Imagine a world where multiplayer gaming was no longer an option. All you’ve got to choose from is single player games and nothing else. No MMORPG’s, No Online Battle Royale’s, No MOBA’s, Not even local co-op or competitive games. Would you still be as into gaming as you are today? Would gaming suddenly become boring for you and you walk out looking for your next hobby? Or would you adapt to the new norm of gaming and play against computer controlled environments and AI as your opponent?
I know in this day in age everyone would much prefer playing with other human beings to bring in the social aspect of the hobby and is a lot more fun and engaging than playing by yourself. However, when you play alone, you interact with a story, it’s you against the environment, you are your own responsibility to survive and problem solve everything that comes your way. It becomes nobody’s fault but your own if you have a difficult time progressing through the story or clearing a level that is just brutally kicking your ass. I hear too many times where people will complain about the game itself being glitchy, unresponsive, or just downright bad. They don’t take ownership for their mistakes and take a step back and think about an alternative solution to clearing the game. I’ve played many bad games in my days from bad control, bad AI, bad mechanics, and so on. I never look at a game as being “bad”, but rather as a challenge. A challenge to see if you can adapt to the unique awkwardness that the game provides. There’s never been a game that I’ve played or seen that was released and was unplayable or impossible to finish. I can even argue and say Cyberpunk 2077 is a complete game. I know, I know, that’s very sacrilege to say, but given that there’s questionable AI or horrendous graphical rendering, it doesn’t take away from the fact that you can still complete the game in its most basic form. I know it’s very difficult to ignore the fact that cars will magically fly off into space, or people will move very strangely, or even enemies will just stand at a T-pose when they should be chasing you down and shooting at you. Maybe I’m just so used to seeing glitches in games that they’ve become secondary to my enjoyment of the game overall? But I digress, I’m going a bit off-topic here.
When I was a 3 year old child playing his first video games ever I had an older brother who was 13 at the time and we would play games together once in a while on our Sega Master System. During the days while he was at school and I was home, I would be playing games to try and become better than him so I could beat him at whatever game we were playing. Side note here is that we didn’t own fighting games, this was mostly just platforming or action games where you took turns playing whenever you played 2-players. As we got older my brother graduated and moved out of our house and I continued living alone with our parents. My mom offered to play with me, but she was only comfortable with puzzle games. Most of the games I liked were pretty much everything else such as racing, platforming, fighting, RPG’s, action/adventure, etc. I had developed a comfortable enjoyment with playing single player games. I did have friends at school that I would go over to their house and play games with them, and it was fun, but my primary enjoyment was still playing games alone. Even when it came down to 2-player focused games such as fighting games, I would always play against the computer and try to beat the game against the computer. Even throughout college when online gaming started to grow with MMO’s and FPS, I was still purely a single player gamer just simply trying to outplay a computer. It was my alone time, my own personal enjoyment. I guess living in a neighborhood with no kids to play with within walking distance brought me to this level of comfort. Or it could be my level of introversion leading me to just sticking with single player games over multiplayer. It’s not to say I’m against playing multiplayer, but I’d say about 90% of the time I’ll be playing solo. This also extends to MMORPG’s, which I enjoy much like everyone else. You’ll find me as that one solo player doing quests or grinding levels by killing mobs.
I’ve been playing single player games all my life and have adapted the mindset of self-reliance and survival-ability. Its helped me to learn video games through mechanics and optimizing the most effective ways to finish games. A good example of this is with horror games. For most everyone they scare the living daylights out of people, but for some reason do not work as well for me. I can easily just run around a dark environment or building, having absolutely no fear of any monster or ghost that may be hiding in the corners to try and kill me. Jumpscares at most can maybe give me a slight jolt in my heart rate, but often times it won’t be long before I understand how and when they will occur through the mechanics. I guess the easiest way I can explain it is I treat horror games like a FPS. I obviously don’t have a gun to defend myself, but its usually a matter of having a good sense of direction and being aware of any possible hiding spots so if I do happen to trigger a chase with some strange phenomenon I can comfortably turn around and run for any hiding spot I can recall. If I don’t make it, well, I simply die, and that’s that. I accept the defeat and resume playing. When I first started watching videos of other people playing horror games I was very confused. I for sure thought that everyone were just overreacting to the darkness, the possibility of a monster jumping out of a corner to get them. But as time went on I realized the reactions were all real. My only conclusion to these reactions would be that they don’t play horror games that much. But then again, I don’t play many horror games myself either. So my next thought was maybe the idea of being alone with a single player game that has spooky environments. It’s a possibility. I’ve played FPS games like Doom and Quake that had very dark environments and scary monsters so its a good chance that because of my experience with games like those that I carry that experience over to a horror game. But then, so has a lot of other gamers. Maybe the gun makes all the difference?
Multiplayer games are more reliant on other human players if you’re playing a team-based game or joining a party or raid in an MMO. You not only have to rely on your own survival, but also the survival of your teammates. You put your trust in the hands of others to help get the job done, and in half of those cases, these other players are complete strangers. To rely on complete strangers to join up in a team is not entirely my cup of tea. They could be good and resourceful, or terrible and in need of being carried. They could also just be absolutely toxic and talk crap about how you’re playing the game, or how much better they are than you or anyone else on the team. In worst cases they’ll just continuously call you derogatory words or even be sexist towards you regardless of how good or bad you’re playing the game. This is why playing with friends is more preferred. You know through their personality whether or not they can be reliable or if they need a helping hand before you even start a game with them. When it’s strangers you have to be quick to know them in the 30 minutes or less that you are with the people, whether they are good or not. If you’re someone who relies on others to work together as a team to win, it can be frustrating to figure out who’s pulling their weight and who’s lagging behind. If you’re someone like myself who is more self-reliant you can observe who is lagging behind and either pull double the weight or try to aid and protect them when possible. While it’s all good and dandy, your focus is not so much on the game mechanics or optimizing your own personal performance. Your focus is more on your teammates and how well they are performing and noting any errors that they may be making. Human error is more common and random than AI error. Of course that’s all based on how well said AI was programmed into the game. In some cases humans are more reliable than computer AI, but at the same time working with a bad AI will help develop your reliability further.
This is why difficulty settings are available for players to adjust how dumb or smart the computer AI can be. If your new to a game it makes more sense to set the difficulty to a lower setting so you can learn the ins and outs of the environment and how the AI behaves. Once you’ve completed the game or have a pretty good grasp of the mechanics, you can bump the difficulty up and make the AI smarter and express a new set of behaviors that were not present in the easier difficulties. Starting a game on the hardest difficulty is still something I question to this day. It will only end up taking longer to complete the game because you are pretty much stumbling through the game, dying a lot, and making poor choices time and time again, and not learning anything about the AI or its behavior. Maybe people just want to beat the game and be done with it? Maybe they don’t care about learning the ins and outs of the game? This is what’s known as being a reactive learner. It’s like scheduling a major fight on a Friday night. You do no prep work, no training, no studying of your opponent, you just go in on Friday and wing it through. The result may be that you win, but at the cost of your mentality taking a huge toll and being full of stress. Would it be worth it? Maybe, but it really shouldn’t be all that stressful.
Whether it’s a single player game or multiplayer, a lot of people seem to be more reactive nowadays. Back in the earlier days between the early 80’s and early 90’s, gamers were much more proactive. This could be due to hardly any multiplayer, and most of the time they were playing games alone against an AI. They spent many hours learning the behaviors of the AI, its attack patterns, movement, and speed. Its not as easy to do when you’re playing with hundreds and thousands of strangers all with very unique skill sets. This is probably how the transition went from becoming a proactive learner to a reactive learner. It may also be why a lot of gamers get very fearful and filled with anxiety when it comes to horror games because they have no idea what’s going to happen or when it will happen. Their reactive tendencies take over and makes the game that much more stressful than it really ought to be. Then again, being super stressed out over a horror game probably makes it that much more enjoyable, so I guess that’s one exception to the rule.
While I may personally be someone who is self-reliant and responsible for ones own actions, others may find comfort relying on each other and working together as a team to achieve victory over the opposition. Everyone has their preference. If they enjoy an exceedingly difficult single player game, and its what makes the game fun for them, I can understand and respect that. I’m not here to judge anyone’s preference to what they play or how they play. I’m simply just analyzing my observation with the general gaming community over the years of gaming that I’ve personally been through. Of course not everyone grew up with the difficult games of the 80s and 90s, and not everyone has been playing games since they were children. If fun comes from playing multiplayer games with friends and other people around the world, keep on having fun. If you play games on the easiest settings and just want to interact and enjoy the story, keep on doing it. Video games entertain any and all walks of life, and are open for both new gamers and veterans. Whether you prefer single player or multiplayer games, there is always something out there for everyone to enjoy!