In this hyper-connected age, shared experiences are found everywhere. Online play completely changed the way in which people viewed game development. Each day, there are less and less examples of games that return us to that initial experience of sharing a space with your allies—or your enemies. Neighborhorde brought me back to those closer moments.
As a newly released title on Steam, Neighborhorde bears many of the tags that are often attributed to instant successes. “Action”, “Zombies”, “Survival”, “Co-op.” I can easily rifle off a long list of games that share these tags. Most of them you would know, and most would be considered blockbuster hits. What I found most interesting, however, was the lack of a particular tag: “Online Multiplayer”.
Do we hate couch co-op now?
Before even playing the game, or reading its description, I had built up the idea that Neighborhorde was a game created by a lazy development team with no understanding of the modern gamer. No online play?! Madness! I hadn’t given it much thought before, but there is clearly a stigma attached to couch co-op exclusive titles. What a sickening idea: to think that those intimate moments of huddling together around a giant-ass CRT TV set are now considered barbaric and unexciting. I’ve never had a bad experience playing couch co-op, so why did I feel such disgust towards games that don’t allow me to connect online?
The modern gaming era has spoiled us with infinite experiences with unfathomable amounts of people. There’s not much that compares to leaving your mark on the leaderboards of an entire country, a continent, or even the whole world. But those very personal moments we shared with our closest friends in intimate confinements will always trump that. I came to the conclusion that I don’t hate couch co-op at all. In fact, I miss it dearly.
A new era of connectivity
Before I knew it, I began to search for more new releases that would satisfy that close-quarters itch. It dawned upon me that couch co-op’s saving grace was sitting in my backpack all along: my Switch. Nintendo are industry’s bastion of innovation, yet even they realised that we needed more of this “togetherness” in gaming. The Switch bears the promise of a new age of local multiplayer. Critics scoffed at the initial adverts. The idea that we as humans are capable of engaging each other face to face? Laughable. Oh how they were wrong. A real grand slam, the Switch has proven to the modern age that people crave local play.
Even at this year’s E3 event, local multiplayer was available for all to enjoy! Sony is bringing us Play-Link, a format that allows multiple people to play and influence games right from their smartphones. These experiences can allow for truly memorable moments to unfold; what better way to get to know your friends than by seeing how they would try to solve a murder?
“I don’t hate couch co-op at all. In fact, I miss it dearly.”
As for the more traditional idea of local multiplayer, A Way Out is an exciting update to splitscreen gaming that implements the deep story-telling and visual fidelity that usually is reserved for single player titles. It feels good to see developers sticking to their guns, and delivering experiences that allow us to truly connect with our nearest and dearest.
Will it be enough?
Couch co-op isn’t going anywhere. While we may currently be old men yelling at the clouds, reminiscing about “a better time”, those thoughts are still relevant. Gorgeously presented games like Neighborhorde put my faith back in indie developers to share engaging experiences that help us reconnect with each other. I don’t care how they do it; whether it’s through visually stunning works, mechanically challenging gameplay, or just all out zaniness! Developers, you have a duty to give gamers things to play that go beyond defeating the zombie horde with my international buddies. I’d like to save the world sitting in my jammies next to my girlfriend, and I’m sure many others feel the same.
Oh, and Fermenter Games, if you’re reading this; bring Neighborhorde to the Switch. You can thank me later.