Editorial | 12/31/2009 at 12:47 PM

The Co-op Terminology Guide

Now that the holidays are over, you've probably received a few games in your stocking, under a tree, in a festive bush, or by some other miracle. If you've received one of many great co-op titles from this past year, you may have some questions about what kind of co-op you have in your hands or who you can play with. That's what the Co-Optimus database of cooperative games is for - to tell you exactly what kind of co-op experience you can expect from your game. But to some the terminology may be confusing, different, or foreign. That's where this guide comes in. We always get questions about the terminology associated with co-op games. This is the Co-Optimus.com's definitive guide to co-op terminology, with examples of games supporting these particular co-op features.

But first, how does Co-Optimus define co-op gaming? Many people have different perceptions and ideas of what co-op is to them, and honestly, that's perfectly fine. But here is ours:

"A co-op game is a game where two or more players work together to accomplish a goal against AI opponents. Ideally the game will feature a strong story in which both players take part of. Co-Op can be online over the internet, offline on the same console, or via a LAN or Wireless Network. We do not consider team based games as co-op where players face off against another team of human players."

Let's take a look at the rest of the terminology.

Couch Co-Op

Couch Co-op is often called "Local co-op," and allows two (2) or more players to play on the same television, game console or computer, and couch...or multiple chairs, or couch and floor...or standing if that makes you happy. The screen can either be split to accommodate the players, or as one screen with the players on the same point of view.

[Trine, LEGO: Batman, Fairytale Fights]



Splitscreen is a specific form of local co-op that will partition the screen in one of a few ways giving each player their own viewpoint. The screen is often split vertically or horizontally depending on the aspect ratio of the game or the developers preference. Some games get a bit more creative and will have partial-screen splits. One example of the creative splitscreen has one players screen floating in the top left corner, and the other sitting in the bottom right of the television screen.

[Left 4 Dead 2, Gears of War, Army of Two. Odd split: Resident Evil 5]


Online with Splitscreen

Online with Splitscreen is an often-requested feature here on Co-Optimus. This style of co-op allows for two (2) or more local players to play with one (1) or more online players. The set up doesn't necessarily mean the screen is split, but rather local players can play with online players at the same time. This set-up is ideal for co-op playing spouses, significant others, local friends, or siblings to play with their long distance friends at the same time.

[Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, Halo 3: ODST, Resistance 2.]

LAN/System Link/AD-HOC

LAN or system link games are handy for multiple console homes, dorms, or apartments. Players will link up their systems to play a game of local-kind-of co-op in groups. This style of co-op is the most common on PC games and handhelds for this gaming generation.

[Halo 3: ODST, Army of Two: The 40th Day PSP, Borderlands]




Drop-in/Drop-out co-op is a handy little feature which allows players to jump in or out of a game as they see fit. Ways this is handy: When a co-op pair are close to completing a game, but one player has to go to work/school/sleep, that player can drop out and allow the other player to complete the progress of the game. Or, when you pick up a slimeball co-op partner via Xbox Live, Playstation Network, or Steam matchmaking, you can leave the game without penalty or canceling the slimeball's game, and vice-versa. Players that arrive late to the party can fill an empty slot, or players that have to leave early can open up a new slot without dropping the entire campaign.

[Dawn of War 2, Left 4 Dead, Mercenaries 2: World in Flames]


Co-op Specific Content

Co-op specific content is a specific mode devoted to co-op which does not apply to the single-player or storyline of the game. These modes are often: Survival, where your team is set up against wave after wave of enemies. Co-op only campaigns, where you'll play with some friends through scenarios unrelated to the main storyline or campaign.

[Overlord II, Gears of War 2, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves]


Single Player Content Available In Co-Op

With this feature, we want to see all of the single player content available in the co-op. While ideally this includes all of the cutscenes and story based elements, it's not always the case. As long as the core single player gameplay and rewards are intact, we consider it the the same content. So while Gears of War is a prime example of a game that embodies everything good about co-op, Call of Duty: World at War still has the single player content intact even though it's presentation of it isn't perfect.

[50 Cent: Blood on The SandGears of War 2, Resident Evil 5, Crackdown]


This is a bonus section based on terms coined by Co-Optimus.com for use in relation to co-op. These terms are used to define any quirky, unofficial co-optimisms free to be changed or expanded on at any time.

Co-opticrew - the Co-Optimus.com staff, ready to serve your co-op needs answering questions and playing online co-op with whoever may need it.

Co-opticast - The Co-optimus podcast, full of co-op antics bi-weekly.

Co-optimize - To play a co-op game in co-op for the best possible experience. Or, becoming a creative co-op gamer, making any single player experience cooperative in some way or another.

The Perfect Co-Op Experience - The game supports all of the aforementioned cooperative features as well as includes a tightly integrated story around the co-op characters. Players can save their progress to their own games and drop in and out at any time.


We love to play games with our friends, family, and random strangers online. This guide, along with the rest of Co-Optimus.com, combined with the community and staff should help you have the most enjoyable cooperative experience possible. Consider joining the Co-Op Revolution as a New Years resolution you actually keep, we'd love to have you.