Trust Issues: The 2P Conundrum
For the most part, gaming for me is usually a solitary pastime. I can happily spend hours on my couch playing whatever single-player game I am into at the moment. Sometimes though, it is a lot of fun playing two-player. And just to clarify what I mean, I mean two people in the same room playing together and not playing online via a multiplayer (which I actually also categorise as a solitary play).
Two-people playing a co-operative story game together is really fun. Sure, it’s not as social as having a beer at a meat market but for those of us who take our two-player gaming less seriously than rest, beer can also be involved in that activity. The beauty in playing two-player with a friend is that the experience becomes less about the actual gameplay and story and focuses entirely on the dynamic between two people.
I’m not going to turn this into a boys versus girls post but my two-player experiences are limited to playing with my sister (obviously a girl) and a good friend (obviously a boy). When my sister and I play together we speak in a weird way that only siblings can understand. If a stranger walked into a room and heard one of us screaming “JUMP INTO MY MOUTH! JUMP INTO MY MOUTH!” it would probably sound quite scandalous when what we were actually talking about is one of us getting into the VACU-4000 to be launched/shot across a gap. There is a lot of sharing which happens too, although I have been known from time to time to just run around stealing bolts.
Playing Borderlands with a friend has been a very different sort of experience. It might be because he is a boy or is just a mean person with no heart, but that two-player is very much an “each man for yourself type of experience”. “Need some help killing skags?” Don’t bother asking because I’m just going to take my time walking back from the checkpoint because I died and you didn’t even try to revive me. Oh, and I’m also just going to run around and collect all the loot from the skags you’ve killed while you are busy killing more of them (the trick with skags is that sometimes, if you don’t shoot at them, they leave you alone). ”Need some ammo?” The only way I am leaving ammo for you is if all my cartridges are full. It might be in the nature of the game but Borderlands playing is an aggressive and foul-mouthed activity.
Borderlands is not complicated in the sense that all you actually do in co-op is run around and kill things; there is no level of co-operating which is actually required. Portal 2 and Ratchet and Clank All 4 One do require co-operation and they do require you to actually trust the person you are playing with. I remember countless times where I diligently jumped into my sister’s mouth only to be shot into a swamp or off a cliff. Just because it’s funny. Dying and having to reload is freaking HILARIOUS.
It’s the same thing in Portal 2, need your partner to keep on a switch so that the floor stays up and you do not fall into a bottomless pit? Well rest assured that you will be trying to get across that floor for a very long time. Dying and having to reload is obviously freaking HILARIOUS.
It really isn’t too different playing online multiplayer. I have recently discovered Mass Effect 3 multiplayer (I am a game purist, so if I play a game single-player, it is played single-player; none of this bullshit copout galactic readiness to get your effective military strength up) and it might be because I get paired with idiots, or assholes (or both) but during hacking waves or decrypting waves people do not understand that if I am the only person running around trying to complete the objectives THAT THEY NEED TO COVER ME WHILE I AM BUSY NOT ABLE TO SHOOT. But no, never mind. It’s also apparently freaking hilarious to fail missions because the person doing the hacking is dead and no one else bothers to try and finish the job.
We live a gratuitous world pushed forward by consumption and excess. Of course we are going to try and get as much loot/bolts/XP as we can by ourselves. This is capitalism, and it’s not difficult to believe that the same mentality is going to apply when you try to find the Vault. We don’t share our bolts because we don’t share our money (PAYE excluded) and so it makes perfect sense that if I kill it, the loot is going to mine. Or if you kill it and I steal it. We are South Africans after all.