Co-opting out of Co-op

Cooperative games are as popular today as split-screen games were in the nineties and they don’t show any signs of losing their popularity. I personally enjoy a good romp (oo-er) with friends as much as the next bloke. There’s nothing better than getting a group of mates together for a good multiplayer session. It doesn’t matter if it’s getting screwed in a game of Mario Kart or leading the charge across the fields of battle in Call of Duty – multiplayer games are a great laugh. Sure, you have to ride the venomous waves of the average internet user, but, provided you keep a cool head and don’t mind being the victim of a hate crime, you’re guaranteed some fun.

Between the adventures in single-player games and the highs and lows of multiplayer games, there sits a special place for cooperative games which tend to involve a subtle blend of the two. This evolution of playing games with friends can usually take the form of two to four friends all cramming together for the fun of a multiplayer game, but within the narrative and thrills of a single player adventure. It’s popular, it’s fun, it’s the best.

WRONG. It’s shit. No, really – it’s fucking dreadful. I cannot stand it. I literally bang my head against the keyboard every time a headline floats into my eye-line, like a cloud of shit with a piss lining, announcing that some Satan-worshipping cult of a publisher is shoe-horning in some co-operative bullshit that’s allegedly supposed to make experience better. Listen, fuckwits – a videogame is like a sandwich in that I know what I want to play and how I want to play it. If I walk into Subway and order myself a sandwich, I don’t want it to turn up with a fuck ton of olives and thousand island sauce because ‘Barry’ thinks it will taste better. Fuck off, Barry; only cunts eat olives.

This isn’t to say that all cooperative games are awful, because they’re not. Generally anything that involves top-down shooting, dungeon crawling or side-scrolling – anything that has minimal input from the gremlins I’m forced to play with – ensures that my rage is kept at minimal levels. This is probably because all the aforementioned gremlins have to do is point and click every so often, which generally needs only two brain cells to rub together in order to generate the motor functions required for such actions.

The problem is that these games don’t interest me for long periods, and I’m unlikely to play them without calling upon friends or internet strangers to assist me. With a Steam library bursting at the seams with titles to play, and a backlog of console games going back to the bloody SNES era, I don’t have much time to be buggering around with games that are nothing more than a time sink in the bigger picture, especially if they’re not what I’d prefer to be playing.

What I’d prefer to be playing is Resident Evil 5, Army of Two, Borderlands, Red Alert 3, or Dying Light because these all look and sound like excellent titles. Except I can’t really enjoy the game because I need to recruit halfwits to tag along in order to make these things not a horrible grind. I’ll admit that if you can swallow AI friendlies then you’re likely to be able to bumble through the experience. But why should glitchy Red Alert 3 AI or ammo-whoring Resident Evil 5 allies define my experience? No, just fuck clean off.

Give me an experience that’s centred around me – the player. Not around me and the two or three other idiots I have to grab to make the experience any good. I can accept that if you find a couple of semi-reliable, semi-intelligent, non-mouth-breathing human beings in the world, that you’ll probably be able to stand their company for long enough to make progress in a game. But there are millions of gamers – how are we supposed to timeshare the only fifty-six decent human beings on the planet that aren’t total spunk-jugglers.

The worst offenders are games like Borderlands, Dead Island, and what I do believe Dying Light is going to become. I want to play these games alone, without any involvement from anyone. It sounds sad but I have multiplayer games to play with other people and single player games to play alone and never the twain shall meet. People are slow, they’re stupid, and they want to do their own thing – in a multiplayer environment, this is fine. Battlefield, Left 4 Dead, and Killing Floor can all be enjoyable with the odd village idiot running around, failing to spoil everyone’s fun. I can accept people in these settings, with all their shit reaction times and poor decision making. In an online arena, it makes intelligent, risk-taking, strategy boffins like me stand out. I will lead the charge into enemy lines and I will breach the confines of the safe room to rescue someone. I won’t do it because I want to win – I’ll do it because ‘D3aDMutha579′ is busy in the corner tea-bagging an avatar of a thirty-five-year-old male from Swindon called Kevin and shit needs to get done. Multiplayer games are footloose and carefree for this reason.

My single player experience isn’t. It’s regimented, precise, and it’s planned. I want to complete all the side missions, I want to go and look over here at this funny marker on the map and I want to kill things in a specific order – I want to do things my way. I want to play Borderlands without it being the most awful grind in the world. Except I can’t – one of my friends is so slow that I’m pretty certain he’s playing the part of a polio sufferer, one has timed out, because he has an internet speed from the early sixteenth century, and the last one is looking in his inventory while a group of Skags, chips away at his health. What a fistful of assholes.

Friends, who needs ‘em?

Last five articles by Chris



  1. Mark R Mark R says:

    I do feel your pain… a great deal. There are SO many games that I’ve always wanted to play, but I can’t stand the thought of playing with randoms. Even then, sometimes with people you’re friends with it can be just as excruciating – folk running on ahead and doing all the work before you get there, folk dragging their arse to muck around while you’re trying to get to an objective which won’t start until everyone is there, and then the folk who will go out of their way to show off everything that they’re capable of just to make themselves feel great and make you look stupid because you’re new to the game.

    It’s why I enjoy co-op with Pete. He may be a shit driver in Borderlands, but I know what I’m in for when I climb into his vehicle. It’s a choice… I could drive myself places, but the comedic value of watching us both fly over a cliff at high speed is sometimes worth having to climb back up and try again.

    I’ve played Borderlands with both types of gamer – the type who run ahead, chuck out their entire arsenal immediately and take out all the enemies while you’re still trying to take the strategic approach… and the folk who literally cower behind anything they can and let you do all the killing while they share in the XP. Thankfully, I’ve never had both in the same game.

    But yeah, like you, I hate co-op games and MMOs. The thought of playing with other people just pisses me off because I’ve been fucked around far too many times as it is, so I avoid it and stick with people that I’m familiar with and who I know will play fair MOST of the time.

  2. Chris Toffer says:

    I massively dislike people who just want to go off and do their own thing or dick about. We’re here for a purpose so lets achieve the goal. I’m on board if it’s GTA and we want to drive fast and just generally cause chaos but in Borderlands, I want to achieve goals and objectives and grab some loot along the way.

    It’s why I generally only play Left 4 Dead with the same group of people. No fucking about, no intentional deaths or trolling. Point A to Point B with a focus on winning and no raging if the other team are better than us. It’s frustrating to have such a limited pool but 90% of the people I meet our time wasting morons.

  3. Pete says:

    I try and avoid playing online with anyone other than people I know, and that usually means GL folk and maybe a handful of others those folk know. The only exception there, really, is occasional forays into CoD titles, and just the once or twice into Battlefield, but those forays are usually into game types that are free for alls rather than team based, plus, there’s the mute option for twats and asshats.

    Borderlands was different because it was purely co-op play and I’m generally the type that will go along with “the team” and the objectives set for the benefit of all – I say generally because occasionally my inner magpie gets the better of me there and I end up opening crates and boxes whilst my team mate is caught up in a hailstorm of enemy fire. GTA is different again because it’s open world and made for dicking about. That said, when we’re “in mission” I try and stick with the programme and the objective is key.

    I abhor getting thrown into an online game with people I don’t know. It’s something I try and avoid if at all possible and I guess it dictates my choices of games to play and enjoy. There’s generally got to be some kind of balance though. Multiplayer is fun when you’re clear on what you can or can’t do and it’s usually best enjoyed without expecting anything sensible from people thrown in with you without any choice.

  4. Mark Mark says:

    As one who plays a lot of MMOs, less so in the last few months, I feel the collective pain. Random groups tend to be the way I get through a lot of group content. This is generally because my powers of persuasion, generally aimed at getting friends to play the same games, have dulled over the years. You do end up playing with the racists, the homophobes and the poorest skilled.

    You often then do group contact without voice comms and this makes things 100 times worse. That’s not to say there aren’t moments when it clicks and everyone knows their roles and you go through a mission or raid like a well oiled silent machine.

    There are two sides and I still prefer the idea of playing a game with my friends over playing solo, mainly for the social aspect though, rather than the gameplay.

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