Co-Opera: A Lesson In Etiquette

Cooperative multiplayer has become increasingly more prevalent in recent years to the point where inclusion of co-op is almost as common as versus multiplayer. I even heard the next GTA game will feature a co-op story. Okay, I didn’t actually hear that, but it wouldn’t surprise me.  Now I don’t snatch up every co-op game that hits the shelves, but generally I’m a fan. It’s a form of online play that can bring about a wide array of experiences. You might have a night full of endless perfection where you and your pals are seemingly invincible and find all the best loot.

Then again, you might have a night where you just can’t complete that mission, but you’re oh so close and having a blast giving it one more try. Or you might have a night of tomfoolery between you and your buddies in which each other’s failure, friendly annoyance and/or confusion are the primary objectives. You might even forge lasting partnerships with some new folks. However, some people just don’t get co-op gaming. I want to help them.

Now don’t just say, “This doesn’t affect me, I only play co-op with my main homies.” We are all aware that you can restrict your games to you and your usual pals. On the other hand, we shouldn’t just ignore the problem. Let us be the better gamers and assist these ignorant people. Additionally, if you’re like me, you often forget to alter your settings and find yourself kicking fools like the star of a kung-fu epic.

These semantically-challenged creatures you are likely to encounter online (those bamboozled by the word “cooperative”) should first be identified for future reference. First and most commonly encountered online is the Scavenger. You have probably spotted Scavengers frequently in Borderlands – and more recently in Dead Island. These are the fiends who enter your game and then proceed to conduct a ravenous search of every lootable item in sight.

You might have had a run-in with the John Rambo types as well. This breed is more commonly found in competitive play. They are the ones running around with the “I will win this match all by myself” mentality. In the co-op world, they are similarly playing their own game, but for some reason they chose to join yours to do so. It should also be noted that these individuals typically don’t use their mics.  A friend and I recently encountered one of these creatures in Dead Island. He jumped in while we were at a safe zone, took off alone in the only truck and wandered down to the beach on his own private adventure. We tracked his location on the map for a little while with no small amount of confusion and amusement.

Another example is the Veteran. These are the experts who have already finished the game and are simply entering your game to max out their character or hunt for better gear. They don’t hesitate to give spoilers, offer their all-knowing commentary, tell you what to avoid/investigate, skip dialogue sequences, pick up/turn in quests and run ahead to steal the majority of the XP by wiping out all the enemies before anyone else can get there.

You can probably think of many other examples of undesirable co-op partners; I’m sure if we put our heads together, we could create a rather lengthy list of classifications. I have just listed some of the most troublesome. That is not to say that the Pre-Pubescent Motormouth or the Aspiring Singer/Rap Star is not just as annoying, but I’m directing this more at behavior as it affects the experience of the game.  Have the preceding labels described the online behavior of you or someone you know? Do you find yourself getting kicked from games like you’re a virtual soccer ball? Well then, read on for several ways to determine/improve your co-op compatibility.

1. Look at the word “host”. Better yet, look up the word host. Nevermind, I’ll just give you the definition: Host: a person who receives or entertains guests at home or elsewhere. Imagine for a moment that the game you’re joining is someone’s house (someone you don’t know) and the host of the game is the owner of that house.

With that scenario fresh in mind, ask yourself one or preferably all of the following questions: upon your arrival, would you  immediately resort to prowling through this person’s cabinets, closets and drawers (snatching the best available loot)? Would you grab their phonebook and start making appointments for them (picking up quests without host’s knowledge)? Would you answer their phone and handle conversations for them (skipping dialogue/turning in quests)? Would you cue through a movie they’re watching to what you deem are the good parts (skipping cutscenes)?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, well…you know what means.

2. Pretend the host is your father/mother and you are on a vacation or day-trip. In most cases, loot is just loot, but it’s simple politeness to ask if you can have items such as a legendary weapon or a pickup of several thousand dollars. We’re all aware that with people you actually know everyone gets what they need, or you hassle each other or try to snag stuff from one another, but with strangers you shouldn’t run around like a rabid kleptomaniac. Consistent with the parent/child role play idea, it’s also frowned upon if you run off by yourself. You know, the whole “Don’t go where I can’t see you” thing. Talking to strangers is also a bad idea (by strangers, I mean quest-givers). While this next suggestion is entirely optional, you can make it clear you are showing respect by referring to the host as “Father” or “Mother”. Example: “Hey, Dad, can I have this orange weapon?”

3. This may sound crazy, but some people like to hear the dialogue and watch the cut-scenes on their first run through the game. Furthermore, do not assume everyone you play with does not understand how to play the game or that they would like you to be a guide/human instruction manual. Often times, people like blundering around a while looking for what they need to do or discover. It’s part of what makes games fun for some people. You are joining a game, not leading it. If you want to wear the Daddy pants, host your own game.

Now, some would take the above guidelines a few steps further and say the host should always be encouraged, complimented and flattered throughout the session. An example of this would be if the host cracks a joke, you should laugh immediately, heartily and convincingly. Or an in-game example of support would be making your character squat down whenever the host performs an awesome feat, solves a puzzle, etc. This way, you appear to be bowing to his/her legendary gaming prowess. This, however, can be a double-edged sword. While some hosts may cherish the praise being lavished upon them, some might be offended and suspect mockery. If you consider this practice, you will have to discover the appropriate balance for each particular host. Hone your skills of observation.

Most of the time, my friends and I don’t have any issues amidst our co-op adventures. More often than not we’re having a good time on our own or with the occasional stranger, telling them weird stories and/or informing them of bizarre places or items that are not really in the game. However, co-op conundrums have a tendency of sneaking up on you. If you too have experienced any of the frustrating nonsense mentioned above, I hope you brandished a swift boot to the guilty players. Perhaps they will eventually realize why they are being routinely kicked from other people’s games. Probably not, but every little boot helps.

If you’re one of these creatures still unclear about this whole co-op mystery, I’ll give you one more definition. This is the last time though. Cooperative is defined as: working or acting together willingly for a common purpose or benefit. See that? It says “working together”, not alone, and “for a common benefit”, not solely your benefit. Also, it would do some well to acknowledge the fact that the host of a game you’re joining more than likely did not set the game up with your gain specifically in mind. He/she is probably not concerned that you’re about to hit the maximum level or that you desire yet another legendary weapon.

Remember they are your parent and they are taking you on a trip. Don’t make Mommy or Daddy get out the belt… or boot, rather.

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  1. Stu Stu says:

    Nice piece, totally agree and sadly the lack of respect or similar minded co-op gamers out there does mean that I shut randoms out and game with friends only. If better karma systems were in place, or even better co-op mechanics in a number of games regarding loot, story progression,etc then it’d be easier to control the situation and ween out the bad eggs.

    The host should get more control over the game, similar perhaps in some ways to the ‘master looter’ or ’round robin’ mechanics in an MMORPG group with regards to loot, but also the ability to lock out others from skipping cutscenes, accepting/completing quests etc. Also adding a description of sorts to your co-op session so that you can warn potential co-op partners that you are on a loot mission, or you are trying to work through your first playthrough or something. Perhaps even just a basic set of tick boxes about your session to allow similar minded people to search based on those parameters so loot whores can go for speed runs together and two n00bs can go the story in peace as their own pace.

    The co-op game has a long way to evolve yet, too many games are still thinking about the co-op setup as if it is split screen or LAN where the players are in close proximity and likely know each other.

  2. Chris Chris says:

    Great article Joe. It’s all to true. All to true.

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