From GoldenEye to Fortnite, from Zork to Horizon Zero Dawn, gamers have long had a vast selection of great single player and multiplayer options.
Is one mode genuinely better than the other or is a balanced experience between both best? Let us dive in, shall we?
Gamers have been able to use video games to compete with each other for a long time. It has been many years since early gamers were able to determine who of their friends was the best at Pong. Competition is the basis for many forms of entertainment such as sports. Sports are a pretty big deal in case you had not noticed.
Many big multiplayer games are modelled after sports from Madden and NBA2K to the loosely soccer-based Rocket League. Of course, multiplayer games also vary with online shooters like Call of Duty, online poker, MMOs like World of Warcraft, and League of Legends.
Competition is not for everyone (or sports for that matter). Maybe you would rather shoot baskets on your own then play against other players of varying skill. Single player adventures such as the Elder Scroll series, Star Wars: KOTOR, and Metroid provide many solo alternatives to those who do not require interaction with other players.
“Competition is not for everyone…”
Many games allow the player to experience both of these things. Halo has long been applauded for providing top-tier single player experiences while also providing competitive multiplayer opportunities. You can play Pokémon completely solo, but they also allow for the opportunity to test your team against others locally or around the globe.
The case for single player
If immersion is what you seek out in a video game, single player experiences are tough to beat. There is a reason that role-playing games are historically geared towards single player experiences. Immersion is, of course, possible in multiplayer games, but typically in a different sense.
Single player experiences are great for an escape from the real world. They can be quiet and serene, but also foreboding and intense. From terrifying swims through the depths in Subnautica to dungeon crawling in your favorite Zelda title, the worlds and experiences are your own, and it is a great feeling.
“…the worlds and experiences are your own…”
If single player is your preference, it is not because you are a nerdy gamer. It is because you appreciate the splendor and spectacle that virtual worlds can provide. Single player titles tell stories or let you forge your own, and experience few mediums can mimic.
One perk of multiplayer is actually directly opposite of an above perk of single player. The worlds and experiences are shared. Whether it is with friends or strangers, multiplayer allows the player to compete against or cooperate with all kinds of real-world individuals.
“The worlds and experiences are shared.”
There is a distinct satisfaction in besting someone at the game of your choice. Whether you are playing on the same TV or halfway across the world, victory is sweet. Losses are lessons learned and wins are the fruits of your virtual labor.
Cooperating with others to achieve a goal is another enjoyable perk that multiplayer provides. Whether it is taking down Destiny raid online or buddying up to take opponents on in a two-on-two game of hoops in Rocket League, some things are best enjoyed in the company of your best gaming pals.
Why not both?
Today, we see more and more standalone experiences. Overwatch is solely built for multiplayer, while Middle Earth: Shadow of War is for single player gaming. Historically, a great deal of games have provided both.
Halo and Pokémon have already been sited, but even games like Call of Duty (known for multiplayer) have always included a cinematic single player campaign). These types of options are always welcome, as no player is forced to choose and the two modes often complement each other.
So is one better than the other?
You already know the answer, don’t you? Of course, the contest of single player vs. multiplayer comes down to personal preference. Sorry.
If shared triumphs, shortcomings, and experiences are for you, then multiplayer is your scene. If role-playing, exploration, and individual achievement is for you, then single player is often preferable. Do not forget also the option: both!
This writer’s personal opinion is closest to the “both” category. I do not take great pleasure in competing or collaborating online with strangers. I do however take great joy from split screen games or playing with parties online made up of close friends. As much as I love a classic Halo night, single player is often my preference when I finally have time to play a game.
So there you go. You may certainly take a stance one way or the other, but neither is going anywhere. Take your pick, or pick them both!