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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Aggie Arcade

Local Multi-player Renaissance

Growing up with video games was not a solo affair for me. My brother and I constantly played multi-player games with each other and forged a competitive rivalry. Friends came over to experience the two-controller mayhem. Those were good times.

Along the way video games lost the joy of two or more players in a single room trading laughs and/or insults. Now the industry continues to push online multi-player and it’s an understandable shift. Not everyone has the time to get together in the same room to play games and some people just don’t have enough video game-loving friends in the same area code.

But online multi-player doesn’t replicate the feeling of local multi-player. The distance between players creates a divide that limits the maximum potential for fun. Sure, I’ve had great times playing online with friends — Borderlands and Mass Effect 3 in particular stand out as recent examples. But nothing matches my enthusiasm for a memorable local multi-player session.

Luckily, independent game developers have the freedom to embrace local multi-player without the intense pressure of the online gaming community. Thus, we see games like Nidhogg, Sportsfriends and TowerFall Ascension being released this year. They are three of my favorite games of 2014 and all of them emphasize local multi-player as a key feature. In fact, the latter two have no online modes at all.

The designers understand there’s something special about playing in the same room with friends or family. Competition becomes more intense, players share more laughs and stronger bonds are formed. It really is unlike anything else.

Anyone who reads this column regularly knows my obsessive interest in the Souls series, but Dark Souls II is not my game of the year so far. That honor goes to TowerFall Ascension, because it recaptures the nostalgic joy of local multi-player as a kid.

My brother and I have put many hours into TowerFall, and we’ll continue to do so throughout the year. It’s our go-to game when we want to fight for bragging rights, and the fact that it even exists in 2014 is a wonder.

There are still plenty of people out there who lament the fact that games like TowerFall and Sportsfriends feature no online multi-player, but the beautiful thing about video games is that they cater to different audiences. TowerFall may not be a game for everyone and that’s okay. Luckily, fans of local multi-player like myself can sit back and enjoy the renaissance.

ANTHONY LABELLA can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.



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