Where’s My Split-Screen?
Remember the good old days when you would have all your friends come home after school and you would all sit around the TV, busting the high scores or getting to the next level? We don’t get that anymore. Instead, you all go home after school and log onto Live or PSN. There’s no personal connection in Multiplayer anymore. Even just 15 years ago, the popular games were Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros., where you could sit with your friends and play. I’m skipping games like Goldeneye, Mario Party, and Twisted Metal. Who doesn’t have great memories playing split screen with friends? Nowadays, all the kids are playing Call of Duty or Halo. Worse, devs are omitting split-screen multiplayer. Uncharted 2, Need for Speed Hot Pursuit, and Battlefield Bad Company 2 are all games that could’ve benefited from Split Screen, yet the games omit them in favor of online modes. Why? It’s obvious that this is just an easy way to sell a few extra copies of the game. Is that good for the industry? That is what devs and publishers need to consider.
Take Hot Pursuit for example. That was a fantastic game of cops and racers. A cat and mouse battle at 200 mph. The game’s main focus was social interaction. You could smash your friend from halfway around the world’s car off the side of a mountain, yet the person sitting next to you has to sit and watch. You just don’t get the same feeling of kicking ass while online than when you and five friends are huddled around the TV, screaming and yelling. Everyone remembers getting first in Mario Kart and jumping for joy, screaming at your friend next to you, while online interaction between friends now is limited to a string of curses and homophobic and/or racist insults.
So does anyone keep this fantastic trend alive anymore? Yes, two big power players in the industry: Activision and Nintendo. Nintendo practically is gaming and is the source for all our great gaming memories. At the very least, they keep local multiplayer in their popular Wii games like New Super Mario Bros Wii and Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Everyone and their mothers hates Activision, but they have to be commended for not taking the easy cash-grab route. Guitar Hero (Rest in Pieces) was always about having people over to play together, and this interaction got better with the full band (even if the games did not). Call of Duty, on the other hand, is a game noted for it’s online component. Just one analog stick push down, however, is the oft-ignored “Local” option. It’s a hell of a lot of fun to play, even with just four people.
I digress though. What I’m saying is that the more popular gaming becomes, the more it becomes about making a few extra dollars than delivering the best gaming experience. Some say the social part of gaming is well and strong, but anyone who lived the 90’s knows that is not true. The social part of gaming is slowly and painfully dying.