In my mind, there is no better experience than sitting down with a group of your closest friends for an intense multiplayer game. Yelling at each other when you accidentally kill another player with a grenade, almost peeing yourself when the last one alive barely dodges a boss’s attack and sharing some high fives when an impossible level is finally beat are just a few examples of what could come in these intimate gameplay sessions. Local Co-op, or “Couch Co-op”, is a play style that countless individuals around the world would regard as a necessary component of video gaming that has greatly influenced not only friendships but their lives as a whole. Sadly, it seems that this aspect of console gaming has been missing throughout the past few years due to the introduction of online play.
I don’t blame game companies for taking this path as there is arguably more work that factors that need to be considered to make the experience work when the screen is being fought over by both players. I honestly love online play and have countless examples of how it enriched my time as a gamer. I’ve done everything from working with a bunch of strangers to complete a soul crushingly difficult level to taking on an entire group on my own because apparently it’s fun to kill the new guy. That said, there is something sad about the more personal interactions that are lost with the decrease of local co-op. While I can name a good number of times I had fun online, the experiences that have more personal value are the ones where I was in the same room with close friends. I would have tears in my eye if Nintendo didn’t make a particularly awesome announcement a few months ago.
For those who didn’t (or can’t) watch the video, Nintendo has introduced a new system dubbed the “Nintendo Switch” that is meant to shake up the gaming industry. The main draw of the console is how it can be both a home and portable experience. But another feature of the “Switch” that draws my attention is the ability of the “Joy-Con” controller to be easily split up for local multiplayer. This not only excites me for the possibility of couch co-op returning, but it appears as though the concept of local co-op will evolve into something better. Imagine a world where you can throw the couch out of couch co-op and play high quality AAA games with anyone regardless of where you are. The possibilities with this…I don’t know, “street co-op”….seem endless.
What makes this different than something like the 3DS is the fact that only one console and game are needed for at least two players to play together anywhere. While specific games have not been announced yet, the gif above provides an good example of the type of fun that can be had without both players dishing out cash for a system. The moving image below, however, shows another aspect of the system’s multiplayer functions that excites me: local CO-co-op (in other words: local four player with two consoles). Though this is similar to the 3DS’ multiplayer function, this local co-op aspect of the Switch system seems to be not just a feature but a full focus for the developers. This idea is further strengthened near the ending of the video where we see teams in a Splatoon tournament practicing with 4 consoles before a tournament. There is no guarantee that couch co-op will catch on again, but if it does, I hope to see a change in priorities in the gaming industry overall. I don’t want every game get the local co-op treatment, especially if the experience isn’t designed for multiplayer, but I do want to see developers better understand the value in it.
Gaming has been, ever since the beginning, a social experience best enjoyed by interacting with others right by your side. The first video game ever, Pong, along with the endless array of arcade games that helped introduce the world to video games proved this to me. I don’t know how the environment will change, all I do know is that the local aspect should always be kept in mind as we move towards newer things. The Nintendo Switch seems to keep that spirit alive by focusing on a design that allows anyone to hop in on a gaming session anywhere. Even with newer VR systems, I see examples of local co-op being utilized in hilariously awesome ways (Example: Star Trek: Bridge Crew). Here’s to a future in gaming where everyone can create new memories with those close by and far away.
Thanks for the read! I’ve been Superguy and you’ve been awesome!