Despite never inviting anyone in my family to actually read my blog, Pixel Bubble, they all found it eventually. The blog was originally intended for me to get rants out of my system and allow me to have the sort of anonymous freedom of speech that a personally can never really enjoy in real life. Of course, then real people actually started reading my blog, my family included, and suddenly I had to watch what I said, just like in real life. I’ve since come to terms with the fact that having to own up to what one puts in a public forum really can’t be helped, even while under the cover of anonymity, and I’m actually grateful that I have my family to act as a censor. Naturally, I’m secretly very happy that they enjoy reading my writing as much as they do. I’m perfectly okay with my family being my biggest fans.
My sisters wanted me to write a post about them, since they often game with me, and when United We Game announced that the first Community Post would be focused on cooperative gaming, I knew I had the perfect opportunity. I’ve written about gaming with my sisters before, back on my own blog. My sisters have always formed a large part of my gaming interactions, both in deciding which games I’ll eventually play as well as actually helping me play them. We started gaming together as young children, and despite the fact that we’re all in university now, we still manage to game together fairly regularly whenever the family all gathers in one place. Of course, scheduling clashes make it difficult to actually complete games in any reasonable amount of time now, but we’re perfectly okay with chipping away at long RPGs for weeks, months, even years (Tales of Vesperia was finally laid to rest earlier this year after about a year’s worth of work).
A lot of co-op games are built on the idea that you win or lose as a team. If one person screws up, the rest of the team might be left facing overwhelming odds, choke points are no longer held down, panic sets in, game over, fingers are pointed, etc. I’ve felt this way many times when co-oping with random people over the internet, and I’m sure my own close friends have felt that way about me every time we play an FPS. For some reason, I feel much calmer when gaming with my sisters. Sure, we died during a few tough battles in Tales of Vesperia, and I may have shown signs of anger on occasion, but said anger was never directed toward my sisters; rather, I was always pissed at the game developers for designing such a cheap boss battle or platforming section and therefore impeding me and my sisters’ enjoyment of the game. My mom sometimes worries that she’s not pulling her weight whenever we play Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, but when I’m gaming with my family, I really don’t care about anyone’s skill level or experience or what have you; I’m honestly just happy to be able to include my family in a hobby that I really enjoy. That’s the truth.
It’s things like these that make my family my preferred co-op partners. As kids, my sisters and I had vivid imaginations, and we even tried to shoehorn co-op into some games where it wasn’t really intended to be implemented. I know Halo 2 actually has a co-op campaign mode, but we had little interest in it; instead, we played the competitive multiplayer maps and made up our own rules using the general freedom of the Slayer gametype. I would play the role of the army’s general, and I would give my sisters specific tasks to complete, such as running from one Blood Gulch base to the other without getting sniped, or having Warthog destruction derbies, and the like. They would start out as privates and would rank up according to their performances. I would also punish the loser of each challenge with a shotgun blast to the face, but, hey, it was funny to us. We always loved doing these sorts of things, making games within our own games. I can only imagine the mischief we would’ve gotten up to if the games of yesteryear included the robust level-creation tools that are taken for granted these days. We definitely would’ve been all over Minecraft, that’s for sure.
About a month ago, one of my sisters expressed an interest in starting a new town on Animal Crossing. I was surprised, since we hadn’t really touched it in a decade. I picked up City Folk so we wouldn’t have to play the outdated GameCube version (and wireless controllers are always a bonus), and we’ve been chipping away at it pretty steadily over the last month. If you’re all playing on the same console, there’s no way to play multiplayer simultaneously, so it’s not the traditional co-op experience that you might have come to expect, but the game works around that limitation brilliantly. One player can do their chores and leave items or letters for another player to collect. One player might enter the tailor shop one day to find that another player has put custom-designed clothing on display. Ten years ago, we used to play in half-hour shifts; each player would have thirty minutes to collect bugs, catch fish, buy furniture, or what have you, and then they’d have to give up the controller. It’s somehow oddly fitting that exactly ten years later, we’re still playing Animal Crossing using these exact same rules. There wasn’t even really any discussion about it beforehand, just an silent mutual understanding that this is the way we’ve always played Animal Crossing, and we’re not going to change something that worked so well when we were kids. The only thing we had to change was the game’s internal clock, which we set back three hours because university life has turned all of us into night owls.
If you actually like your siblings (hey, some people don’t, but I’m not one of those people), they can often be the best people to play games with. It was always easy to suggest weird, fantastic metagame ideas to my sisters because I knew that they shared my imagination and they were less likely to judge me for a stupid or childish idea; among my friends, I’d have to filter my ideas so as to remain “cool.” Since they’re family, I afford them a level of tolerance that I don’t give my friends or online co-op partners. I have a crap-ton of games on my shelf, but that pile would be a heck of a lot smaller if my sisters didn’t play games with me. Just glancing at it now, I can instantly pick out a number of titles that I would never have even tried had I not known that my sisters would play them with me.