Look, Singleplayer People Are Just Better

I'm not denying this is territory I've covered before. There's no disguising that I'm a fan of single-playing gaming over multiplayer. Finally it's time to just say it.

We need to stop avoiding the matter, stop not saying what everyone's thinking. I'm the man brave enough to do this. I am a valiant man, and maybe I won't be recognised within my own lifetime, but by God one day I shall be heralded as the prophet and man of integrity I truly am. But please, don't think me immodest. I would hate that.

The very last thing I would want is to come off as snobbish. But I'd like to make the argument that multiplayer gaming is the going down to the pub to watch the "match", to singleplayer gaming's evening in with a glass of wine. What I'm trying to say is, I've had quite enough of loud, yobbish multiplayer gamers making noise outside my window as they drunkenly make their way home, because I have guests. I would like you all to keep it down please.

I remember the first time I played a multiplayer game. The internet had yet to find its ways into homes, and my friend Fred carried his PC to my house on his back. Setting them up in my father's study, we linked the two together with something people back then called a serial cable, and with a fizz and a pop the two were connected. Their entities so entwined, when we each loaded up Doom by some sort of witchcraft we appeared on the other's monitor. Dazzled, we found ourselves unable to look at only one screen, frantically swinging our heads back and forth to see how when we moved in our game, we moved at the same time in the other. It barely made sense.

But now, just as how the modern world has forgotten the value of a phone call now you no longer have to carry the coal from the bottom of the garden, multiplayer gaming falls too easily into the hands of the unwashed, and it becomes the grubby equivalent of teenagers comparing ringtones on a crowded train.

I stress again, I would hate it if I appeared pompous at all when I suggest that single-player gaming, ever-more the forgotten gem of our hobby, is for the more sophisticated, intellectual individual. It takes something more, a different kind of mind, a more educated, refined view, to understand and value the art of the singleplayer. Let me tell you why.

The worth of singleplayer comes in the form of narrative. As with any good novel, or a finely crafted film. It is the equivalent to literature. While multiplayer is an ill-informed argument. It has no direction, no beginning nor end, no meaning.

Games are made with intent. Like books, films and television, the finest examples among them are those that both exist to say something, but allow the player to create his own interpretation. And while of course there are any number of poor or stupid single-player games, there is no multiplayer that evenly closely matches the finest RPG or adventure.

Like I say, I would be just mortified if anyone interpreted these words to be snooty or condescending. I'm just saying people who prefer single player games are a better class than people who mostly opt for multiplayer.

But what about massively multiplayer games, one may ask. Well, it's quite simple. When approached as a singleplayer game, with a world to explore, stories to be told, and a beginning, middle and end, they are firmly in the category of the more refined arts. Once they've descended into mindless raiding in an endless, empty pursuit of a trinket, looped for eternity, then they are something quite other.

I can hear those loutish grunts of protest. "Who are these 'guests' drinking your wine if you're playing singleplayer?" they ask, thinking they've been so astute. Well, my generously foreheaded friend, they're the characters in the game.

Yes, indeed, characters. Something of a mystery to our hooligan brethren. The closest they can understand would be the cartoons that accompany Team Fortress 2, pretending that these outlines of personalities have any effect on their Möbius strip of gaming. Meanwhile I am meeting people, people with lives, backgrounds, motivations and goals. People I can influence, and who can influence me, beyond temporarily making them be dead for a 15-second wait.

My company in these singleplayer games does not berate me, nor shout racial and homophobic epithets after me. If I choose to play at my pace, on my terms, the cast of the game does not huff and grumble, nor question my parents. If I do extremely well they do not grow bitter, or question my methods. They play their parts, along a journey.

A journey with a goal, and ending, a purpose. Mine is a gaming infused with meaning. Mine is a simulacrum for life, a reflection on experience and a metaphor for understanding my existence. Multiplayer gamers emulate some Sisyphean torture, yet as the ball rolls back down the hill these creatures cheer and high five.

I do not argue that these people should be stopped, nor that their games should not be made. Of course not — they need their entertainment, and it's best if they're kept busy. Far better that they're imagining progress within their 45,000th match of Modern Warfare 2 than out smashing windows or selling drugs in parks. But where I object is when the games that sate them become greater in number than those for the more discerning player.

I remember the days when every game had a multiplayer component bundled in with it, something to keep the children happy while the adults played the proper game. But this has now swung the other way, with single-player modes often a bot-based version of the multiplayer nothingness. This absolutely has to stop. The yobs cannot be allowed to dominate, or I would argue all of society can only be minutes from collapse.

So as I have said, coming across in any way as if I think myself superior is far from my intent. I apologise if anyone has gotten that impression. But let's not let the multiplayer lot take over, eh?

John Waker is a writer for Rock Paper Shotgun, one of the world's best sites for PC gaming news. John is Britain's leading adventure gaming specialist. Follow him on Twitter.

Republished with permission.

(Photo by James "BO" Insogna/Shutterstock)


    I'll toast to that

      Well, it's obvious that you suck at multiplayer games. That's why you don't like them much.

    I wouldn't say I'm better but I would say single player is better...think I may be in the minority these days...not sure.

    I agree, but I don't think multiplayer is as bad as the article suggests.

    I reckon it's evolved to the point where it can be a spectator sport in itself. In fact, the analogy of "going to the pub to watch the game" is ironically realised IRL with NASL games being shown in a bar in Seatttle:

    I think that multiplayer gaming and e-sports is the J.K. Rowling to single player gaming's Tolstoy - it brings gaming out of the realm of nerds who just want to be shut in with their "guests", and into the mainstream as an acceptable and enjoyable pasttime that normal people enjoy, and can get into without having to be pro.

    Way to make it obvious that you do think you're better than everyone else.

      Just realised that this is the same guy that posted the idiotic rant about the way Saints Row 3 is being advertised and such.

      It was intentional, and also, hilarious

    Humerous article. I certainly think that both mediums have their plae, but I entirely agree with the analogy. Resident Evil 5 would be a good example of an otherwise rich single-player experience cheapened by the emphasis of co-operative play. Where I would normally enjoy just taking in the visuals, I was egged-on by my co-op friend to "hurry up" and skip cinematics. Co-op and multiplayer ages can certainly be a lot of fun, but a well polished single-player experience will always be more enjoyable for me.

    You keep enjoying your scripted narrative.

    I'll enjoy REAL narratives brought on by REAL players in competitive multiplayer gaming.


      ...what narrative? Player 1 killed Player 2?


        hahahahahahahahahahahaha Thats awesome

      I am not sure if you understand the term "narrative" very well.


        No narrative in mmos? Hah! For example, consider the morally deep and implicative...


      Okay, there's no need to be ridiculous, think about what your saying. Saying that the 'narrative' in a multi-player session is better than what's found in a meticuously paced single-player experience like Portal 2 (for example) is like saying the ad-hoc and improvised goings-on in the big brother house are more insightful and considered than, say, Boardwalk Empire (as an example of expertly written modern fiction).

      Seriously, think about it for a second.

    I feel like you have struck a chord with me. When I play my game I am not looking for the next level up or the best loot. I look to have an experience with the game world that no MMO could ever offer (Unless you count groups that RP).

    I enjoy the feeling of having beaten A boss, hearing the cheers from fellow NPCs, I want to feel like I'm interacting with fellow Residents of this game world.
    hearing A raid leaders rant about how the healers weren't doing their job right or how the Tanks weren't in the right place at the right time Ruins the experience, as far as i'm concerned.

    When I'm playing an MMO I never feel like I am playing a game. It's feels more like job than free time fun. it's hard to be immersed in a world where people judge you on the equipment you wear and how different your stats are compared to the "Preferred" levels.

    I will stick to my Skyrim, Deus Ex, Bards tale, baldur's gate, ect. Because I don't care about how I play the game I purchased, I just here for the experience.

    I gave up reading half way.. what a tool.

    You stay in your cave by yourself John Walker and I'll keep playing social - coop and multiplayer - games with my friends and girlfriend. You know... with people...

      -50DKP. Or would you prefer me to say noob?

      The writer makes a lot of sense. Multiplayer fun seems to rely on the stupidity of others, the stirring of hormone-driven conflict, and the "I'm better than you (even though you beat me)" kind of competitive attitude.

    Whilst I agree that singleplayers are the ultimate experience in videogames, I don't know if I'm a "better class" of people because I prefer them more. It's the argument of who or what is more important, Shakespeare or football?

    Who knows maybe we are great? People are taught to be modest in life but I'm still never going to admit to being "better".

    This is exactly the kind of aloof, elitist perspective I've been trying to cobble together for myself over the past year or so!

    But I'm left wondering, where does co-op stand in this dichotomy. I finished 50 Cent with a mate on the weekend co-op and loved it, would never EVER play it single player... hmm.


    As a lover of all thing singleplayer I'd just like to distance myself from this guy. He does not represent us.....

    The writer seems to think that multiplayer only exist in FPSs. What about sports games? Racing games? Co-op stuff like LBP?

    I prefer single-player myself, but the writer did come across like a snob imo (which I guess was his intent). I don't know what his beef is, since single-player games are still abundant. Both single & multi are enjoyable in different ways, some people just prefer one more than the other, doesn't mean one's necessarily 'better'.

    As a lover of narratives (SP games included) and a person scarred for life by abusive idiots on Xbox Live, I wholeheartedly agree with him.

    Case point: I didn't buy AC:B when it came out because the only hype I'd seen about it was over the multiplayer, hence I'd thought it was a multiplayer game with a tiny single-player side-story tacked on - big marketing fail on Ubisoft's part there.

    Not to say that multiplayer is bad, but I play games for the same reason I read a book - to get lost in the world, the characters and the events. The story.

    As such, I'll stay in my little bubble of relaxation and escapism, offline.

      "Not to say that multiplayer is bad, but I play games for the same reason I read a book – to get lost in the world, the characters and the events. The story."

      Couldn't agree more. My only serious multiplayer interest is TF2... everything else I love about gaming comes largely from great single-player experiences.

    All this means is that you have crappy friends. Or no friends.

    The worst are games with multiplayer tacked on, like Dead Space 2. How many people are still playing the multiplayer? Wouldn't that time have been better spent making a few new levels for the single player? Why shoe-horn in multiplayer where it's not wanted, or needed?
    Give me multiplayer in games where the single player's gameplay make it logical. Like the CoDs, the Halos, the etc etc etc. DOn't waste development time so you can put it on the back of the box as a "feature".

      Agreed, the same with bioshock 2, absolute garbage. Th other issue is multiplayer is a throw away item. The community thine out from constant sequels and eventually the services get shut off taking with it all that hard work. At least single player offers an experience with memories you can keep.

    Wow, so many people who missed the point

      My thoughts exactly.

      While I love seeing RPS articles here, having them here on Kotaku takes them out of the context, and character, that is the RPS community and writers, leading people unfamiliar with them to believe that something like this is written sincerely (as opposed to the tongue-in-cheek celebration of single player games that it is).

        Apparently everyone skipped the first picture in the article.

    So, you'd like to perpetuate the stereotype of gamers being shut ins who can't handle interaction with others, even filtered through the medium they enjoy? Because for all that it seems your core argument is lamenting the fact that narrative driven, expansive single player games are becoming less prevalent (and even though it's obvious that the tone is tongue in cheek)you sound less like a man with a point to make, and more like a wanker who can't deal with other people.

    Sorry, I seem to think that some of the above comments are made by people who believe this is a serious article...

      (darn lack of edit button)... if anything, I feel this is more a satire of someone who feels SP is superior.

      Mind you, I feel MP lost something with the death of my once regular LAN party days. Spend a few hours killing your mates, break for a BBQ dinner and beer, then keep playing till daylight starts creeping under the curtains! All the while sharing por.... errr important patches and the like...

    You sir, are a wonderful writer who has missed the point.

    Single player is like reading a book. Multiplayer is like playing a sport. Each has their own place, and clearly the place that you've been playing multiplayer has been in a teenage environment. Try playing laser tag with a group of adults as opposed to playing with a pre-teen's birthday party & you'll understand just how misguided your comparisons are.

    I agree somewhat with what the author has said. IMO a game has to have a good single player to make it worth my while. One only has to look at my game collection to realise this as it is probably 90% single player only games.

    Saying that though, multiplayer definitely has it's place and can be quite enjoyable. There's a lot of fun to be had with friends and sometimes I just want mindless fun, sometimes I'm not in the mood for a deep, immersive experience. Hell, sometimes I just want to shoot the crap out of somebody.

    *sigh* here we go again. Lets fix the "casual gamer" and "hardcore gamer" division problem we seem to have today by adding more titles. Why can't we all just be "gamers" and not
    "Hardcore-Singleplayer-RPG-LikesJamOnBothSidesOfTheirToast gamer"

    I'm interested in what you think of Co-Op play, particularly games like Borderlands which incorporate both characters into the narrative. Also, what about MMO's like The Old Republic - which promise a player (well, class) specific narrative which intersects with a separate narrative when you interact with a different class.

    I have to say I agree overall - to a point. For me purchasing a game (in the large majority of games) is for the singleplayer and multiplayer is an added bonus.

    "The worth of singleplayer comes in the form of narrative. As with any good novel, or a finely crafted film. It is the equivalent to literature. While multiplayer is an ill-informed argument. It has no direction, no beginning nor end, no meaning."

    BEST think said in the whole arctacl. People in On-Line games need to get a grip. To much raging about how other people are 'badys' and so on. When I play on-line, I play to have a bit of fun. If people in, say HoN, are telling you to quit the game cos your bad at it, I think they should be expeled from being a gamer, as they have missed the point of a game.

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