Back in August, I asked readers how they feel about games that are comprised solely of online multiplayer. For this week’s VGU Reader Discussion, I’d like to open the conversation up a bit and probe your opinions on multiplayer in general. Including a multiplayer mode can be a great way for developers to prolong the lasting appeal and popularity of a given game and new innovations in multiplayer help to both keep fans interested and bring new fans into the fold. But the inclusion of multiplayer isn’t without its share of controversies and setbacks.
Agency Through Identity
If I were to boil down why multiplayer in games appeals to me into one answer, it might actually surprise you. Getting to play with other people and fool around with new multiplayer-centric gameplay systems is all well and good, but for me, the true appeal lies in the way multiplayer allows me to facilitate my agency as a player.
In many games, the multiplayer portion allows the player to step away from the main characters of the game in question and instead inject a bit of their own identity into the fold. Getting to create or at least customize my own multiplayer avatars helps me feel immersed in the game’s world and narrative. Not to say I *don’t* feel immersed when playing as a pre-established single-player protagonist (I certainly do), but when a game allows me to have direct control over the exact kind of character I get to play, that sort of agency offers a different yet no less vital sort of immersion. Consequently, it probably shouldn’t surprise readers that RPG’s happen to be one of my favorite game genres.
The “Unnecessary” Argument
History has shown that one surefire way for a normally single-player-focused game or game series to stir up controversy before it’s even released is to add in a multiplayer mode. Mass Effect 3, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Grand Theft Auto IV (and V), God of War: Ascension, Tomb Raider, and even the upcoming Batman: Arkham Origins, these and other games have all come under scrutiny at one point or another simply for including multiplayer-focused game modes.
The decision to include multiplayer in a game that’s best known for its single-player gameplay and/or narrative is often met with resistance and derision from the gaming community at large who often claim that the inclusion of multiplayer will take away precious resources from the game’s single-player elements (which is kind of a weak argument when you consider the single-player and multiplayer components of a given game are often created by different teams of developers).
As is the case any other time a developer decides to inject a new element into their game, the inclusion of multiplayer sometimes hits the mark (Mass Effect 3’s co-op-focused multiplayer mode being an excellent example) and other times comes up short (Tomb Raider’s multiplayer comes to mind here). Personally, I feel the fun new innovations multiplayer brings to the table far outweigh the risks of wasted potential and those who decry ever adding multiplayer to normally single-player-driven games are just shooting themselves in the foot.
So what do you think loyal VGU readers? Have you found the multiplayer components of games like God of War: Ascension and Mass Effect 3 to be overall pleasant experiences? Or do you feel they’re just unnecessary distractions that rob the single-player story of its magic? Do you want to see developers continue to explore the possibilities of multiplayer? Or are you perfectly content with a game’s solo single-player outings? Sound off on this week’s VGU Reader Discussion in the comments below and remember to hit us up on Facebook, Twitter, and Raptr.