Monday, January 5, 2009

Farewell to My Wingman: What Co-Op Play Means to Me

This post is dedicated entirely to my brother Evan, who took off on a plane earlier today to spend five months studying abroad in Spain. I'm excited and happy for him, because I know from my own experiences in Japan that studying abroad is a wonderful thing, and I know he'll grow as a person and learn a lot over there. At the same time, I'm sad to see him go, as I'll be without my co-op Wingman for almost half a year. Of course, I'll miss him for a lot more than just video games, but since this is a game-related blog, co-op is the subject to talk about.

The two of us are very different people, with different interests, aptitudes, and personalities, but share common ground in video games, and our love of defeating a common enemy. We've been playing together for as long as I can remember, with a list of completions that includes:
  • Jet Force Gemini (N64)
  • In Dragon Warrior Monsters (GBC) we completed the incredibly long breeding sequence to create Dark Drium, the ultimate monster. Anyone who knows anything about that game should understand how awesome an undertaking that is.
  • Gauntlet: Dark Legacy (Gamecube)
  • Dynasty Warriors 4 (PS2)
  • Halo 1, 2, and 3
  • Gears of War (1 & 2)
  • Rainbow Six Vegas (1 & 2)
  • Unreal Tournament III
  • EDF 2017 (about 5 times)
  • Left 4 Dead
  • Duke Nuke 'Em 3D
I'm sure there's more games that I forgot about, and eventually Crackdown, Army of Two, and Resident Evil 5 will be added to this list. Already, at least 2000 points of my score can be traced directly back to co-op play with my brother, making him the largest individual contributor to my current success. Some of my fondest memories of us include the vanquishing of enemies via co-op, and I'm kind of at a loss on how I'll play while he's gone. Who can I play RE5 with on release? (Don't worry bro, I refuse to tackle the Hardest difficulty with anyone else. I'm saving that achievement for us to mutually annihilate.) My guess is I'm going to have to play more solo games, or learn to enjoy competitive multiplayer.

When you've played with the same co-op partner for years (and probably even more so when you're related to that person) you develop a 6th sense of sorts about what your partner is going to do, and you have a complete understanding of each other's roles. Evan and I barely need to talk anymore to complete games if we don't want to, even on the highest difficulties (we still chat it up 'cause games are more fun that way, of course). He runs for the sniper rile and starts picking off enemies while I practice some close range shock-and-awe. We have our system, and we rock with it.

No trend in the gaming industry do I observe with more happiness than the continuing expansion of co-op play. Where competitive multiplayer has long been dominant, developers are beginning to realize that there are people out there like me who find playing WITH others to be a lot more fun than playing AGAINST others. Some games, like Army of Two or Left 4 Dead, were designed specifically for co-op play, and I hope to see many more games embrace co-op play as time goes on. While there will always be griefers, even in cooperative play, I've found co-op players to be much nicer people, who will work with you to get a mission accomplished. Even in team-based competitive multiplayer, where working as a unit could ensure easy victory, people act like a bunch of mavericks, which has ruined competitive play in Halo 3 (which I wasn't a fan of to begin with), Gears 2, and even Vegas 2. Why people don't communicate in squad-based games is beyond me, and I almost never play multiplayer anymore unless it's with friends.
Perhaps the greatest thing about co-op play is the fact that your opponent is AI, not human. Let's face it, people (and by people, I mean most random people you encounter on Xbox Live) suck. They glitch, they cheat, they quit early, they teabag, they turn Gears of War into a running shotgun fest which was not what the developers intended. They swear, spew forth racist or homophobic garbage, make excessive "your mom" jokes, beat-box, sing, or rap into the mic, are pre-pubescent boys playing M-rated games, and a million other things that annoy and lessen the experience. When playing cooperatively against AI, you know the opposing team is going to play the game the "right" way, and don't have to suffer the annoyances offered by a million idiots. Everyone shares the experience, and walk away satisfied at that shared accomplishment. I've never had a co-op session where players left frustrated or angry, while that happened in almost every competitive session.

With my brother gone, I feel like I'll be cut off from the style of gaming I like most for five months. Sure, I can still chase achievements for all time, but what do I do when I'm sick of that and need to play a different way? I'm going to need to hold auditions for a temporary new Wingman, I think.

I'll conclude my comments on co-op by wishing my bro good luck in Spain. You'll have a blast, I'm sure. Keep me updated about what you're up to. The games will still be here when you get back =)

Dark Drium pic from:
other pics from MGC or xbox360achievements

1 comment:

  1. Wow Dark Drium holy crap.
    I made my way to about half way there I think I had Pizzaro then my game crashed...

    Anyways You guys have a lot of Gamer score and damn a hell of an achievement for DWM.