Some of my best gaming memories are playing games like Goldeneye, 007 Nightfire, and other split-screen multiplayer games with my friends. If had been born several years later, those memories may have instead been of playing Call of Duty alone, in a dark room, online with my friends instead of them being there in person. This situation illustrates a tragedy of our generation: the decline of split-screen gaming.
As online multiplayer technology matures, many gamers find it easier to play with friends online instead of in person. This only contributes to the anti-social stigma that tends to be associated with gamers, and also stifles the social aspect of gaming, as interaction in person is much more genuine and productive than online interaction, whether it be through text chat or a headset.
Developers are also part of this problem. While cooperative gaming is admittedly on the rise, most co-op modes are strictly online, or only split-screen for two players. The number of classic four player split-screen games has declined dramatically in this generation of consoles as a result of this increasing online focus.
Recently, me and my friends were playing Goldeneye Reloaded, one of the few split-screen games available today that doesn’t have Halo or Call of Duty in its name. We decided to turn on several choice modifiers to make the game much more interesting. One modifier made us die if we stood still for more than three seconds and one made us explode when we collided into each other. These modifiers along with the experience of social gaming turned what was essentially a clone of Call of Duty with the Goldeneye skin into a great gaming experience, one that couldn’t have happened if we were playing online.
Hopefully, developers will recognize the importance of split-screen gaming, and include split-screen modes in their games, and maybe even tailor some multiplayer modes to split-screen play to satisfy those of us that still view gaming as a social experience, not just as entertainment to be consumed in solitude.