I fear that my firm anti position on co-operative gaming in general has made me appear an isolationist curmudgeon. This is not an entirely correct interpretation of the matter, and while it is true that, in general, I do not wander into the warm lagoon of co-op, it is not exactly because I don’t like other people.
Co-operative play has, it seems, become all the rage of video gaming these past handful of years, and I have not exact been swept up in the tidal wave of Kumbaya-Kindergarten work-together time. If anything, I’ve been caught in the tidal undertow, dragged out to sea, and left adrift on a piece of flotsam setting sail for points unknown. Here thar be dragons!
It is not that I don’t enjoy the companionship of friends and acquaintances. It is not that I do not wish to share my gaming experience with others. It is simply that the shape video gaming takes in my brain and in my life leaves little-to-no room for partnerships.
A one man band am I. No literally, on any given night you might find me sitting in front of a lonely pretend drum kit, traversing the landscape of Rock Band songs alone. Today’s Tom Sawyer, he gets high on flying solo.
I have never been one to involve local friends in my gaming lifestyle. I do not invite people over to try out the latest Madden or have Rock Band parties. I do not discuss the latest Gears map over a beer. I do not elaborately plot the best way to take down Kel’Thuzad over Vent in the quiet hours of night.
As much as anything, it’s just not my style.
Don’t get me wrong. Should I be invited to such a gathering, I am gratified to be considered, and on the extremely rare circumstance where I accept I have a fun time almost without exception. At least for this horse, dragged to water I will drink deep until my thirst is quenched on the most fundamental level. The problem is that once away from the water trough, I will not willingly return.
This may sound weird, but as I evaluate my unwillingness to play co-operative, or increasingly multiplayer video games of any kind, what I begin to discover is something distressingly close to a deep-seated personality flaw. I am elastic. I am memory foam. I return always to my most neutral state without some kind of active agent pressing me toward what I would certainly otherwise enjoy.
Here’s the thing, I don’t dislike co-op games. I honestly can’t remember the last time I didn’t enjoy playing a game co-operatively, whether online with friends or in person. I’m not really counting anonymous public efforts here, in part because I don’t think it’s fair to hold that cesspool against the concept as a whole and also because I almost never do that. But, where it comes down to experiencing a game with friends, I have virtually no reason not to actively seek every opportunity.
And, it’s not like I don’t have a massive community at my disposal playing every game under the sun. Yet, it is just so much simpler, so much easier to follow the familiar and comfortable course of remaining isolated.
I use the excuse of family pressures as a trusted standby, and the argument isn’t without merit. I have a wife and two children that legitimately demand my time. Often I game in intervals so tiny as to be measured on a quantum scale, managing only what seems a moment or two to advance some game slightly. Other times I can play at length but with minimal attention as I have one eye on the screen and the other eye on children at play.
But they have been flexible to my gaming predilections to the point of near universal praise, and there are sizable chunks of time, particularly in the darker hours of the night, where I can play unrestrained. And I do, just not with others.
The logical thing to do now would be to commit in some way to engaging more with those who plumb the depths of gaming with a partner at their side. And, let’s be honest, that’s not very likely. You see, and this is really the shameful secret, I like playing video games by myself. I have very fulfilling relationships, and I have a loving family, and I have good friends, so I just can’t get too worked up by the fact that when it comes to gaming, I like the time alone.
I prize my alone time. I jealously guard it. When I go see a movie, very often I go alone — happily. And, when I play video games, I collapse the bubble inside of my own head and I wallow in the unrestrictive freedom of being my own man. Yes, it’s true as I said that I have fun playing with others, but I can’t actually say that I have _more_ fun.
Is it weird? Is it strange? I work with my colleagues all day -- as pleasant a co-worker as ever there was -- talk to clients from across the country on the phone, visit with my family, play with my kids, and at the end of it all I put on my headphones and I just shut down that overworked social part of my brain. Is this the same as not liking co-op games? I’m really not sure, but where games are concerned, it just seems that I do not play well with others.