No one on their death bed ever said, ˜I wish I d spent more time alone with my computer.
” Dani Bunten Berry
As the above quote suggests, few computer gamers would care to admit to their families just how much time they spend playing their games. One might think this shame is because single-player video games are such a solitary pursuit. What s interesting is how other pursuits that are equally solitary ” reading books, listening to music, or studying math ” are not seen as embarrassing ways to spend one s time. Besides their often-puerile nature and immature content, one key difference between games and other pursuits is that single-player computer games present the illusion of interaction with another human, though no other human is actually present. Though the AI agents take the place of the other players required to play a non-computer game, in many ways it is truly the designer who takes the place of the other players. Unfortunately, the designer can only take their place to the extent he can put himself into digital formon a CD or DVD. Of course, in the end the dynamic interaction that single-player games provide is far more limited than what can be provided in multi-player games .
But to the non-gaming world multi-player online games are seen as just as antisocial as single-player games, if not more so. Indeed, with an online game, the user is still alone in a room with the computer, but if the game is well designed it allows the computer to project the other players onto the screen in a way that greatly exceeds the expressive potential of, say, a telephone. Yet to the outside world these interpersonal interactions are not seen as real. To them the world players are battling or cooperating or simply socializing in is not a worthwhile place to be. The millions of fans of multi-player gaming know that this space becomes real because of the people filling it. The realness of the other players makes the experience of playing a multi-player game have a much greater importance than any single-player game can ever manage.
Though commercial multi-player online games have had a rocky history over the lifetime of the industry, there is no doubt that as a more mass medium they truly started to take hold in the early 21st century. These multi-player games attract such a particularly devoted following and create such compelling experiences that many cannot help but wonder : as soon as the rest of the world catches up in terms of technology and playing habits, are the days of solo-play games numbered? Indeed, if one looks at non-electronic games, multi-player games are as old as games themselves , with single-player games such as solitaire being in the extreme minority of available choices. If one looks at the classics, such as chess, Monopoly , Scrabble , Dungeons & Dragons , Cosmic Encounter , Magic: The Gathering , or The Settlers of Catan , one will see the incredible breadth and depth of multi-player games. Throw in all forms of sports and one will see a form whose popularity still greatly exceeds computer games. Though the legacy of computer-based multi-player games is more limited than their single-player brethren, the history of human experience with multi-player games gives a rich history upon which to draw.