Two-player’s evolution in gaming is yet another study in using the limitations of the medium to the system’s advantage. The first gaming systems, after all, *REQUIRED* two-players.
We all complain about the AI in gaming being bad but Pong Version 1.0 couldn’t play against you. You *NEEDED* someone else to play the game to play the game with you. Without a player 2, there wasn’t a game. It was just a tech demo.
It was the early games like Space Invaders or Asteroids that gave a rudimentary opponent to play against but there was nothing intelligent about the behaviors of the ostensible opponent. You had your collision detection and you had a set of rules that the “enemy” had to follow. 2-player meant switching back and forth between players.
What were the earliest games that let two players play at the same time together? Joust is the first one that I remember. It allowed for the wonderful experience of playing together and helping each other *OR* you could see your opponent as just another enemy. (And, at the price of a quarter, it really meant something when your opponent decided to kill you… they were taking something tangible away from you. AND THOSE WERE REAGAN QUARTERS!)
As time went on, co-op and vs. games evolved and so stuff like Gauntlet allowed somewhat asymmetrical co-op (the elf’s abilities were differently balanced than the barbarian’s after all) and you had stuff like Double Dragon and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
When we moved out of the arcades and into the computer room that things started evolving back. Quake III was the first game (to my memory, anyway… correct me if I’m wrong) that switched back to the thing where they said “Remember Pong? Let’s go back to that” and the only opponents you had were each other. No AI. No list of rules for the “opponent” to follow. Just you running around and some collision detection.
I can’t help but feel nostalgic for the days when freshly married kids would sit on the bed together and play couch co-op, though. It was nice to play Rampage with Maribou.
Which brings me to VR co-op… but I’ll talk about that *NEXT* week.
So… what are you playing?
(Picture is HG Wells playing a war game from Illustrated London News (25 January 1913[/efn_note]