There’s a discourse going around lately that single-player games are writhing in a torturously slow, choking death crawl into oblivion. With multiplayer online games and esports becoming the way of the future, is there really no place for the lone wolf anymore? Will single-player games slowly vanish into gaming history? Are we headed for a future where children don’t understand the concept of a game that you play completely disconnected from the internet? It seems slightly dystopic to me, but might be idyllic to others.
I’m exaggerating a pretty reasonable amount by saying that single-player games could potentially disappear entirely. This won’t ever be the case; there will also be room for single-player games. But I’d still like for us to consider a future where they don’t exist anymore. A place where only multiplayer games exist, whether that be online or local.
I love online games. But to play them I either have to have a least one or two other friends who own/play the game or there need to be enough randoms willing to join up to enjoy it to the fullest. Some online games make it easy to match up with players you don’t know for things that require more than one person. Other games leave it up to you. For people who are shy or who have anxiety about meeting other/new people, it can be really hard to reach out to those you don’t know. There are also often already established groups that don’t want new players to join them.
In a future where massively multiplayer online games are the only ones in existence, there would have to be better mechanics in place to match people up. Perhaps a role-playing game could suggest guilds for people to join based on their skills and/or class. That would help remove the possibility of being turned down by guilds that either don’t want you for whatever reason or don’t suit your needs. It would also remove the awkwardness and fear of reaching out to people you don’t know.
Another great thing about online and multiplayer gaming is the sense of community that it creates. In high school, I joined my school’s drama club, because I wanted something to do after school. The acceptance and camaraderie I enjoyed there has carried over into my life today. I even joined in on a local community theater production, because I wanted to revel in that sense of unbridled belonging that I had enjoyed once before. This same feeling exists in online gaming. Multiplayer games give us the chance to connect with our fellow humans, which thrills us and satisfies our need for socialization. Esports can even do the same thing with or without being a player. Much like those who watch traditional sports, the fans of certain esports teams will join together to celebrate wins and lament losses.
But what about the loner? The person who just doesn’t want social interaction at times? This future of online only would be terrible for them. They’d have no relief. I can understand these feelings. Some days, I just really don’t want to deal with anyone. I’d rather spend some alone time with myself, my thoughts, and a good game, or book, or movie, whatever it may be. I’d wager that everyone has these moments. Right now, single-player games are here to save the day. In the past few years, I would pick up The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim if I wanted some chill time to myself. I’d boot up a Fallout save file or rummage through my old Xbox 360 games.
Titles like these, as well as any other great single-player games, are necessary for those moments when we just don’t want to socialize. Sometimes, after spending an entire day at work, we can only rewind by being alone. Without epic, quality single-player content, those depressurizing moments would go away. We’d have to pick a multiplayer game that was more low-key than others or no game at all. But frankly, no game at all is a horrifying thought. So let’s make sure we keep a lot of single-player options around for ourselves into the future, yeah?