Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
Real Horror Games Don't Need Co-op

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 26 Feb 2013 16:00
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My position is that any aspect of the linear plot saved exclusively for the players of multiplayer mode would be wasted on them. And I don't say that because people who play multiplayer are more likely to be ignorant shits who can't pay attention, although that may frequently be the case; it would have been wasted on me, too, if I'd played the co-op. Because I know what I always do when I'm playing a game with someone and a cutscene starts - I immediately turn to my colleague and chat about something. Because that's what you do in a social situation. Right? I admit I'm kinda new to them. There's a reason why they have to turn the volume up and the lights down when you go to the cinema, because when you have lots of people in close proximity you can only make them concentrate by pinning them to their seats with noise and spectacle.

I can give the recent example of playing Aliens: Colonial Marines co-op with a friend (review coming very soon!), and at one moment when two female NPCs were having an argument, I tried to get a laugh by positioning myself between them and going "LOOK I'M HAVING A THREESOME" because there were precious few other ways I was going to get any entertainment out of it. But the next day, when I was continuing the campaign in single player from where the last co-op session ended, I suddenly didn't know what was going on because I hadn't been paying attention. I also didn't care, and now never would.

Multiplayer has its own way of doing story. Valve have the best examples, as is so often the case, with Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead. The characters have distinct personalities, they converse and interact and clash, but the actual plot - as in, the sequence of events - is organically left to the players. It's more of an environment for story rather than a story itself. Cutscenes, arcs and beginning-middle-ends, these should be left to those in a position to concentrate and immerse themselves in them. Immersion isn't going to happen when there's some other gobshite there constantly reminding you what level of reality you exist on.

Let me reiterate an old point I made: that the videogame should consider the written novel to be its closest peer in the world of storytelling media. Both require a certain amount of participation from the person perceiving it and a certain amount of expertise, in reading or cover-based shooting respectively. And you'll notice that books have never considered innovating their medium by designing books to be read simultaneously by someone sitting behind you, occasionally making snarky remarks about the grammar. Do not even get me started on the Playstation 4's dedicated fucking "Share" button. Because I'm at the end of this column now and I need to save up my ranty juice for that one.

Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn't talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.

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