Stephanie- First Reader

Before every road trip we go on, my ten year old brother makes a list and packs the important things that he needs for the trip. For most people, this might include a toothbrush and fresh clothes. But my brother instead is concerned with making sure his portable video games are charged and ready for the drive. When we take our family RV on trips, which has a TV, he packs up our wii and hooks it up in the RV so he can play that on the road.

Videogames are a major source of entertainment today. This fact is pretty well established in society. But until I read through¬†Montfort’s article, “Combat in Context”, I had never thought about how a lot of the time, they are individual activities. My brother puts in his head phones and plays his Nintendo DS quietly the whole trip, which my parents are often thankful for.

But I found it very interesting that the first Atari games were all two player. I think this is because when they first came out, video games were not simply a child’s toy. They were not a way to entertain children on trips or in waiting rooms, etc. They were meant to for families to play together, as shown by the Atari commercial described in Montfort’s article.

Today, as Montfort pointed out, game systems come with only one controller. Although many games are only one player, therefore would only require one controller, I think this is more of a commercial decision, because there are still many popular multiplayer games on the market today, such as Rock Band, Just Dance, and Wii Sports. But game companies want to make a profit, and they know people will buy that second, third, or even fourth controller for when a friend is over and they do play a two or more player game.

I also think it’s important to point out that more and more people are starting to play video games online. My brother-in-law just showed my little brother how to hook the wii up to wifi, so he can play certain games online versus other players. So even though he is playing by himself at our house, he is actually playing a two player game with someone, just not someone in the room. This is another example of the social shift the internet has created.

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4 Responses to Stephanie- First Reader

  1. Jason Ko says:

    On the notion of many game systems today coming with just one controller.

    There is something to be said of the psychological effect of having a lower initial cost caused by only packing one controller in with the system. This is analogous to how many items are priced at $19.99 as opposed to simply $20.

    However, I think the real reason is something far less insidious. When video games first came out, people did not know what to think. They had no preconceived notions of what the medium had to offer, and thus needed a push from the manufacturers of games and game consoles as to how to use these products. By packing in two controllers with the Atari 2600, the creators told their audience clearly “here’s something you can play together.”

    In the modern era of gaming, game advertisements are everywhere, and I would assume that most people have had at least mild exposure to video games. As such, less people need to be explicitly told about the multiplayer capabilities of these devices.

    • cole says:

      I was thinking that xbox live, and other forms of online competitive play, have made multiple controllers unnecessary for most multiplayer games. I’m nostalgic about the glory days of splitscreen multiplayer, but I can understand why gamers have tended to switch into online multiplayer. It offers better competition, a never ending set of adversaries, and more freedom in choosing the form of the competitive arena.

  2. Another point about two controllers coming with the Atari VCS. Part of it goes back to the platform. The machine simply did not have enough power for an AI to control enemy tanks in a game like Combat—so a second player was needed.

  3. Hayley Roder says:

    I think what Professor Sample pointed out is interesting–that the platform required the first Atari games to be two-player, so that’s how the notion started out. But let’s say the platform had enough power to control a computer player. Would we be so surprised today that video games often have the option to play by yourself? Maybe not.

    Board games, which really started to gain popularity in the early-mid 1900s (Monopoly’s original version came out in 1903, I believe), were mainly multiple-player games. I know that when I was a kid, since my sister was so much older and since I lived far away from my friends, I came up with ways to play board games by myself. Was it as fun as playing with my friends? No, probably not. But it still entertained me.

    I think that’s something we have to consider about the context in which we play video games today. We, as a culture, have developed a lot of individualistic tendencies, and so it doesn’t really surprise me that a lot of people play video games by themselves. It’s a form of entertainment that doesn’t always require other people. It can, but it doesn’t have to. We live in a world where, instead of sitting in the same room as someone, we can have the same conversation over text or Facebook chat as we would in person–and I think games have fallen into that context, too.

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