Whether it’s video games, browser games, or any traditional in-person game, the social aspect has always been at the heart of the experience. Ever since the very first console games were released, developers have been creating games around the ability to play with friends or strangers around the world.
However, the social aspect of various forms of gaming and digital entertainment has evolved significantly over the past decade. Social gaming is no longer about sharing a controller with your friend on the couch. Instead, this aspect has developed in line with emerging technological and cultural trends. Let’s take a closer look at the various ways social gaming has changed over the years.
The death of the sofa cooperative
One of the most noted and often lamented trends in recent years has been the dramatic death of the sofa co-op. Once upon a time, local co-op games were the only game in town. Entire franchises have been launched on the back of classic couch co-op experiences like Mario Kart, Crash Bandicoot, and Street Fighter.
The popularity of couch co-op continued for decades, until it fell off a cliff around the turn of the 2010s. These days, maybe one or two major releases a year will have some form of local co-op. Even couch co-op mainstays like driving games no longer have local functionality, but only offer online co-op. Some have attributed this to the huge increase in popularity and accessibility of online co-op, driven by the likes of Xbox Live. Others argued that the split-screen format was still a pain for gamers, who didn’t want to compromise on graphical quality and immersive content in the name of local co-op.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the format is totally dead. Some predicted it was to make a comeback, referencing recent popular couch co-op titles like It Takes Two or A Way Out. While these games may not be blockbuster hits, they could well be indicators of an emerging revival of the genre.
The rise of MMOs
In much of video games, all social interactions take place in the MMO space. MMORPGs were undoubtedly the precursor to the current state of gaming, with Runescape and World of Warcraft providing millions of people the ability to play cooperatively and competitively with people anywhere in the world, at any time.
Soon after, console shooters like Call of Duty and Battlefield brought the format to other types of gamers, with their online deathmatch offerings soon becoming the main reason to buy the game in the first place, rather only for Campaign mode. Today we have Fortnite, League of Legends and CS:GO, which are now the most popular and profitable businesses in the gaming world, with hundreds of millions of people around the world playing online.
Live social games
While couch co-op is dead, other forms of social gaming exist outside of the video game sphere. What we’ve seen in recent years is the emergence of live gaming experiences, with real people coming together to play real games, all connected via live video uplink.
Platforms like Twitch and Discord have become gathering places for millions of people to play live board games like Catan and Mysterium. In the world of online gambling, players are now opting for a social experience by playing live casino games. To cite just one example of how it works in practice, Betway Roulette offers a real roulette dealer with a real wheel, which players can connect to from home. They can command the dealer to spin the wheel and place their bets, while interacting with them via an on-screen chat box. On top of that, we also have more analog-style games such as geocaching, which an increasing number of players are now streaming online via live streaming platforms. Could this be the future of social gaming?
Basically, gambling in all its forms is an intrinsically social practice. Even those who only play video games for the story are likely to share their experience with friends or watch a YouTuber play through the tricky parts. While social gaming may be constantly evolving, it’s not going anywhere.