4. No A.I. can compare to a human opponent.
As technology has improved, game designers have gotten better and better at making digital characters act in complex ways. But A.I. will probably never compete with human ingenuity. Yes, Watson won Jeopardy, and even chess masters fall to the best computers—but enemy A.I. is no Watson, and video games do not have the rigid set of rules that help chess programs win.
In a single-player campaign in a first-person shooter, a single person mows down scores of enemies. But in multiplayer, by definition, every time one player scores a kill, another player dies. This makes multiplayer far more challenging—mainly because it's hard to match the reflexes, strategic thinking, and sheer unpredictability of a breathing person who doesn't run on a series of commands programmed into a computer.
5. Multiplayer adds value to a purchase.
As I've argued before, the length of a video game matters. When we gamers plop down $60 on a purchase, we expect to get at least $60 worth of entertainment out of it. And one way to add value is to create a compelling multiplayer mode.
Single-player games can sometimes be highly replayable—but more often, there isn't a whole lot left to see once you get the credits to roll. Multiplayer is a completely different experience—because you're up against real human beings with real human intelligence, and, as described above, there's always a new strategy to master and a new opponent to beat. This is why so many people buy first-person shooters that have brief or sub-par campaigns. There are so many hours of entertainment in the multiplayer modes that the campaign doesn't really matter.
All this isn't to say that every single game needs multiplayer. However, it is to say that modern game developers are giving multiplayer—and especially local multiplayer—short shrift. Multiplayer facilitates human interaction, continues a grand tradition in the medium of video games, offers an unparalleled challenge, and makes games far more valuable than they'd be without it. Let's hope that with the next generation of consoles, game companies see to it that multiplayer is given its due.
Date: July 3, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central. This week's is also purely a work of fiction*