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May 22, 2019
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Single-Player Videogames

by Emanuel Montero on 10/02/09 10:36:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Games are a social activity. Without players, there's no game.

But videogames seem doomed to remain single-player software games. Of course, there're massively-single-player-online software games where there’re tons of players but still each player is having a single-player game experience. So let's forget about MMOs for a moment.

I'm tired of the single-player game tyranny. I want to play with my friends. Hand to hand. In the same room. Remember the old times of Capcom games? 2 player games were the rule. Why does my XBOX 360 have 4 player capability if there're no games (except sports games) that make good use of it?

And why story-driven games have to be single-player games? I want to play a story-driven game with my friends. Hand to hand. In the same room. And that's exactly what I'm working on.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies feature a group of youngsters as the main characters. Indeed, the whole horror movie genre uses a group of characters as a genre convention, where all characters die one after another until the last survivor confronts the evil antagonist.

The audience easily identifies with this convention becuase they're actually seated with their own friends watching the movie. So it’s part of the horror movie experience to be with friends. Why shouldn't it be part of the horror videogame experience to be with friends?

My Texas Chainsaw Massacre videogame (which of course is not official and therefore will be properly renamed) is a 4 player horror game for XBOX 360. Each of the 4 players creates a young player character. They begin the story together and can explore together or make smaller groups: a threesome, couples or individual groups. Eventually they will confront the evil antagonist and die one after another.

Each time the antagonist kills or captures a player character, the other characters grow stronger. So by definition the last character, the survivor, is the strongest character in the story. In fact, the survivor holds all the tension of the horror story since it’s forced to become the hero of the story.

But even within a single game story, many characters can wear the mask of the hero. Therefore, a survivor can save other player characters which in turn may become the survivor. So there’s a dynamic survivor role shifting. Interesting. Everyone can play the main character of the story. Everyone can become a hero.

But becoming a hero entails great risks. The survivor is the only player character that can win or lose the game. The survivor is the only character that can save the group, kill the antagonist and bring a happy ending to the story. But if the antagonist kills the survivor, everything ends with a frustrating sense of non-closure. The evil remains alive.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies feature a group of youngsters with very strong emotional relationships. Here’s another horror genre convention. Love and sex precede scare. That’s why all player characters have unresolved emotional tensions which players would try to work out during gameplay.

And of course, the evil antagonist will attack them in the worst moment. Here’s a little example. PC1 is a cute girl whose bigger brother, PC2, is flirting with a beautiful girl, PC3. PC4 is the strong boyfriend of PC3. Being PC3, would you have an affair with PC2? Or remain loyal to PC4?

Being PC2, would you go for PC3? Even if PC4 may kick your ass? And what if during gameplay PC4 falls in love with PC1? What a mess. Hope you get the idea. Four players exploring the emotional relationships of their characters. And at the same time the evil antagonist is trying to kill them all.

Worth playing with your friends. Hand to hand. In the same dark room. 

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