Today's blog is connected with a Gamasutra article I had read some time ago and a topic that was recently brought up again to myself at a gaming event that brought some good discussion and valuable points:
Single player gaming has always had a primary place in my heart, however, this was not always the case. As a kid during the late 70s and early 80s, gaming started as a social activity. This included going to public quarter-operated arcades and playing lots of couch co-op with friends when possible in the early days of Atari, Commodore 64 and Nintendo.
This continued for quite some time but it was not until my teenage years when I found single-player gaming to take on more importance.
Moving into the the angst of teenage years, I found solace in the world of the computer games and in A. I. The world, seeming so unbearable in reality, was welcoming in fantasy and so I became even more hooked. The first time this clicked for me was notably when I first played Squaresoft's Final Fantasy II on the Super NES. Finding a truly deep narrative, along with memorable characters and superb gameplay, added to the experience of the world and dramatic story crafted by the developers.
Games continued evolving and, despite awesome advances in gameplay with multiplayer platforms and titles, games continued to pull me in especially within the RPG genre.
The second notable game that truly made an impact in this genre and showed the complexity that could be had with single-player gaming was Origin's Ultima VII: Part 2 Serpent Isle. The game actually had one of the very first guidebooks I can remember that came with the game - a necessity for completionists given its complexity. Guidebooks are all to familiar with walkthroughs now, but at that time a large guide book was something to be seen when companies provided players tangible materials to go with the game and a cloth map to boot.
The third game that truly showed the evolution of the experiences to be had from single-player gaming was from Remedy's Alan Wake. A game from a developer who had been involved with the Max Payne series from Rockstar Games, they had yet another superb title. This game takes the elements from three areas and hybridizes them: Stephen King's style, Twin Peaks the TV show, and Twilight Zone the TV show. This combination created a deep and rich experience, and tied in with the battle mechanics of light vs. dark, and voice acting and the art and soundtrack.
Each of these games have something that is more present then in a multiplayer experience - true uninterrupted immersion into the Magic Circle created by the developers in each of these game worlds. This circle is a term in game design that refers to the immersion into a game world by the player that is designed to keep them there. A single-player game does not have the direct breaks in the circle that are directly present while playing.
In the end, single vs. multiplayer gaming comes down to what the player is pursuing when they are playing the game. From the article, it seems that there is the idea that single-player gaming is not going to be around, but in my case as others there are times when I do not want to play with others. Also, there are games I want to play for the story rather then the socializing and gameplay that comes working with other real players. To say that story-based games are not going to have a place is something that seems odd given the popularity and increasing quality of games that developers continue to provide that are quite enticing.
This is the case not only with AAA - gaming but also with many Indie - gaming developers who continue to introduce new ideas into the gaming industry. This has been increasing in prevalence as can be seen by the AAA Indie offerings on their stores on the platforms. Their place is recognized by the big companies as filling a need and I do not believe this is going away.