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The split screen event became common thanks to the show 24. The show would often split the screen into multiple screens to show you all the different things that were going on and to add a little bit of tension. Of course, video games decided to copy this to add some visual flair and style to the game the player was playing.
A split screen event can add many things to a game. Let's take the example of Heavy Rain
. Your character is in the serial killers house and he just got home. The screen splits in two. One part of the screen lets you see your character that you still control. The other part of the screen shows the killer entering his home. This creates a feeling of great tension as the player must focus on two things at once. He must use his concentration to find a good hiding spot but also to stay one step ahead of the killer.
A split screen event can add more drama to a scene. Let's take the example of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
. In the later stages of the game, a wounded Solid Snake
must drag himself through a corridor that doubles as a microwave oven in order to save the world. In this scene you must keep hitting the triangle button to make Snake crawl forward. This scene might not have been much fun or epic if it weren't for the split screen event. As Snake tries to save the world you can see all his allies (Raiden clearly outnumbered, the military powerless...) fail and you realize that all hopes are on your soldiers. With the swooping music, the split screen event motivates the player to hammer the triangle button harder.