Hope You Never Miss Out On Something Because You Played A Game Solo

Hope You Never Miss Out On Something Because You Played A Game Solo

Anxiety caused by the fear of missing out (FOMO) is a real thing: it’s when you worry that no matter what you’re doing at that moment, you could be doing something better somewhere else. Typically, FOMO is discussed in the context of social media, as social media feeds into the fear of missing out. We can constantly check in on what’s happening with our friends and family — and having this ability makes it easy to wonder if you’d be having a better time doing something else.

You might experience something similar to FOMO while playing games online, since most platforms tell you what your friends are playing at any given moment. That makes it easy to doubt whether what you’re thinking of playing is as cool as you think it is. I know I’ve started playing a game because a Steam pop-up told me a friend was playing it, at least.

But more often than not, I have a nagging fear of missing out while playing a co-op game solo. I can never shake the feeling that whatever fun I’m having at the moment would be dwarfed by the fun I could be having if I was playing the game with some friends. That’s probably a fair fear, to be honest — friends make everything better.

But beyond the desire for camaraderie and connection, I fear that there’s something in the melody of the design that only sings when other people play with you — people who can react in ways AI teammates simply can’t. I’ve been playing Fuse recently — that third-person co-op shooter that used to look more cartoony — in preparation for tomorrow’s review. Due to internet problems at home, I haven’t been able to team up with anyone to play the game. Not yet, anyway.

I fear that there’s something in the melody of the design that only sings when other people play with you.

Co-op games are often built with design elements that encourage coordination, and that’s why I’ve experienced a whole lot of FOMO while playing Fuse. Am I missing out? I keep thinking about Borderlands: I played through the entirety of the first game on my own. Then I played it with friends, and realised that it’s much better if you have everyone fulfil roles during enemy encounters — like having someone aggro the enemy while someone else whittles down that enemy’s armour, all while someone else resupplies the team.

It was such a radically better experience to play with other people, I’d go so far as to say Borderlands is not a franchise you should play on your own — not if you want to experience the high of a brutally efficient human team. Sure, co-op games will often let you play on your own, but that doesn’t mean you should take the option. I would urge anyone playing Journey to play online, for example, because much of the game is about communication and friendship. You can only see what Journey is truly about if you play online at least once.

The option to play on your own, while appreciated, can sometimes feel antithetical to a developer’s intentions if a game puts enough emphasis on the multiplayer/co-op elements. These games are the worst for FOMO. Everything about Diablo 3, for example — from the always online requirement, to updates that give you bonuses when you play with other people — make Diablo feel like a game that Blizzard wants people to play with each other. And yet I ended up playing through most of it on my own. Did I get the full experience?

Then we have games where the design makes it impossible to play unless you’re playing with other people. SimCity, DUST 514, MAG come to mind, although there’s plenty of others. The online-only requirement with these games can be annoying at times, but it’s a hassle I know about going in. And if nothing else, there’s never any FOMO: I know that I’m playing the game the way it was ‘meant’ to be played — and hopefully, by extension, having the best possible experience.

My only hope while playing co-op or multiplayer games solo is that I don’t get too caught up on an experience I can’t actually have at the moment. That would be the worst: I’d end up missing out on the game I can actually play, while fantasizing about an experience I can’t have.

The Multiplayer is a weekly column that looks at how people crash into each other while playing games.


  • I certainly get those feelings, and I’ve experienced them myself, but I get over them pretty quickly.

    Take Borderlands for example. I played through the entire thing single player, and had a great time taking things at my own pace, exploring every nook and cranny and experiencing the story. Later I played with some TAYbies, and it was a completely different experience. The sense of exploration and immersion was gone, and it was all just running around madly shooting at things, and that was fun, but it was fun in a different way to the fun that playing the game solo had been. Playing a game like that solo you miss out on some stuff, but you also gain some stuff that isn’t there when you play it co-op. One isn’t better than the other, they’re just different.

    That’s why I dislike it when a game tries to force the co-op on you with the idea that it will somehow be funner. Diablo 3 is a good example of this. I’m perfectly happy playing the game by myself. As mentioned above with my Borderlands example, I like being able to take things at my own pace, exploring the world and experiencing the story, yet playing Diablo 3 solo is a poor experience, not because playing it with friends would make it better, but because of the way it’s built impacts negatively on the game though things like having to connect to a server, which translates to high ping and lag (which I guess effects co-op as well) or loot being heavily built around the auction house.

    • I feel pretty much the same way. The Halo series tends to be the big one that I play through single player, rather than co-op. I can take my own pace, enjoy the story and the world, and I tend to get much more out of it than I would playing it co-op (most people are happy to blast right through it).

      That being said, co-op has improved upon a few games for me, and in general I do enjoy going back and playing a game cooperatively after I’ve had my single player run. Resident Evil 6 was just a terrible, terrible game, but playing through with a friend allowed us to laugh at how bad it really was, and I saw a lot more of that game than I would have had I played it through single player. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is a game that I loved playing through single player when I first picked it up on PS3, but when it was on sale for $5 on Xbox Live a couple of months back, a mate and I snapped it up, and due to some of the online features that the Xbox 360 has that the PS3 doesn’t (Party Chat!), blitzing through it again as a team was a ton of fun.

  • indeed, the YOLO-FOMO divide (as it’s known in academia) is not to be dismissed

    • The term YOLO will never, ever truly be recognised in academia because of the fact, we in the academic world, prefer the real term… Carpe Diem to the Jersey Shore douchebag one.

  • I played the demo both solo and co-op and had much more fun when playing with my partner. The LEAP mechanic is great for two player co-op as you can mix and match between the characters so both of you try everything out and never get stuck in the same role for long (unless you want to).

  • I prefer games solo. I have precisely one friend on each of Steam, XBL and PSN. I talk to them occasionally, but have never played a game with any of them. There’s something about knowing that there’s a real person in my game world that kills immersion for me. It’s like walking outside and noticing a glitch in the matrix.

    I played through Borderlands solo, being a silver XBL member. It was… okay… but I got the feeling that it should be played in co-op. It seemed that doing it solo threw off the pacing and difficulty slightly (I’m not sure how accurate that is, considering I’ve never played it with other people, but that is how it seemed). More recently, I tried the sequel, and every problem I had with the first one was exacerbated. The world was less engaging and the characters were more annoying than amusing. Combat had become a chore, as they’d solved the issue of scaling with number of players by making enemies even more bullet-absorbent. I’ve long been an advocate of “giving enemies more health is not a valid way to increase difficulty”, but people keep doing it, because it’s easier. As a result, I stopped playing it – I just couldn’t convince myself to continue.

    Dead Space 3, however, was a little less obfuscated. Doors that glowed with “CO-OP” in bright orange letters reminded me I was playing a game, completely breaking any semblance of immersion I had (somewhat important in a “horror” game). Those doors reminded me that Microsoft was holding part of my game hostage behind their XBL paywall.

    And then there’s stuff like Splinter Cell: Conviction, where the co-op is a completely separate side-story. That annoys me, because it explicitly prevents me from playing part of the story. Oh well, that’s what YouTube’s for, I guess.

    Why can’t there be more games that work like Gears of War? Single player has a great, interesting story, co-op is enjoyable and enriches the experience without detracting from how good it is solo, and provides nothing extra (in the co-op) beyond that enriched experience of being able to actually coordinate your team.

    So now I’ve learnt to just heed the marketing’s advice.
    “We’ve designed our game specifically to be really great in co-op”
    Well, okay then. One more game I don’t have to worry about.

    I’m still interested in games that try to do co-op differently, like Journey or Dark Souls, or Watch_Dogs or Destiny, but for the most part, “co-op” and “mmo” are indicators that I should look elsewhere.

  • I definetly didnt get it with borderlands 2…in fact I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it as a single player game

  • Good points Patricia. I’m more of a solo gamer and I hope that single-player games don’t become significantly pared-back in order to get you to pay for online co-op play. Still, it’ll happen. The evil science of finding out what people are silly enough to pay for (versus what’s reasonable) will explore every avenue.

  • I try and do two play through’s of games, first solo and then, If there is a second, co op. I love to read every little bit of quest text, explore everything and hear every second of dialogue. I can’t usually do that in co op.

  • Come to think of it, I only seem to experience bouts of FOMO ever since the available amount of time I was able to actually play was restricted. 😛

  • Since most of my friends don’t play games and those that still do play different games, I’ve just accepted that there’s some great multiplayer experiences that I’m going to miss out on.

    I can only imagine how fun it would be to have 4 close friends in a BF3 squad, all on voice chat, co-ordinating our own little strikes to take checkpoints, or rescuing the squad pilot who went down on the other side of the map, or taking out that fuckin’ AA.

    But the best multiplayer experiences aren’t all online. My favourite multiplayer moments were on the lounge, playing Fifa, Goldeneye, Mario Kart, Tekken, Streets, etc with some mates.

  • I can’t play multiple path games like dragon age and mass effect anymore because of this.

    • yeah this can shit me no end. i don’t have time to play a game five times to get the full picture.

  • I favourite FOMO story was somebody who, of their own volition, bought themselves Secret of the magic crystals because they noticed a lot of people on their steam list had recently ‘bought’ and played it.
    Alas for them they became another victim of steam summer sales and a troll gifting spree

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