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Multiplayer video games build community

The personal side of video games

(Graphic by Liam Brettenny)

(Graphic by Liam Brettenny)

By Tim Pietz | Contributor

I come from a competitive family.

By “competitive,” I mean when my dad taught me chess at age five, he would beat me and rub it in my face. Naturally, my brothers and I are pretty intense when it comes to games. Maybe that’s why single player video games bore me.

Yes, a single player game can be a puzzle, a test of skill or a gamble of luck. But if there’s no one to trash-talk, what’s the point?

My middle brother and I started playing Mario Kart when I was 10. As my youngest brother and sister got older, they joined in. Now, when me and my middle brother came back from our respective colleges over breaks, we still play it.

We’ve memorized the minutia of every course. We’ve analyzed and over-strategized our vehicle-character combos. We’ve unlocked every possible character, vehicle and style of Mario overalls in the game. But we still play it.

Why?

Because every race is different.

That’s the great thing about multiplayer games. You aren’t playing against a half-decent computer who does the same thing every time. You aren’t even playing against a difficult computer who is hard to predict. You’re playing in person against human beings with all their emotions, verbal reactions, gameplay quirks and personalities.

It’s nice to beat a CPU, but let’s be honest. There are few things more satisfying than hitting your brother’s kart with a Bob-omb, watching him blast sky-high and zipping beneath him for a first-place finish. It’s something you can tease him about. It’s something you can laugh with him about. It’s something that builds memories together.

But the fun doesn’t stop at home. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen guys playing League of Legends together in a dorm lobby or a game of Super Smash Bros. in someone’s room (Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is set to release Dec. 7, by the way).

Actually, I think one of the easiest ways to invite people into your dorm room is to play a well-known video game with the door open. Inviting someone to join in on a video game doesn’t require a lot of conversation. It doesn’t even require eye contact, since everyone’s watching the screen. But it’s easy to loosen up once you get into the game, once you start talking about a favorite character or strategy, or once your teammate makes a great (or terrible) move.

When it comes to community, video games and gamers often get a bad rap. Sometimes, I think there’s a point to that. Playing alone in your room all the time with a pair of headphones clamped to your scalp is not going to build friendships. But with a multiplayer game, all you need to do is prop your door open, grab a handful of controllers, and say, “Hey! Anyone up for some Mario Kart?”

So give it a try! Maybe even create a tournament. It’s a great opportunity to bring a floor together.

Just one word of warning: you’d better invite me.

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