One Boy, Two Controllers
It’s hard growing up. Kids are fierce creatures, capable of deceit, hatred and heartbreak, often all in one go (or so they proclaim, loudly, to anyone who will listen to their incessant bloody whining about how awful their lives are). Friendships are formed and broken, relationships end almost as soon as they begin, Pokémon cards are traded and then immediately demanded back. For me it was even more difficult; my parents are pretty useless about staying in one place, and so halfway through my primary school years we upped and left our pleasant little home to live in a more pleasant home in the middle of bloody nowhere, where we currently reside (yes, I still live with my parents, but I also only just finished college, so nuh).
Moving is tough. Every single friend I had was ditched in favour of new people, all of whom I was terrified of, being of a nervous disposition and lacking the social skills most people seem to have built in to them. And then shortly after, it was on to secondary school. Coupled with my rather large interest in video games, it’s not hard to see why I’m a bit of a loner. I generally find it easier to be left on my own to my own devices, without other people interrupting me. Which is probably why I started playing multiplayer games by myself.
Now just to clarify, I mean split-screen games, with two controllers, by myself. Not playing with my feet or any fancy stuff like that, simply swapping controllers when required. And to clarify further, I wasn’t setting up four controllers and pretending to be different people while playing the game, creating imaginary people whose bodies I would then control and act in their fashion. Although that could make for some rather interesting YouTube videos.
It all started with Star Fox Assault, a game that the critics and community received with a general “meh”, but was praised by myself (having only recently played Star Fox 64 and not being the fully fledged human being I am now) for its vastly superior graphics and wider variety of gameplay than its blocky older brother. The multiplayer was of particular interest to me, offering, as it did, the option to unlock more and more cool stuff as you played more matches, such as new aircraft to dick around in, new guns to kill others (myself) with. I would set up my two controllers, put score limit to one, put myself as Fox and my other self as Falco, and then proceed to waste hours winning hundreds of matches in order to use the Star Wolf planes.
From there, on to Smash Bros Melee, where three (count ‘em, three) controllers were plugged in and the console left running for almost eight hours, purely to unlock Mewtwo as a character (for those of you that don’t know, unlocking Mewtwo required either around 400 multiplayer matches or 20 hours spent on multiplayer, although it was a combined amount, so three controllers brought it down to a more acceptable eight or so hours). Naturally, I would use this opportunity to hone my skills as Dr Mario, much to my friends’ chagrin (although I eventually found someone who was a match for me, and we’ve been dating ever since), using the time as many others would use the Training option. Or, uh, just play the game. I even went as far as plugging in two controllers for Fable 3 in order to generate more cash with which to save the world. Though, granted, the only hard part involved in that was moving the characters around. I could just hammer the “gun” button on controller 2.
More recently, I began playing the Portal 2 co-op all on my lonesome. Obviously I had a friend over for a large portion of the game, but when I was so close to the end and so far away from a friend (I’m putting that in my next song), I realised that with enough planning and skill, I could finish up the last chapter on my own. Let me tell you, there’s nothing quite like completing a timed challenge that requires two people with just your own two hands.It’s nice then, that developers are finally thinking about the loners like me.
Sure, there was the old Dancing Stage (Dance Dance Revolution, whatever you want to call it) mode where you could take two dance mats and play by yourself, but I barely had enough floor space for one mat, let alone two. In the upcoming Ms. Splosion Man, however, players can play the co-op by themselves on one controller, saving me batteries and time switiching between controllers. Thank you, Twisted Pixel, for finally thinking of me.
So why do I do it? Is it because I hate other people? Is it because I feel like the mad props I should receive for being able to play alone is worth abandoning my friends for? Well, actually, I think what this article has proved is that, really, I do it for the rewards. Even before achievements, I was still going it alone just to get the next big unlock. And now, with those pesky little numbers popping up, the desire to pick up a controller in each hand is even greater than ever. But is it all worth it? Should I really be sacrificing friendship for objectives? Can I justify a virtual reward in place of a real emotion? Should I hand over my second controller to another, allow someone else into my gaming life, and stop being able to whine about how lonely I am? The answer, of course, is yes. But only if they don’t suck.
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