System Lords

System Lords
The Husband & Wife Videogame Super Team

Chuck Wendig | 8 Feb 2011 12:16
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It's the kind of multiplayer I really love, because it makes me love her all the more.
The great thing is that some games facilitate this kind of play as part of their mechanics. I don't mean "husband-and-wife" play (which sounds like some gross Kinect Kama Sutra game, which you know somebody is developing somewhere), I just mean the kind of play that allows a bunch of people in a room to play on a single screen.

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Super Mario Galaxy, for instance, lets one person play an additional Star Pointer in Co-Star Mode - your partner can then collect stars and even shoot them at enemies and can also grab hold of enemies so they don't move. It's a simple mechanic, but one that elevates the game and makes local multiplayer all the more intimate and engaging (though imperfect). The Halo games have owned split-screen first-person-shooting for a good while now. And certainly you have Rock Band or Guitar Hero (our band was, if I recall, the "Meedly-Meedly's"), plus all the crazy play-together games born of the Wii Remote, the Sony Move, or the Kinect.

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For the record, I don't actually mean that anybody not playing games in this mode is somehow "doing it wrong." All I'm suggesting is that videogames have become an unusually isolationist affair. It wasn't always this way: Anybody remember being crowded around a Mortal Kombat machine? Taking turns and egging each other on, yelling out combo moves? Remember Contra, or Double Dragon?

Try to get back to that. Bring someone else into the room with you. Does your husband or wife not understand why you spend so much time playing videogames? Find games they like. That they respond to. Share the controller. Share the thought space and the thinking behind the game itself, talk about the stories, the experience - share it in the same way you might share a great movie or a piece of pie (or, alternately, cake and sex-bacon). Bring friends and family to the couch, in front of the screen. We needn't play these games like ogres in a cave, watching lonely shadows on the wall.

This is our normal mode of play, now: Whether she's helping me find snipers in Modern Warfare or answer the unknowable moral conundrums found in Fallout: New Vegas, videogame time is no longer something we do in isolation.

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As a postscript, the wife and I recently discovered that our Husband and Wife Videogame Super Team will no longer be merely a duo - we will soon be accepting a third member into our household, thus turning our duet into a bonafide trio (and if you include our dogs, a full-scale Justice League of Videogame Ass-Kickery). Now, if only we could figure out a way to get a controller into our inevitable infant's hands.

Duct tape, you figure?

Chuck Wendig is a novelist, a screenwriter, and a freelance penmonkey. He's written too much. He should probably stop. Give him a wide berth, as he might be drunk and untrustworthy. He currently lives in the wilds of Pennsyltucky with a wonderful wife and two very stupid dogs. He is represented by Stacia Decker of the Donald Maass Literary Agency. You can find him at his website, www.terribleminds.com.

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