One of the issues that constantly arises here at Co-Optimus headquarters is defining exactly what is, and is not, co-op. A good portion of feedback we get from users of the site is “why isn’t game X in your database? It’s totally co-op” when it really isn’t. According to this blurb from our “About” page:
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.
More than just our readers are confused about what co-op is; many publishers seem to think team-based modes are true co-op, for instance. Similar issues arise in the tabletop gaming world. A great many games feature teamwork and cooperation, but don’t quite hit the mark of a full-on cooperative experience from start to finish. Adapting the blurb above to board and card games, we might end up with something like this:
A co-op game is a game where players work together to accomplish a goal against the game itself. Typically, a subset of the rules or a particular component (like a deck of cards) will work against the players, requiring teamwork and planning to overcome. Team based games, where players group up off against other human players, are not considered to be truly cooperative.
To further illustrate what a true co-op tabletop game is, look no farther than the series of articles you are reading right now. Pandemic is one fantastic example. Players use their varied powers and abilities to manage the spread of diseases, while simultaneously developing cures. Zombicide pits a team of survivors against a horde of zombies controlled by simple set of rules and a deck of cards for some variation. In the D&D Adventure System games, like Castle Ravenloft and The Legend of Drizzt, each monster heroes encounter has its own unique AI, represented by a series of rules on a card. Each of these games exemplifies a fully cooperative experience, with all players working together against the game itself.