Co-op gaming requires at least two players; that's a given. Some games, like Castle Crashers, allow more players to join in the action, and even provide flexibility for players who are at different points in the game. Some games, however, only support two players, which in almost all cases is better than one. Whether it's a plot conflict, processing snag, or just plain too crowded, a good portion of the current library of co-op games is limited to two players. Games such as Mercenaries 2: World in Flames and Gears of War offer the "drop-in, drop-out" feature, so you're rarely without a friend to co-op with; but what happens when you start a new campaign as a Co-op Couple?
Answer: you're stuck. See that wedding band or engagement ring? There's another one there next to it; throw it in the fire, and it reads in the language of Mordor, "Don't play until I get home."
As with any commitment, however, this unspoken-but-binding contract carries the risk of being broken, and the opportunity for infidelity will present itself: what seems like a harmless day of LEGO Star Wars on your Playstation 2 is interrupted as your cell phone alert tells you that your old high school buddy has just sent a text message. “Want to play RotK? My Gandalf has a new ranged attack!”
(Of course, real life text messages are never punctuated that well, but bear with me.)
Thirty seconds scrape by, each one dragging you farther away from the guilt that gathers in your throat and keeps you from swallowing a contemplative swig of iced tea. Your shirt soaked, you finally respond and agree to run through a few stages with your long-distance buddy…this why you bought the online adapter, remember?
Besides, you’re playing Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Everyone knows that you can’t level up nor advance the story by playing online co-op. Just for this one time, you’re glad that EA decided not to allow perpetual character development in the online mode. Three hours and six hundred dead orcs later, your friend thanks you for the good time and signs off. You quickly remove the disc from the console, snap it away, hit the power button, and run to the kitchen just in time for a tea refill as the front door opens and your significant other walks in.
“Hey, babe. How was work?”
“Grueling. I need to steam off; let’s play that game.”
It’s not an invitation.
As your partner drops their satchel next to the couch and reaches for the game case, sweat trickles down your temples. On the cover, Aragorn’s normally clenched teeth are now fixed in a menacing grin. Your partner pops the disc out and hesitates; it’s still warm. For an agonizing moment, you grip your cold tea mug until your fingertips are numb. In the living room, your partner shrugs off the oddity and fires up the game, unraveling two controllers and looking expectantly in your direction.
For you, walking from the refrigerator to the couch is like walking the plank for the scurviest pirate lord that ever existed. You can feel a pain in your back, no doubt from the proverbial sword poking you forward.
Everything goes well at first; despite a few close calls, the game manages to immerse both of you, and before long you’re spinning combos together and enjoying the cinematic cutscenes. Your partner squeezes your hand and goes to fetch you the box of Cheez-its. This is how co-op gaming is supposed to be! Why did you ever settle for less?
Alas, it was not destined to end the way it started…in your elation, you neglect subtlety. On-screen, Gimli’s axe twirls into a spectacular attack; your eyes tear up, it’s so beautiful. Your partner’s controller hits the floor, but not because they’re impressed. In a tone demanding no less than an immediate and truthful answer, you are asked the question that for gamers transfers from the bedroom to the game console…
“Where did you learn THAT trick?!”
In most cases, hearing that from your partner is a good thing. Whether co-op gaming or procreating, pulling the right combo once will ensure that you are obligated to do that every time. However, in both instances, you’d better have a good story explaining how it got into your innocent head to perform such an amazing and devastating move. The way you answer will determine if the activity resumes or not…for the next six months.
Luckily for us, there is always new software in development, and in this golden age of online gaming and four controllers per console, cooperative games are becoming more and more prominent on store shelves and in virtual marketplaces. Your submission to temptation will be overlooked the instant your partner takes a fancy to a new game.
So if you find yourself receiving invites to play Guitar Hero: Aerosmith while the other half of your Co-op Couple is out, have no fear. We at Co-optimus.com do not condone sharing your co-op experience with whatever tramp sends you an invite, but we do provide a list of co-op games for you to make a fresh start…just in case you get caught.