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The Slow Death of Couch Co-Op

It’s no secret that I’m close with my family. They have been an integral part of most sections of my life. Growing up, this wasn’t ever really something I gave a second thought. Naively, I thought this was how all families operated. It wasn’t until I left home for the first time that I discovered this was not the case. There are many reasons why my family is so tight, but I think video games had a major role in this regard.
While I enjoy my fair share of single player experiences and online multiplayer modes, the most fun I’ve ever had playing video games was when I was playing with other people in the same room(mostly my brothers, my dad, and cousin). Maybe it’s because I’m a social animal and maybe I’m being too sentimental or nostalgic, but couch co-op is my favorite way to game.
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If you are an older gamer, you’ll remember the days of the arcade and what the multiplayer scene used to look like. A crowd would gather around the cabinet to watch the best(or richest) players compete for the lauded high score. There’d even be spontaneous tournaments as each contender rotated through to compete and get the most game time on the machine. Even console games were expected to have some kind of local multiplayer functionality, even if it was with one other person.
With every passing year, more and more people take to the internet for their social interactions. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, interacting through a screen does not adequately fulfill our social needs. Humanity is tribal by nature and even the most fiercely independent of us depend on the resources and skills other people have. These days, to be human is to be a team player, even if you don’t want be. Perhaps that’s why couch co-op has resonated with so many people around the world.
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So what has happened to all the couch co-op games? The biggest reason we don’t see them as much anymore is because of money. The biggest gaming companies look at what is making the most money on the market and then they chase those trends.  That’s why more and more games are offering online multiplayer that they can pump full of microtransactions. Companies make big money this way and franchises that were once co-op friendly have regressed to offering multiplayer online only(I’m looking at you Halo 5). There’s just not as much money in couch co-op anymore. The power of the almighty dollar is strong and until a party game or couch co-op title makes big money, we won’t be seeing too many of them on the market anymore.
Another reason why we don’t see as many titles go for couch co-op is the inflation to player expense. With modern controllers costing anywhere between $60 and a $150 a pop, the cost to play a cooperative multiplayer locally is a lot steeper than it used to be(I should know, my family has like 8 different xbox 360 controllers, don’t judge!). Most local co-op experiences are only 2 players because of this and 4 player experiences are even harder to find now.
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As my brothers grow older and family members go out into the world to do their own thing, the memories we’ve built around gaming together become more and more precious. Whenever we all come back together, it’s inevitable that we’ll turn on a console and make some new gaming memories. It just saddens me to think that fewer and fewer people will remember couch co-op.
What are some of your favorite couch co-op games or memories? Do any of you lament this passing of the torch to online only multiplayer? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, give it a star and if you are new around here, follow the blog for new posts every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Thanks for reading!
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mattdoylemedia
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The lack of couch co-op saddens me. In fact, it by being an option was why I didn’t end up buying the recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game. I used to love playing games like Streets of Rage and Golden Axe in particular, and even some of the split screen FPS games. When it’s online only though, it just doesn’t appeal. I’d rather do co-op with the people I live with, and we only have one TV and one of each console, so that becomes impossible. It’s the same with me for games that are online only. I’d love to… Read more »

thehorrorjd0127
Guest

While online only doesn’t stop me from buying games I’d want to play, I like having the option to play locally. It just sucks that they are phasing that option out more and more. Also, great retro picks. Capcom’s AVP beet ’em up is my jam. Just downloaded all those on to my computer to run through the MAME emulator. Its frigin’ sweet.

mattdoylemedia
Guest

Blimey, MAME. That takes me back to my teen years.

Karandi
Guest

I loved the N64 Golden Eye four player mode. It was fantastic to spend literally hours hunting down and destroying people and hearing them howl as they went to red screen yet again before reviving. Of course, it was always the most fun with proxy mines because setting a trap and luring the enemy in was incredibly satisfying. And when you got caught in your own blast that was also kind of fun.

thehorrorjd0127
Guest

Golden Eye was one of those games I played at a friend’s house once upon a time. I just remember the character Oddjob being broken. He was so damn short, it made him hard to kill.

Karandi
Guest

One of the modifications you could add to the game once you’d beaten the story mode was to give all the characters giant heads to improve the chance of a head shot. That was always fun for multiplayer.

talesoftheblackforest
Guest

Once upon a time long long ago, at an arcade my brother and I beat Double Dragon. We were dropping quarters into the machine like it was nobodies business. We drew a crowd, because my brother who didn’t care for games was becoming more and more animated as we beat level after level. It is a good memory because my brother wouldn’t have even played if it wasn’t co-op. Years later playing games with my boys always instilled that homey sense of WE can conquer THIS together. And if we can conquer this together we can conquer…

daboogieblog
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Reading this post made me feel so nostalgic, and probably that’s why I enjoyed it so much!

thehorrorjd0127
Guest

Yeah, its really too bad the direction the industry is going. Everything is online only and filled with microtransactions.

daboogieblog
Guest

Yeah you’re right, but I’m glad that I found your blog, and relive those moments.