Online and Back Again: The Changing Pace of Multiplayer Gaming

To many of us, the golden age of video games was during the ’90s and early 2000s. During this era, multiplayer gaming had only one real avenue: playing in person. Friendships were made and tested this way, forged in the fire on the battlefields of GoldenEye and Street Fighter as we absorbed the best of what digital entertainment had to offer. Of course, nothing lasts forever, and with the popularisation of the internet following the new millennium, everything began to change.

The Internet Generations

When gaming first went online in pop culture, the advantages were too great to ignore. All of sudden we were no longer held back by weather, travel time, illness, or the thousand other little complications that could get in the way of multiplayer gaming. Right from our computers or consoles we could jump online, chat with friends, and play with groups far larger than what could be reasonably organized in person.

This move fascinated an entire generation, pushed by the development of console online with Xbox Live and easier connectivity on PC through systems like Steam. Players no longer had to be tech-wizards to play together on the net, they no longer needed prohibitively expensive connections, and so the online gaming world exploded.

Going Home

For years, we enjoyed this new online development, but beneath the surface, there were changes that not everyone loved. As developers and publishers increasingly involved themselves with offering multiplayer online, they simultaneously moved away from split-screen and couch co-op. Over time, fewer and fewer games let players in the same room enjoy games together, and over time, this would hurt us more and more.

As convenient as playing online is, and as great as it can be, it’s not the same as being next to another player. The proximal banter, the friendliness, the sharing in victories and defeats, these were aspects that were all diminished or eliminated by online connectivity. Eventually, we feared this pattern would be permanent, but there was light in the darkness.

There are games and industries that understand the importance of being close to the people we play with. The tech world is filled with many such examples, with one of the standouts being found in the landscape of online bingo games. As we all know, bingo has traditionally been loved in person, but like gaming, online availability reshaped how it was played.

The difference here was that online games like bingo UK never forgot their roots. While they performed well in bringing titles like Rainbow Riches and Wacky Wave to the online realm, they also worked to facilitate in-person play between friends. The ease of accessibility over mobiles was the key feature here, allowing multiple users to easily find and connect to the same room, bringing back the community fun that acted as bingo’s foremost cornerstone.

Eventually, video games would begin to appreciate this ideal more and more, as the last generation made serious strives to get us back into local play. Split-screen games like Borderlands and shared screen titles like Unravel didn’t just add token options, they performed amazingly well in local environments. With games like these, slowly, attitudes have begun to shift, bringing us back to the world we came from.

While it’s true that some mainstream series are too far gone to consider a shift back into older styles of local play, many others are bucking the online trend. With the new generation of consoles on our shelves, we have to appreciate the effort put in by developers to bring couch gaming back to the masses. It might not be as common as it once was, but finally, the future of this form of engagement is looking bright.