Split-screen gaming has been steadily dying out over the past decade in favor of robust online content and the knowledge that you can play anyone, anywhere, as long as they own that same game, and you can hog the tv screen all to yourself.

For some games this works. Though Halo co-op mode is entertaining, the online portion worked best when you didn't have half a screen to work with.

And for other games, this was a dumb idea. Rock Band for example. Music and dance games don't benefit from an online connection. Part of the fun of these games is watching your friends and family make fools of themselves (just as you do when you flail with the guitar controller). When you go online to try and form a band, the magic of the "group" dynamic is gone. Not to mention you can't hear anything that the other players are doing. Their notes, their singing: this is all removed so all you hear and see are your cords. It only took one time for me to attempt online mode with Rock Band and I never did it again.

This is where Paul Tassi, a contributor on Forbes, is hitting a wall. The change in the gaming scheme is causing us to lose some of the social aspects that we use to love about games. While we're more "social" online, offline, it's a different situation. Tassi's article is more of an ode to the days that once were. Lamenting the fact that a lot of today's games no longer offer split-screen. Even Halo 5 dropped their split screen option. Developers responded to fan concerns saying that the feature is "nontrivial." And when you think about most of the games out there today, that seems like a very apt description. So many games forego the feature. I remember the roar of cheers at PAX South last year when GearBox announced the Borderlands 2 bundle for PS4 and XBox One that it would have a split-screen option for people who want to game in the same room. Why did we all applaud? Because it's so rare to see it!

While there are still Nintendo games that we can look forward to that will appreciate same-room co-op, even that is steadily dying out. Look at Splatoon or the latest Mario iterations. Not to mention all of the controllers you now need to wield just to play a game on the same system. You have the Wii-U, and the Wiimote, and maybe one of the Gamecube controllers...it's now a fight over who gets the better controller (Gamecube, duh).

But maybe this is where gaming is meant to go? The interactive nature of games allows us to communicate with people, even when we're sitting in our bedrooms or living rooms alone. Anyway, the article is worth a read.

However. Rock Band. Next game. Please do not put in an online mode. That was horrible and did not make the game any more fun. It made it less. Keep the bands offline.


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