I’ve been playing a ton of Kingdom Come: Deliverance this week. (Full disclosure: I Kickstarted this game.) That game has taken residence in my mind and, fortunately, has no intention of leaving any time soon.
But I’m not here to talk about Kingdom Come: Deliverance. Rather, I want to talk about what this game inspired me to write. This spectacular game just further cements my love of single player games. And since this is my weekly editorial spot, I figured I’d share with you all just why I think that’s the case.
I may or may not have done that…
First, let me start by stating that just because I love single player games, I am not outright dismissing multiplayer games, nor am I saying that I don’t like them. In fact, that would just be a false claim, considering fellow writer Joseph Bradford and I stream PUBG every Saturday night for MMORPG.com.
I believe a more accurate statement would be that if someone gave me the choice of playing a single player game or a multiplayer game, I’d choose the single player game ten out of ten times.
More specifically, if I have a few hours of free time, I’m always going to choose to play a single player game. But why is that exactly? What is it about the single-player experience that draws me more than a multiplayer experience, regardless of how fun that multiplayer experience might be?
This is something I don’t believe is easily nailed down, as games are a nuanced and multifaceted art form. But nonetheless, I’ll attempt to lay out why.
I think I can begin with the fact that, in general, I hate relying on others. People who know me know that I like having end-to-end control of whatever it is I happen to be working on at any given point in time. Call it stubbornness, call it whatever you like, but I just value self-reliance rather highly.
I find it a genuine challenge to accomplish certain objectives and quests in games by myself precisely because there is no one else around to help. In a game like Dishonored 2 for example, there is no one else who can help me sneak past three guards, a wall of light, and the four witches waiting for me on the other side. It’s all up to me.
Now rather obviously, upon successful completion, this does give one a sense of power-fantasy fulfillment. Again, I’m not saying that in multiplayer games you don’t feel this (see winning a Chicken Dinner with your mates in PUBG), but in a single player experience, that fulfillment is magnified because I had to rely totally on my own wit and problem-solving.
This dovetails perfectly into what I believe to be another important factor for me. In a single player game, the world is completely mine. In other words, I’m not sharing that world with anyone else. It’s mine, all mine, my own.
This will no doubt sound rather childish and selfish, but honestly, it’s this sense of isolation that really does make the whole experience that much more special for me. Take, for example, The Witcher 3. Even though everyone is playing as Geralt, my Geralt is inherently different from your Geralt. This difference is created by the choices you made in your game versus the choices I made in my game. Your world and thus, your game and outcome, will just be different from mine.
Additionally, I just don’t want to share my world with others. In MMOs, for example, no doubt you’ll have instanced quests where it’s just you (or your buddies) taking part in a quest, devoid of other players. But upon completion of that quest, you’ll still see people running around, queuing at vendors, bunny hopping all over the place.
I’m not saying that those players are there to annoy you, but for someone like me, I hate it. I simply don’t want to see other players in my game because it diminishes the weight and choices I may have made in my instanced quest just prior. So, I save myself from this potential headache by simply playing single player games instead.
Image via Polygon
And I think it’s a combination of this (plus some other unknown, intangible quality) that draws me to single player games. Again, I’m not here to say that you can’t have amazing experiences in multiplayer games. But when taken as a whole, I find the experiences provided by single player games to be much more personal. Remember, we buy and play games with our hearts, not our heads.
This applies to choice-driven games like Witcher 3 to more linear affairs like The Last of Us. Even though the outcome in The Last of Us is the exact same for me as it is for you, the personal journey that I, the player, went on will inherently be different than the one you went on.
And honestly? I find that incredible. Video games are art. They’re the only art form I’ve experienced where the purveyor is simultaneously creating and consuming. That genuinely amazes me.
Every time we hear that “single player games are dying,” I just have to sit there and laugh. If anything, single player games are simply getting stronger. The best games I played last year, and best games I’m looking forward to this year, are primarily single-player experiences.
Again, I’m not suggesting that just because I prefer single player games, multiplayer games are trash. It’s not a zero-sum game, remember. But what I do believe is that single player games are not going anywhere. They’re here to stay. I for one cannot wait to see what the future of single player games hold for us as technology improves, better immersing us in the stories and worlds.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going back to flirt with Theresa in 1403 Bohemia.