Remember when playing multiplayer meant jostling on the sofa with a friend to get a glimpse of the TV screen?
If you’re south of 20 years old it’s unlikely that you do! The advent of the internet radically changed the landscape of multiplayer gaming across every industry: console gaming, igaming, internet gambling and, most recently, social gaming.
Multiplayer went from meaning 2 to 4 players allowed to massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPG) that sees thousands of users from around the world connecting daily to servers online.
The stereotypes depicting gamers as solitary wolves have been shattered by the pervasive presence of multiplayer in-built to every new game that’s launched on the market.
It is no wonder then that in its list of top 10 gaming trends of 2014, Big Fish Games listed the rise of multiplayer games in second place. With a generation of adults who have lived with video games all their lives now rearing children of their own, this entertainment medium is seen as a valid way of connecting with family and friends as never before.
Console gaming was the first form of electronic gaming that had to address the need of players to play with their peers.
Unlike traditional board games which allowed them to do this cheaply and easily, console games required more technologically advanced (and therefore expensive) ways to allow two players to hook up to the same set.
Over time, as these technical challenges were conquered and multiplayer gameplay perfected on modern video games, gamers naturally started demanding more and console manufacturers had to come up with methods to connect more players together. However, physical limitations meant that the maximum number of players that could play together was typically no more than eight.
The convergence of the internet with gaming consoles allowed multiplayer gaming to burst through these limitations, opening up the possibility for players to connect with thousands of fellow gamers around the world.
Nowadays, online multiplayer comes as standard with any new game that is released and developers are finding innovative ways to include more interactivity in their games such as video and audio chatting.
As video game consoles and the internet become ever more closely intertwined, it was inevitable that gamers would decide do away with a dedicated device and take all their gaming action to their desktop computer.
With broadband access becoming more widespread, faster and cheaper, igaming began its steady and unstoppable ascent in the gaming industry. MMORPGs like Runescape and World of Warcraft offered players a chance to become completely immersed in a virtual world populated not by AI characters, but millions of other human users.
Multiplayer gaming online instantly connected people together, even as it made the need to meet up physically in a single place redundant.
iGaming operators quickly caught on the desirability of a deeply interactive gaming experience and introduced chat boxes that let users interact in character and strategize together in teams for their next quest.
This was followed up by increasing customizability options and generally increasing the ways how players could enrich their gaming experience by distinguishing their characters from the rest as well as cooperating more closely with fellow gamers.
Even within the wide spectrum of igaming industry, one sector in particular steals the limelight for its dramatic increase in popularity and revenue figures in the last decade.
Internet casinos and poker rooms have created a new breed of gamblers that play exclusively online, enjoying the thrill of wagering small stakes while meeting with other people in a decidedly more mature environment than a medieval fantasy world.
Figures don’t lie, and this billion-dollar industry is as profitable for operators as it is for the people whose life change round completely with one crank of the slots lever or a spin at the roulette wheel.
But internet gambling promises much more than cold hard cash. It is also a great hangout for people who meet up at an online poker room and enjoy a hand or two, as sites like PokerOnline.us show..
The development of multiplayer gameplay in this sector largely parallels that of igaming in general, with a lot of emphasis on increasing interactivity through video and audio chat as well as using realistic avatars to give online gambling an edge in the social era.
The most recent innovation in multiplayer gaming is social gaming. Whereas previous developments in the arena focuses on increase the number of players connected together, social attempts to deepen the quality of the relationships that bind them together.
This two-dimensional focus on multiplayer gaming was made possible by the rise of social media networks, which collected a wide range of personal data from their users that could then be integrated with their permission in any gaming app on their platform.
This development appealed both to the players’ desire to connect with others in multiplayer gameplay, as well as having the ability to advertise one’s gaming accomplishments to the whole wide world.
In fact, the leader board or scoreboard is a critical ingredient in every new social gaming app, illustrating how the development of multiplayer gaming depends both on getting people together as well as getting them to compete more fiercely against each other!
Multiplayer gameplay has changed the landscape of gaming across a wide range of industries and will continue to be a major factor that will determine the future direction of gaming as a whole.
It’s success rests on a multiplicity of factors, including technological advancements, cheaper availability of faster internet, and the leverage of universal psychological factors such as our basic needs to associate with peers whilst simultaneously wanting to compete with them to distinguish ourselves as better in a given field or skill.