Split-screen is still superior

I gotta say, I don't understand all the bashing that local multiplayer gaming's getting these days. I've never so completely disagreed with Jeff Gerstmann on something, but there it is: split-screen multiplayer is still, without a doubt, better than online play.
 
Okay, any more than two players and the screen crowding is ridiculous. That's a fundamental problem. But I see it as about even to the fundamental problem of requiring a good connection for online play to be any good at all. Before immediately dismissing this point, consider: no one in the world, no matter how carefully crafted their home system, no matter how lovingly tended the developer's matchmaking servers, no one can guarantee a stable connection 100% of the time. Sometimes you'll be playing a person with a bad connection and everything will be jumpy. Sometimes the servers themselves will go down for maintenance and play will literally be impossible.
 
But that's just a comment on 'fundamental issues'. That's not even why I prefer split-screen. No, technical issues don't even come into it. It's the physical factor. The emotional factor.
 
The experience of playing a game with someone you can only interact with aurally, through a headset, will never, never equal (or even come close to) the emotional connection created by playing a game with someone sitting right next to you. 
 
I am a huge fan of the Halo games, but I almost never play on matchmaking. For me, it's all about the co-op. The whole reason I bought an Xbox in the first place was that I'd experienced how much fun you could have with Halo 1 on co-op mode. When I play Halo with my brothers, wonderful and ridiculous things happen. We've had situations where we're both trying to kill each other by jousting with Warthogs on the side of a hill, totally ignoring the hordes of aliens intent on murdering us, dodging fire from Banshees overhead, sometimes sailing over each other as we accidentally hit a bump on the hill. Once, instead of getting out of the car and entering an underground complex on foot, as the game intended, we drove the car into the building, the gunner clipping through the top of the door, and scraped along the tiny corridors, totally overpowering the Covenant with our heavy firepower. We've created all kinds of memories, done all kinds of things that made us laugh so hard our jaws ached.
 
And when silly and wonderful situations like this occur, we can actually turn to each other and laugh about it together because we're in the same room. We can casually discuss strategies on dealing with our enemies without going out of our way to activate a headset, or asking the other guy to repeat what he said because it was staticky. And when we're not being ridiculous and actually play the game the way it's meant to be played, when we're fighting powerful enemies and impossible odds and still manage to come out on top, we can share in our victory together, give each other a high five or compliment each other on our success.
 
No, the simple fact that you can play with another person over the Internet, that doesn't appeal to me. Never has. I've been able to do that for years on PC and never did it. For me, playing a video game with another person always has been and always will be about forming a bond with them, a bond that just can't happen over a headset. 
 
So until online gaming gets to the point where they can project a hologram of your distant partner into your room, it will always pale in comparison to the supposedly outdated, oh-so-simple technology of separating the display into two halves.
 
Split-screen is still superior.

Start the Conversation
5 Comments
Posted by Deusoma

I gotta say, I don't understand all the bashing that local multiplayer gaming's getting these days. I've never so completely disagreed with Jeff Gerstmann on something, but there it is: split-screen multiplayer is still, without a doubt, better than online play.
 
Okay, any more than two players and the screen crowding is ridiculous. That's a fundamental problem. But I see it as about even to the fundamental problem of requiring a good connection for online play to be any good at all. Before immediately dismissing this point, consider: no one in the world, no matter how carefully crafted their home system, no matter how lovingly tended the developer's matchmaking servers, no one can guarantee a stable connection 100% of the time. Sometimes you'll be playing a person with a bad connection and everything will be jumpy. Sometimes the servers themselves will go down for maintenance and play will literally be impossible.
 
But that's just a comment on 'fundamental issues'. That's not even why I prefer split-screen. No, technical issues don't even come into it. It's the physical factor. The emotional factor.
 
The experience of playing a game with someone you can only interact with aurally, through a headset, will never, never equal (or even come close to) the emotional connection created by playing a game with someone sitting right next to you. 
 
I am a huge fan of the Halo games, but I almost never play on matchmaking. For me, it's all about the co-op. The whole reason I bought an Xbox in the first place was that I'd experienced how much fun you could have with Halo 1 on co-op mode. When I play Halo with my brothers, wonderful and ridiculous things happen. We've had situations where we're both trying to kill each other by jousting with Warthogs on the side of a hill, totally ignoring the hordes of aliens intent on murdering us, dodging fire from Banshees overhead, sometimes sailing over each other as we accidentally hit a bump on the hill. Once, instead of getting out of the car and entering an underground complex on foot, as the game intended, we drove the car into the building, the gunner clipping through the top of the door, and scraped along the tiny corridors, totally overpowering the Covenant with our heavy firepower. We've created all kinds of memories, done all kinds of things that made us laugh so hard our jaws ached.
 
And when silly and wonderful situations like this occur, we can actually turn to each other and laugh about it together because we're in the same room. We can casually discuss strategies on dealing with our enemies without going out of our way to activate a headset, or asking the other guy to repeat what he said because it was staticky. And when we're not being ridiculous and actually play the game the way it's meant to be played, when we're fighting powerful enemies and impossible odds and still manage to come out on top, we can share in our victory together, give each other a high five or compliment each other on our success.
 
No, the simple fact that you can play with another person over the Internet, that doesn't appeal to me. Never has. I've been able to do that for years on PC and never did it. For me, playing a video game with another person always has been and always will be about forming a bond with them, a bond that just can't happen over a headset. 
 
So until online gaming gets to the point where they can project a hologram of your distant partner into your room, it will always pale in comparison to the supposedly outdated, oh-so-simple technology of separating the display into two halves.
 
Split-screen is still superior.

Edited by Psycotroop

Here! Here! Totally 100% agree. Theres just nothing like flipping the actual person beside you off instead of flipping the screen off :). Heck, when I play split-screen its usually me, my bro, my cuz, and my mom, thats right, my mom. If its only 2 player then we take turns. Its just so much more fun when you get a group together in one room and play the night away.

Posted by MysteriousBob

This is so true. 
 
Apart the Halo part. That series has always sucked and playing it coop just felt like a chore to me. But at least some decent games like L4D2 and Borderlands still have splitscreen.

Posted by JauntyHat

I wont necessarily say it's BETTER than online play, but I will most certainly say that it's a shame that it's practically been removed from all games this generation. I actually enjoyed having my friends over to play games everynow and then. What's the point on allowing multiple controller slots if you're going to restrict traditional multiplayer gaming!

Posted by MysteriousBob

Agreed 100%. If the other players aren't there with you, then it isn't multiplayer at all.