I was watching my younger brother play WWE 12
on the 360 before, and I was a bit saddened. He seemed to be having fun, playing with a friend online, doing all sorts of ridiculous gestures while trying to get a pin, yelling in frustration into his headset. As I saw this, I realized that there is a certain magic about co-operative gameplay (competitive gameplay, as well) that is lost over online play. Sure my brother's friend could hear him just fine, but he couldn't see the outrageous, nervous dances he was doing while going for that 3 count. He could not see that moment occur and bask in its glory; smile and laugh at it as it was happening. Thankfully, wrestling games still have local co-op, so we can still share moments like this with our friends while sitting on a couch. This event got me thinking about why I feel that local co-op and competitive gameplay is so superior to their online counterparts.
When Marvel vs Capcom 2
first came to the XBLA, I had the pleasure of playing against one of my cousin's friends at a party out in Long Island. We both enjoyed fighting games and taunting each other about who was better than who. We had a couple of matches with me usually the victor. I was racking up a pretty impressive win ratio when we had a match on the pirate ship that I will never forget. It was heated: we were trading air combos, playing good defense and offense, ribbing one another while a whole room watched, and we were neck and neck until the timer ran out. As it declared my rival the victor, barely beating me with more health than my character, he looked me in the eyes and said, "That was the best match I ever played in Marvel vs Capcom 2
. Thank you." As I shook his hand and congratulated him, I realized I wasn't even mad I lost and ruined my win ratio; I had an epic match with a friend, in front of a supportive crowd. We couldn't get that playing online. The living, breathing environment of a crowd of people, being next to your competitor, seeing each other sweat and calculate each other's moves, the threat of a real, physical fight breaking out based on who was the victor; these are staples of local competitive gaming. We have played Marvel vs Capcom 3
online, and while we had fun and I can appreciate the benefit of being able to play with a friend who lives far away, nothing can compare to that moment I shared with him, together in a room with real, physical human beings.
Resident Evil 5
may suck major goat balls to play alone with a legally declared retarded AI partner, but it is a lot of fun to play with a friend. My brother and I had so much fun playing through Resident Evil 5
together, that we almost disowned each other as relatives after it was completed. By the end of the game, we had heard Wesker say "NATURAL SELECTION" at least 40 times, had died so many times at the hands (tentacles) of our enemy, that we had both been driven insane and hated each other for not hanging on cliffs long enough and not punching through boulders fast enough. The real fun, however, came in the Lost in Nightmares DLC. We were both shocked when we lost our weapons and had to use our wits to defeat the giant, scary monster guy (I know he's called the Guardian of Insanity, but for the purposes of this post, he shall henceforth be called HOLY SHIT, cause that's what we said every time we saw him). Defeating the various HOLY SHITs was quite difficult, and we saw the YOU ARE DEAD screen many times. Usually my brother wouldn't run away from the spike traps fast enough when I set a trap and would get flattened together with HOLY SHIT, which would result in a lot of yelling and screaming and punching. "What are you guys doing up there," we heard mom call from the hallway. "Bonding," I replied. Truer words were never spoken; my brother and I got through Resident Evil 5
and all its DLC together, and our relationship is stronger because of it. It would have been difficult to achieve that level of bonding through online play.
Streets of Rage 2
is widely considered one of the best beat-em-ups of all time, and I had the time of my life playing it with my girlfriend on my Sega Genesis last week. We made it clear that while we were willing to fight through the game together as a team, we were totally trying to get a higher score than each other in each level. Throughout our playthrough together, I heard my beloved call me a "shithead" an abundant amount of times. "Don't you dare go for that treasure," she would tell me as I inched my way towards gold while she dealt with the forces of evil. "Stop stealing all my kills," she would cry as I racked up the points downing another enemy. I'm pretty sure she physically punched me at various points during our adventure. Sadly, she used up all her continues by the next to last level, and my strength wasn't enough to overcome the trials of the final level (literally, since the game still thinks you are in two-player mode and sends 80 enemies per screen after you). But at the end of the day, we had a lot of fun playing in my cramped living room, and I've never loved her more, because I know our relationship can survive a heated playthrough of any game (totes gonna marry her someday secure in this knowledge). If we had played online through XBLA or something, the threat of physical violence would have been lost, and where's the fun in that?
Don't get me wrong, I do like online play. Being able to play with someone, no matter how far the distance, is an amazing technological feat. But I grew up playing Chip 'N' Dale
with my cousin on the NES, and he would always throw me into enemies. I played World of Illusion
and Gunstar Heroes
with my best friend, and he would always shoot that boss with the dice after he threw the fake, exploding gem at us, even though we both knew he would give us the real one if he would just stop pumping him full of lasers. I've seen the laughter and bliss in my friends' and relatives' faces: that is the magic of local co-op and competitive gameplay. Even as games and consoles get more technologically advanced and online play becomes more of the norm, I am hopeful that there will always be games for us players that grew up sitting together on a dusty, old couch.