Squad 51 vs. the Flying Saucers

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How Co-Op Builds Friendships...With Strangers
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How Co-Op Builds Friendships...With Strangers

I’ve met some of my best friends online. It wasn’t through an AOL chatroom, or a BBS message board. Even my Power Rangers Facebook group fell out of touch with each other and most of my sports teams just come together for our one game a week. One thing has remained consistent and solidified friendships in my life and that is co-op gaming.

The Early Years

I find it super weird to think that I have people around the world that I can call a friend, especially when I have been to less than 10% of the countries on the planet. In this technological age of Facetimes, Hangouts, and streaming a void still remains between two people and their screens. However, when you put a group of people into a game together and give them a task; slay a monster, rescue a prince, fight off evil to save the world - people will come together for a cause. I cannot explain exactly what it is, but I revel in the fact that co-op gaming brings strangers together, and sometimes they even become friends.

I’m not saying every person you hop into a game should be invited to come over for dinner. Heck,  this is almost impossible nowadays since 90% of the time the people I’m playing online with are cities, countries, and continents apart. If you were like me and grew up before online gaming was a thing, it was the kids on the street who became your co-op partners and these guys always kept on stealing my pizza in TMNT. As you grew older, and your mom let you have a sleepover it was all about eternal nights of Bubble Bobble, Contra, and Battletoads. Finishing any of these games with a friend forged an eternal bond which I will argue can never be broken.

Co-Op gaming isn’t a new idea, or exclusive to video games. It’s been around for a while, especially when it comes to tabletop gaming. Spending many nights with created characters trudging through long campaigns has its charm, but logistics usually become a detriment as people grow older and time becomes an issue. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some of my best times on paper but I can’t be bothered with the inconvenience of the whole process anymore now that I have been spoiled with a computer as a Dungeon Master.  

My first online experiences as a kid fell into the 28.8K category where you had to call up a buddy, tell your mom not to pick up the phone, and then dial into each other’s modem. DOOM deathmatch and QUAKE were the earliest nuances of being able to interact with another human being that wasn’t in the same room. Even though we were turning each other into giblets, it gave new meaning to video games. No longer did I have to ask permission to go to someone’s house, or wait until the weekend to play with my friends. Soon mods came out where we could be in the game together fraggin monsters instead of each other. This changed everything.