When I started gaming, it was pre-internet days. The only multiplayer I knew was sitting side by side with my brother wired up to a console and both of us starring at a tiny television, and this is back when televisions weren’t flat. Couch co-op was the foundation of my early video gaming experience and always holds a dear place in my heart.
When I first started gaming, I started on the Sega Megadrive/Genesis, playing Golden Axe and Mortal Kombat with my brother, super simple gaming but I absolutely loved every minute of it, even if I was terrible in comparison. This then evolved into games like Halo/Call of Duty/Gears of War, which allowed two of us to play both the campaign at the same time and go head-to-head in online multiplayer.
Then came the change, games like Buzz!, the PlayStation trivia game which got my whole family involved. This led to us fighting against each other about who had the best trivia knowledge in the family. This was the beginning of co-op games that really allowed those that weren’t necessarily gamers to get involved.
The introduction of PlayLink on PlayStation allowed for players to play with their mobile phones, so when my grandparents came to visit, they were able to join in, without being left out due to limited controllers or confusion with controllers. Games such as Knowledge is Power and That’s You allowed the whole family to get involved.
As I’ve grown-up, I’ve noticed more and more games that would often have couch co-op modes, slowly moving away from this system and leaning more heavily on online multiplayer. Whether people not playing couch co-op as much, and hence the market not being there, or whether it becomes too difficulty to run these high-level games in co-op (which takes a lot more horsepower) playing a factor remains a mystery.
A favourite co-op game of mine have been the LEGO video games. These quirky and fun games are enjoyable for any age, adaptable popular movies such as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings into silly but entertaining games. The drop in/out feature allows for more flexible game play without hindering your coop partners experience.
Companies like Hazelight Studios have purely focused on these only co-op games and their head Josef Fares, discusses their passion for these which resonates with my own passion for couch co-op. Hazelight reintroduced us to the couch co-op experience, through A Way Out, and It Takes Two. These brought back my memories of working together with a friend or family member to solve tasks and progress together to the same goal. The free game pass also was a genius idea to play with your friend online, without both of you having to purchase the game, and during time like this (Global Pandemic) allows us to stay connected when far apart.
For me playing together creates a more immersive atmosphere, even though we play team games like CSGO, we still enjoy going to LAN events/parties because we enjoy each other’s atmosphere and bounce of each other’s emotions, celebrate each other’s victories, and gloat amongst our friends. Playing games like Crash Team Racing or Mario Kart, I often find myself winning the race, and filled with glee, only to discover that I’m looking at the wrong screen and I am actually driving into the wall, but that doesn’t matter because I’m surrounded by good company and can have a laugh.
The change of multiplayer and Covid-19 has made it hard to continue with couch co-op but I hope it doesn’t remove it from our futures