Do You Like Playing Single Player games... Together?

May 27, 2014
Gaming alone or together

So I'm sitting here in my living room, watching Zoë get close to near death in State of Decay... again. Its been on their to-do list to play this game since my review last year, just as the blog was starting up; life happens though, and as we worked to cover different games, the chance slipped. Fortunately, As we spent the last few days meeting up after a hectic few months and laying down plans for the site, we got on the topic of how this great game has its new expansion, Lifeline, and how I was ashamed that they haven't played this wonderful zombie game yet. Last night at about one AM, I turned on this game again after a nine month slumber, and as a crowd, played through a decidedly single player game.

Its been a while since we've posted one of these: the ones where we openly invite community feedback. However, this is a question I've found myself getting more and more curious about lately, and I truly do want to know the answer. When you play games meant just for a single person, do you play them by yourself, or with friends? Are there spectators as you try to solve yet another puzzle, or find yourself scared out of your skin for the hundredth time in a horror game? Do you get a zen state of mind when you can finally play a game alone and escape from the world for an hour? Is the above picture of someone relaxing, or someone being lonely?

Regardless of your answer, why? Why do you play single player games the way you do? What does that say about your choice of entertainment, or perhaps, how we best enjoy ourselves while playing?

Zoë isn't the only person here right now either: my good and long time friend Nella is here too. Just a few minutes ago she was on her feet, hands on the sides of her face, wide eyed as Zoë was pulled out of yet another car for the third time in a row. The character on the screen was out of ammo, and now also out of painkillers. Things such as "No, not now...we've come so far!" were shouted, as well as many curse words. Jokes about how she wanted Ed to die, not Marcus. Suddenly Zoë was on their feet, squirming and rocking. I even found myself, almost unexpectedly, starting to call and curse out, the anxiety filling all of us, fueling the panic in the air.

tunnel gun

From the upcoming Lifeline Expansion... but many, many scenes like this apply to any version of State of Decay. Lots of screaming and cursing behind the controller.

The shouts though, were also fueling our appreciation of the game. The shared screaming, letting our emotions show, letting the game somehow become more immersive, even as some of my best friends are cursing wildly right next to me.

Nella and I have had a tradition now that has gone on for a decade: she wants to see scary games or stories played out, and I am the agent with the hands on the controller. A video-game chauffeur, as if you will. Its worked out well: we've played through Resident Evil 3, Original Remake, 4, 5 this way, not to mention Eternal Darkness, the newest Lara Croft, and Alan Wake, not to mention a few others that are slipping from my head. As we've been hanging out this weekend, we recounted how we played all of RE:5 in a single weekend, with six other people screaming as zombies on motorcycles appeared out of nowhere. These moments in an artificial world suddenly touch points where we can recall weekends and previous times with no small amount of nostalgia, and not all having to do with the game itself, but where we were at that point in our lives.

Then again, and entirely contrarily, I love playing JRPGs on my own. I almost feel guilty with other people around as I go through them. Its more personal, a game where I feel as if I want to enjoy the story privately. X-Com: Enemy Unknown is a wonderful game that I share many stories about, naming my friends as warriors before watching them sometimes die horribly, but with all of the pauses that a turn-based-game brings, I can't imagine playing it with others around. Maybe this need to play some games like this is from the point in my life where I was anti-social and in high school, where I was stuck inside due to asthma, and I simply didn't want to deal with being sick all the time. The peace of mind of shutting out the world and being able to fight a 'problem' in a direct way, imaginary or otherwise, is really refreshing.

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These aren't the only two sides to this question of course, just two personal points of view I've experienced. In fact, the question is getting more confused. The sheer amount of "Lets play!" videos online, the creation of Twitch and the growing prevalence of live streaming games... at the same time, Spectator gaming is becoming much larger too: it isn't exactly single-player games, people will spend hours watching teams of League of Legends players duke it out, shouting and jeering and chanting like any stadium filled with people. The phenomenon of Twitch Plays Pokémon is a recent example of how single player games are sometimes gaining a resurgence in bizarre and interesting new ways.


The Riot Booth at PAX East every year is a huge example: hundreds of people just standing, watching people play out their games.

I'm not trying to put a value judgment on this question, not really; there are articles and papers written on the social justifications behind games being played with others or alone, highlighting the good or bad of each. That can wait though: I firmly believe there are good ways to play both ways - socially or alone - and also bad ways. I'm curious what other people have felt as personal experiences. Have you had positive experiences sharing your single-player games with others? Bad ones? Can a game that is made specifically for one person to play able to entertain a crowd like a movie might? Maybe you are someone that is into E-sports... is there a chance that this new show of spectating gives a glimmer towards gaming to becoming an acceptable past time like sports can be?

I'm looking forward to seeing responses. Until then, you'll have to give me a minute - I think Zoë is finally going to lose a character to a zombie attack, and I want to mock them mercilessly when it happens.

Wyatt Krause

Editor-in-chief, Co-founder