Friday, 19 April 2013

Single Player Games: I long to be alone!

Computer use is an inherently solo activity.  There's a keyboard and a monitor, when you get into a flow then you focus on it to the exclusion of all around you and you can while away hours looking at the screen without realising where the time has gone.  Increasingly a lot of people use headphones to get the best sound quality and this shuts out the outside world even more.  That's pretty solitary.

Computer games and computers in general are however bringing us together...  The increase in services like Skype (which I think is one of the most remarkable free services around) for chatting to your friends or the rise of the social network has been a huge feature of the last few years.  The various networks are doing everything they can to get us to be connected to them in every possible way too.  I have a Kindle Fire, an  iPad, 2 PCs (one at work) and an iPhone - all of them have access to (at the least) these two and more 'services' - I am pretty sure that my xBox can connect to it and I'd be surprised if my TV couldn't as well if I were so inclined!

The rise of the MMO has also been a feature of the recent years.  I began with Everquest and have ventured through a whole stream of them (WoW, SWTOR, TSW, GW2 SWG to name but a few acronyms!)  As games in and of themselves they were varied experiences but the thing that has kept me in any of them has not been the gameplay, it has been the community of people I've played with.  The friends, real life and otherwise have been the life-blood of the game and I've enjoyed playing with them as much (more in some cases) than I've enjoyed the game.  

There are elements of this outside the MMO community - Call of Duty and its ilk all rely on the multiplayer game and my best experiences of the game (which I am pretty bad at) have been when playing with friends in a team.

Social Games Notification'Social Games' has come to mean games played on Facebook or increasingly on mobile phones and are the height of an antisocial experience in many ways.  In my years of gaming I can count the number of 'non-academic' conversations (i.e. conversations not held in regard to research or learning or work) I've had about social games that have not been derogatory.  I should stress here I'm not against social games, but that's something I might write about at a later date.  I have received literal hate e-mail about facebook posting up a Farmville 2 announcement / invitation and have caught myself being embarrassed about playing them in the past.  Almost invariably they are single player games where your only real interaction is in one for of 'gifting' or another, they are almost all a-synchronous and have very little to do with any actual contact with people.

I play a lot of games and often one of the criteria I look for is 'can it be played multiplayer', is it co-operative multiplayer?  is it 'tacked on multiplayer'? I spend many hours playing all sorts of games (see perhaps some of my Games I'm Playing posts) with my friends.  I really enjoy that time and it brings me closer to friends who I can't see as often in the real world as I might want to.

But there is something I miss and it's taken me a long time to get there in this little write up.  The really good single player game.  I remember the days I used to rush home from school or college in anticipation of finding out the next plot twist in Final Fantasy or Baldurs Gate II.  They were brilliant, or perhaps I just remember them fondly.  I've found it hard to recapture this recently, Tomb Raider is almost there, but it's still been overtaken by other things.  Bioshock stands out as being good, I liked the first Dragon Age and Mass Effect II was very good, but of late my desire to 'play a bit longer' has been limited to my multiplayer experiences...

Maybe I'm alone, maybe creating single player experiences is just too expensive.  I can see that argument being a good one - the single player games I've played have been quite short, they need a skill that perhaps isn't needed from multiplayer where emergent game play and fun can come from what your friends do.  Bioshock Infinite is said to be a good example of it, and no doubt I'll pick that up soon, but I do wonder and find myself thinking more and more about the demise of the single player game...

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