I Like Playing With Myself

Splinter Cell: Conviction

I visited Electronic Arts’s Spring Showcase earlier this month; a spiffy four story media complex with HD tellies, wireless headphones and delicious raisin cookies. Seriously, those cookies were to die for. If EA gave me the choice of taking home Medal of Honor or a batch of those cookies, I would certainly hesitate before answering. I ate three, I’m not ashamed.

Anyway, back on topic. Between listening to presentations, playing games and missing appointments because I was engrossed in a new The Sims expansion pack, one trend stood out like a pink elephant with a sore thumb: playing with yourself is on the way out.

EA has no less than three Massively Multiplayer Games in development (APB, Star Wars and Need for Speed, for those playing along at home), a bunch of upcoming titles that hope to foster new online communities and if you’re not physically playing alongside your pals, you’ll be bragging about your skills on their Facebook walls.

Seriously, the word Facebook was used so often you’d think it was a Social Networking conference. Whether it was as a point of reference for how a game’s online features will work, or in relation to Need for Speed World’s Facebook Connect functionality, the social networking flavour of the month was a bigger inspiration to EA than Call of Duty 4.

Sorry, that was harsh.

But you know, I like playing alone. Don’t get wrong, I love Ready-Up’s gaming nights. I can’t think of any way I’d rather have played Resident Evil 5 than with my brother, two HD-TVs and two Xbox 360s sat side by side (until one red ringed, obviously). I catch up with buddies at University through Left 4 Dead 2 and look forward to seeing some of you London folk in the Trocadero for mental Bishi Bashi challenges.

Resident Evil 5

But there’s something to be said for playing one on one with a game. It’s their world, you’re just playing in it. It’s their rules, you’re just playing by them. It’s like an actor and script or a chess master and pawn, instead of the tipped-over and abandoned toy box that is Ready-Up’s Grand Theft Auto IV nights.

It’s also hard for a game to have some emotional resonance, or give some real spooks, if you’ve got someone in your headset telling dick jokes or making fart noises with their armpits.

I’ve gotten to the point where I’ll shut off all notifications on my Xbox 360 and PS3 when playing a particularly atmospheric or narrative heavy game. Sorry pals, it’s not like I don’t appreciate your messages, but it really kills the emotional punch when the act of slicing off your own finger in Heavy Rain is bookended with ‘Newcode is online’.

Ubisoft’s Patrick Redding said gamers don’t want “a solitary experience” any more. Well no one asked me. In this brave new world of social networking and always-on internet and exciting new concepts of playing with friends, we shouldn’t forget the simple pleasures of sitting down and enjoying a nice new game, alone.







3 responses to “I Like Playing With Myself”

  1. The Rook avatar
    The Rook

    I too enjoy the single player experience more than multiplayer. I’ve played some co-op as well, but I do like being able to play a game at my own pace and take the time to do as much random stuff whenever I just want to explore.

  2. Simon avatar

    Alright, alright, I’ll stop making so many dick jokes.

  3. Yaz avatar

    My OH will not play multiplayer. He doesn’t like other people telling him how to play a game. He too prefers ‘a solitary experience’.
    I do to from time to time. I enjoy playing in a team and socialising with some games don’t get me wrong, but sometimes it’s nice to be able to log off steam and lose yourself in another game.

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