The loneliness of single player gaming

The loneliness of single player gaming The loneliness of single player gaming

I'm far from an old gamer. In fact, according to the latest stats, I'm almost ten years younger than the age of the average gamer. But I have been doing it for most of my life, which has let me watch trends come and go over the years, as consoles waxd and waned, the PC continued inexorably forward on its march to photo-realism and gamers themselves have grown up with the medium.

The games have changed a lot too and new genres have appeared, displacing old ones, only for those to come back in new, reinvented ways. It's a constantly changing landscape that's very exciting for those who follow it professionally and as a hobby.

But I can't help but feel a little lonely as time goes on. You see, I'm a single player gamer.

Now don't let that make you think that I don't enjoy a good multiplayer title now and again. In-fact some of my top gaming memories are of me and my brother battling through a cooperative title together, but if I look back at my gaming history, the titles I've spent the most time with have been single player games.

Mount and Blade is a big one, so is Kerbal Space Program. The single player elements of Monster Hunter Tri saw me invest upwards of 200 hours grinding gear and refining my combat techniques. I've played through the original Xcom countless times, put tens of hours into Don't Starve, and Paper's Please.

I adore the storytelling in the Walking dead, the puzzles in the Portal games, the atmosphere and learning curves of Faster than Light.

I'm sure at this point you're saying that you get it, I like spending time by myself. But in reality, it's more of a case of pacing. When I play a single player game I can disappear inside my head for a while and come out the other side feeling like I achieved something, as well as testing myself against the game. Which to me, is still the thing I love most about gaming, even if playing against a human will always give you a better challenge.

So why am I banging on about my growing status here as the resident loner gamer? Because as lonesome as playing by yourself is, it's also very cathartic for some people, myself being one of them and I'm worried that one of my favourite past times is going away.

Single player gaming was once much more common that it is now. In-fact, the traditional single player experience is disappearing for good in many ways. One quick look at Destiny, or Titanfall, shows you what it looks like when the much more popular multiplayer modes of shooters are folded into the traditional set piece extravaganza that is the single player campaign.

Games that were essentially hard coded single player experiences, like Project Zomboid and Don't Starve are now being ported over to multiplayer too, simply because it makes monetary sense to do so.

I get it, I'm a dinosaur here. Most people want multiplayer and they want to be able to play great single player games with their friends. And I do too. I'm actually really pumped about some of those becoming multiplayer enabled. But not because I want to play with strangers, because I want to battle it out with my bro(s) at my side.

And of course these games will still come with single player modes, but what is on one hand added potential for gamers, with increased scope for new and greater experiences, could also be the death knell for games that are built from the ground up to be for one person alone.

We need single player games and we need games designed for one person right from the start, not just because that's what we've been doing – stagnation for the sake of tradition is never a good thing – but I hope that in the rush for mass appeal and profitability, we don't forget that the most personal stories are the ones we share with ourselves.

They're also far easier to tell, because the pacing only has to be right for one person at a time. I'm sure you've all played a cooperative game only for your partner in digital crime to skip through a cutscene, or talk over an important bit of dialogue.

The gameplay might have often be more memorable when playing with friends, but the stories I remember more are the ones I experienced by myself.

Gone Home wouldn't work as a multiplayer game. Walking Dead's emotional heart renching wouldn't have worked with your buddy running around in the background. Paper's Please wouldn't have been as impactful if you were racing some kid online who was operating an alternate passport booth.

There's room in this world for all types of games. Multiplayer, cooperative, single player and who knows what other kind of player-number-centric genres we might be able to come up with in the future. I'm excited about companies like Turtle Rock and Crytek spicing up the typical multiplayer format, so maybe someone can do something similar for single player.

Whatever happens though, I hope some developers will continue to put out solid single player experiences, as they're some of the most engrossing, challenging and fulfilling games I've ever played.

Being alone is a good thing sometimes and gaming can make it all the more enriching. Here's hoping it continues to be possible in the future.