Find games to play together •

Hi! Over the next few days, we will be going back over some of our favorite games and moments and themes and more from this very strange year. We hope you enjoy looking back with us!

It is not easy to find games to play with other people in the same house. You know, if you’ve tried. That’s one of the reasons I was so impressed with It Takes Two earlier this year. It is not only playable in local co-op, but completely designed for it, which means game solutions require two people instead can also be played of two people. For example, one person throws giant nails into a wall while the other person uses the head of a giant claw hammer to swing at them. It’s just one example, and there are many – the ideas keep changing and they keep coming – and it’s brilliant. It Takes Two is probably the best example of dedicated local co-op play for years, if not ever.

But playing together is not always about defined co-op. It can also mean that two people – or more – contribute to a game, even if only one person is actively playing it. The Dark Pictures series does this really well and it has become a crucial feature of it. The latest game, House of Ashes, came out this year, and in it you can assign different characters to different people in the room and then pass the pillow when their sections come up. And having a quick break while someone else gets pulled in and takes over – on their own difficulty level (a nice feature) – works really well.

As far as I know, developer Supermassive almost stumbled into this niche. That was before people talked about playing Until Dawn with other people and treating it a bit like a collaborative film – “No, do not go down into the dark basement alone!” – that Supermassive realized what it had. And it is actually this instinct to shout up and participate that you can see across games.

Ian and Aoife take on the House of Ashes in their own way.

One of the most magnetic games in this regard, this year, was the Microsoft Flight Simulator. By moving from PC to console, and therefore onto a large TV near a sofa, the game opened up much more to passers-by. There’s a nice part of Martin’s review of the Microsoft Flight Simulator Xbox, where he shares a picture of his family tucked around his TV while someone plays the game. I can almost imagine what they are saying. “Fly there!” Or, “Oh, I remember I went there!” It’s an effect I saw firsthand when I flew to my partner’s hometown in Bulgaria – a place I do not think has been mapped for a game, and I never will. She sat glued to the screen, sharing memories as we flew. These common experiences of flying and home: they are incredibly powerful things to pull on.

But shared experiences do not have to be that great. Another game we played a lot this year was Dorfromantik, a game for placing tiles that is so picturesque and lovely that I just want to kiss it when I think about it. One of us played while the other looked over his shoulder and we spent whole afternoons figuring out how we could increase our score. Charmingly unfathomable, that game.

There is no conscious co-op in Village Romance that is just closeness and a human desire to be involved in some way. You do not always have to hold the controller to participate. Since when have football fans felt left out because they are not on the pitch, or even in the stands within audible reach of the players?

Speaking of streaming: here Ian is stupid in Microsoft Flight Simulator.

This is why streaming works so well because we are part of the gaming experience, whether we control it or not, especially if we are active in chat and affect the playback in some way. Social platforms are an extension of our social desires, I suppose.

And if it were not for streaming – yes, video conferencing in this specific case – we would not have played the game that has taken up most of our time this year: Dungeons & Dragons. This is the first extended campaign that any of us have been involved in and we have been playing online (and once in person) since the summer. It works great online when you mix green screens and voice modifiers and sound effects and digital character sheets and dice rolls. I even bought faunhorns and headboards as props! And I can not tell you how nice it has been to have daily conversations about character buildings and ‘what will happen next week’ – oh and about how I accidentally pulled everyone into the spirit world and almost got us all killed, yadda yadda – than about mold on the bathroom walls.

Which is a very long way to say: we found games to play, whether they were ticked cooperatives or not. And I’m excited to find out more in the coming year.

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