Playing video games is a great way to occupy yourself when you’re stuck home by yourself, but more importantly, they’ve become an important tool for friendship and community. This was particularly notable during the pandemic when many young people stayed connected with friends through games of Fortnite or by gathering on an Animal Crossing Island. Some people even went on first dates in games, setting up elaborate scenarios. Games, we’ve discovered, make for enriching social environments, and that’s pushing game creators to emphasize improved multiplayer functions.
Multiple Multiplayer Worlds
In order to explore all the different possibilities that multiplayer gaming offers, game developers need to integrate the function into a wide variety of game types. For example, VR gaming has become more popular and is a great way to take multiplayer gaming from the screen into scenarios that feel more like real-life collaboration. Though VR gaming is still relatively niche compared to other modes of play, it’s definitely beginning to hit its stride.
Cooperative And Competitive
Another factor that game designers need to consider when developing multiplayer functions for their games is what will motivate players, and two major factors are competition and cooperation. By equipping games with competitive functions like leaderboards, game developers can encourage group play while also increasing the motivation for players to make in-game purchases to keep up with peers. Alternatively, there’s been a great deal of growth in cooperative play through games like Among Us and even Stardew Valley, allowing players to work together toward a shared goal.
Deeper Social Environments
Much as VR enhanced multiplayer experiences for gamers, the growth of graphic-intensive games in recent years makes multiplayer gameplay more engaging and exciting. Far from the pixellated experiences that made up retro games or even some more simplistic recent releases, graphic-intensive games are most popular with serious gamers who own computers able to support these programs. These players are also the most likely to be part of a wider community of gamers, and therefore have peers they want to play alongside, making multiplayer functions all the more important in graphic-heavy games.
Overall, conversations about multiplayer gaming, both among developers and players themselves, have focused on desktop and console gaming. What this overlooks, however, is potentially the most important gaming platform: mobile.
Mobile gaming has been quietly revolutionary, beginning with early smartphone games like the original Candy Crush and expanding to include today’s expansive mobile worlds and rapidly growing revenue streams. In 2015, Apple and Google grossed approximately $27 billion from mobile apps, and such numbers are on a steady, upward trend. And, unlike the sort of simple multiplayer ideas underlying a game like Words With Friends, which didn’t require real-time engagement or advanced graphics, today’s mobile players regularly tackle half an hour of multiplayer World of Warcraft missions on their phones without thinking twice.
The need to use gaming as a social lifeline during the pandemic introduced multiplayer experiences to a lot of people who had never played a video game more complicated than Pokemon Go, and as a result, the world is expanding further and faster than ever. Players of all ages and interests are ready to join their friends online, to do battle, solve a mystery, or just grow some corn, and that’s pushing developers to imagine new possibilities.