Sometimes in the gaming world today I hear people lamenting the demise of the single-player game. When MMOs were rocketing toward their peak, many gamers were crying out that they wanted things to go back to the way they were, to the single-player games they knew and loved.
I feel like I’m crazy since I don’t remember it the way they do.
Gaming has always been a social activity for me and those I know, the new age just brought the circle to a digital space. I remember playing Final Fantasy 7 in my basement when I was a teenager, it was a single-player game but I was never alone. My friends were there watching and cheering me on. My brother was looking up the guide on how to keep Aeris from getting (spoiler) shishkabob’d. Spoiler again, the internet lied and no, you couldn’t save Aeris with an intricate button sequence while simultaneously hopping on one leg and reciting the alphabet backward.
I remember sitting in the dark at a sleepover, watching a friend play through Resident Evil, screaming as those god damned zombie dogs jump through the window in the hallway.
Gaming has always been social. I may not have always had a controller in my hands but I’ve been a part of many ‘single-player’ games. I think that’s why playing a single-player game these days makes me feel so restless. As you get older you don’t have sleepovers anymore, you don’t hang out with your friends a couple nights a week, working on homework together and sneaking in some Turok. You’re sitting at your desk or on your couch alone, exploring a world and story by yourself.
Witcher 3 and Skyrim both came out in my adult life and I know they’re fantastic games. I know they’re extremely engaging. Hell, I’ve put a hundred hours in to each, minimum. But there’s an element missing. There’s no social aspect anymore. I can’t turn to my friend and say “Did you see that?!”
Now it truly is a single-player game, and it’s no fun.
I believe that’s why MMOs became so popular. Every player is playing their own single-player game with their friends again. Sharing those cool moments all over again. They may not be on the couch with you, sitting in the dark as zombies try to eat your face, but they are there for you and you’re there for them.
Your friends now take a much more active role as you play through your hero’s story. They’re no longer reading the strategy guide out to you as Kratos takes his righteous vengeance out on the gods. They’re there beside you in-game, a mutually single-player experience.
With MMOs and, to a lesser extent, the social hubs of XBox Live and Playstation Network the social aspect made a roaring comeback. You get to re-live the glory days of single-player gaming with your friends.