It’s time for another edition of Ask RPS, where we answer reader questions put forward by RPS supporters. Today’s question is a nice, warm, fuzzy one, as it’s all about the good times we’ve had playing games in co-op with friends and family.
It comes courtesy of Aerothorn, who asks: What is your favorite co-op gaming memory? (along with the additional clarification that these memories don’t need to be confined to designed-for-co-op games, but could also stem from playing a single-player game with a friend. “I used to play Descent with me piloting and my friend gunning!” they said).
So which games make us think of happy times with pals and good company? Come and find out below.
Alice Bee: My favourite co-op memories are all couch co-op. When I was a teenager my friend Tim would host LAN parties in his garage. We sat around wearing full winter gear, with our feet on portable electic heaters because the garage was freezing, and play Gang Beasts. I remember an especially clutch game where Geoff was being chased around the moving ferris wheel, as everyone tried not to lose their grip. I used to play Halo co-op with Geoff as well. Ah, to be young again (actually no, it sucked).
Edwin: Many of my treasured co-op memories predictably consist of playing games with my younger brother, who has Downs Syndrome. People with Downs Syndrome are often stereotyped as infantile and cute, so let me recalibrate perceptions a little by saying that in-game, my brother is an incorrigible mass-murderer and turncoat. He routinely Left me 4 Dead in Left 4 Dead, ran me over in Halo 3 and generally speaking, did his best to slaughter any and all quest-critical NPCs we fell in with. Grand times.
I’ve also spent many a cosy December evening playing local multiplayer games with the whole family. Our favourites include Overcooked, in which half the team tried to do Silver Service while the other half stood around yelling things like “HHWWHERE is my PASTAAA”, and Gang Beasts, with its marvelously awkward physics and borderline-unbreakable grabs. In terms of people outside the family, I have a lovely memory of falling in with a jovial Scouse guy while defending the Club House map (I think) in Rainbow: Six Siege. I didn’t have a mic, because I am terrified of letting people hear my posh accent online, so was forced to communicate by pinging things and waggling my gun like a Semaphore flag. I remember entertaining the other player in deathcam spectator view after he got killed, by pretending that I was pulling myself a pint at the bar. A fleeting encounter, perhaps, but heart-warming interactions like that stick out in a game about bursting through walls with shotguns blazing.
James: The old DayZ mod was a 225km2 adrenaline factory, even with a pal by your side. My favourite memory: a mutter of “Do you hear that?”, followed by hitting the deck as a helicopter tore overhead. We watched it land in a nearby airfield and, seeing the occupants were dressed as bandits, knew what needed doing. We approached unseen through the grass, crawled close enough to see the whites of their banditty eyes, and overcame jittering hands to ambush one and chase down the other. A completely chance encounter, yet one that stoked the nerves far more forcefully than any scripted shooter setpiece I’ve played since.
Jeremy: My fondest co-op memories, aside from playing RPGs on the tabletop, are from the years 2011-2012 when I was living in Taiwan as a student teacher. In the afternoons, I attended Chinese class, and immediately afterwards me and two friends would go to any of the dozens of PC cafes that lay littered near our school to play World of Warcraft, or 魔獸世界(“moshou shijie,” literally “Magical Beast World”) as it’s known in Chinese. Since I had no money for a proper PC at the time, playing WoW on Chinese servers in PC cafes was the way to go.
Running through Burning Crusade instances with two buddies sitting next to me and trying to communicate with local players was hilarious fun, and since playing in a cafe was dirt cheap, we used to spend waaaay too much time there – something like six/seven hours each day! Obviously we’d take breaks in between to talk about girls, existential crises, and all that other male bonding nonsense, and these PC cafes were so good because you could order food from your computer (and I’m talking real food, like curry rice, beef noodles, katsudon, etc). They also served this really strong coffee that was designed to keep you WIRED like a true GaMeR…aka, it was poison to keep you from never leaving the cafe. This was my life for those glorious years. After my buddies left Taiwan, I eventually stopped going, since it just wasn’t the same without ’em.
Kiera: I used to play a lot of Crash Bandicoot back in the day with my older brother. Like most siblings sharing a console, we took it in turns to play the different levels – with varying success in my case. Crash Twinsanity was our favourite and to this day it has major nostalgic value for me. Years later I played the same game again, this time with my younger brother (who is nine years younger than me). I felt privileged to step into that older sibling role and get us through all of the levels, no mean feat when you realise how tough those games used to be!
There was one level – some kind of snowy tundra where you had to slide down a mountain and race to the finish line – where my younger brother finally managed to complete it on his own without my help. His little face was so proud, and I felt at that moment how fantastic games can be and how they can shape our childhoods without us really noticing it. Sure, we live in a time of remakes now and it’s beyond frustrating that no one seems to have new ideas anymore, but if they ever released a Twinsanity remake I would probably cry and then need at least a week off work to play it.
Katharine: I grew up with three brothers in a firm Nintendo household, so most of my favourite co-op memories involve frantic Mario Kart matches, endless ‘one more round’s of Goldeneye and Perfect Dark, and really any game that let us play with all four controllers. We’d all have our set characters that were absolutely sacred and no one else was allowed to use (because otherwise intense tantrums would erupt), and my second oldest brother even took it upon himself to chronicle all this in a dedicated notebook like it was some kind of family gaming bible. Good times, those…
Ed: Hmmm, this is a tough one as I don’t have one specific moment in mind. I’d say some of my favourite co-op memories lie in Gears Of War 2’s Wingman mode (2vs2vs2) where I’d build up synergies with some of my closest pals, as if they were my doubles partner in like, an actual sport. I have fond memories of Bubble Trouble 2 after school in the library, us huddled around a single keyboard to kill time. And League Of Legends back at uni, where myself and my flatmates would form a circle of laptops and cane the ranked ladder. We were awful, to be clear. But our passion? Unmatched.
Alice0: I still feel nostalgia for my first time playing an FPS, playing Doom 2 together with a pal. Not in co-op, sharing the keyboard. One moved while the other was in control of fighting and NHNGing, because how could anyone use their hands in two different places? How would they even manage to look at the keys?
The memory which always makes me laugh and go to reinstall the game, mind, was in Viscera Cleanup Detail. The sloppy ancestor of PowerWash Simulator lets you create mess as well as clean, with simulated physics and slop, and you end up knocking over bloody mop buckets, starting fires, trailing bloody footprints, and maybe adding your own corpse to the mess. It is a peaceful game, mind, and Pip and I often just hung out and mopped with chums. So imagine my surprise and terror while intently mopping a rusty boiler room then turning to see one of the supposedly destroyed Terminator robots peeking around a corner. Not moving, not attacking, just peeking, whole torso around the corner like Denace the Menace seeing if it’s safe to steal a windowsill pie. Wiggling like a cat preparing to pounce. I panic. Then… I’m puzzled. Then I notice a pair of rubber gloves behind the torso. Then I hear our mate Dan stifling giggles. Then I look. And I find him lurking just round the corner, where he has been holding the trash torso and waiting patiently for me to notice. A phenomenal prank. Honestly, any game is magic in co-op with the right people, but Viscera Cleanup Detail feels extra-magic. You’re helping each other, sure, but sometimes you’re ‘helping’ too. I can never tell Pip the mischief I caused, so I’m telling you the mischief Dan caused.
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