With the advent of online functions on game systems, we as gamers have seen a distinct change in the priorities of game design. This presents new problems on the concept of games and new understandings about gamers in general.
As the proliferation of online gameplay spread outward from its death match and capture the flag origins on the home computer, the complexity and depth of multiplayer also increased. From the advent of Battlefield to the success of Halo, multiplayer has become increasingly varied and widespread across the medium.
It has also become incredibly generic.
Multiplayer games started out as just a fun add on to a larger single player game on the web. It took the basic gameplay and resources of the full single player experience and restructured them into a competition-based sub game. And that was the extent of it, a sub game.
However, as the popularity of multiplayer exploded, some games split their multiplayer from their single player games. Creating fully developed, separate, distinct products. Half Life had Death Match, later followed by Team fortress and Counterstrike. Unreal had Tournament. Quake had Quake 3. And so on. While many games still followed the online multiplayer sub game system of development, the new multi/single player schism provided gamers with a wide breadth of options and entertainment. During this period we also saw the birth of new, non-competitive forms of multiplayer in the forms of Co-op and Massive Multiplayer games.
Context and meaning are given in the integrated online component. When online is activated, you see ghosts wandering around fighting their own battles. You realize that it is other players in their dimension and own reality. Its like the game is experiencing quantum fluctuation from one state (you the player) to another (another player) and you only are experiencing this timeline or dimension because you are simply observing it. Whatever happens across the thin veil of reality is only a faint ghost to you. You realize that your not the only one trapped in the game. Eventually you realize how players can interact with eachother. By sending notes, jumping into other people’s realities (to help or kill them), and even simply playing the game which changes the balance of light and dark forces depending on how you play, which in turn changes how the whole area will play. It is interaction without interaction and truly one of a kind.
These games can show that both multiplayer and how gamers can interact can change for the better and simply exist without overshadowing singleplayer. Its time that we put down the deathmatch, world of warcraft and call of duty class based team battles and demand something that is beyond our understanding of how a game is played with others. If effortless integration or juxtaposition of both players without direct interaction is needed, so be it.
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