Recently, my roommate and I played through one of my favourite cooperative games of all time, Little Big Planet. While playing, we were wondering – what makes it such a strong multiplayer game? While there are a number of fun gameplay elements, the game is more fun with others than alone.
We did some brainstorming and came up with 5 elements that make cooperative games fun.
The Controls are Easy to Learn, but Hard to Master
When you’re sitting around ready to play, you want to get right into the action. Maybe that’s why first-person shooters are so popular among groups! A unique elements might make a shooter stand out, but you know the core of what you’ll be doing; running and shooting. Little Big Planet is a great example of this. There are basically only three things you can do; run, jump, and hold on to things.
These games are all easy to learn. But, as the difficulty increases, you end up working as a team to help each other and get better together, making for a shared experience!
Teamwork is Necessary for the Big Rewards
While an emphasis on teamwork is nice, working together for progression’s sake doesn’t influence behaviour. There are stronger ways to approach this. For instance, a game might allow players to struggle through individually, but only really succeed if they work together.
Whether fighting enemies or solving puzzles, working with a friend is a rewarding experience that will allow you to share in success. Solving a puzzle alone can be fun, but who are you going to share with? A good cooperative game should egg players on to the big rewards by getting them to work together.
Encouragement is Small, yet Frequent
If you’re playing a game with a friend and she starts to get bored, you’ll want to stop as well. That’s why it’s beneficial to add frequent encouragement, instead of one large carrot at the end of a stick. Keeping the players focussed on small, numerous goals works just like real life. Staying motivated requires constant focus and small wins. You don’t start a project and only give your team compliments when you reach the end! Cooperative work environments require positive feedback all the time, and a cooperative game is no different.
For a game-based example, check out how often players get points in Little Big Planet 2!
Cooperative Games Don’t Need to Be Very Competitive
Competition is healthy, especially for children. So there’s no reason it should be kept out of cooperative games – as long as it doesn’t take over the focus! There’s no reason to rely on competition to drive behaviour. There is a powerful UX lesson here – people like to be seen as playing in a well-populated world, but don’t like to always be losing!
There are actually a lot of UI/UX lessons that can be taken from good games. But one thing about games that can’t always be applied to products is this last point:
Playing With Another Person is Fun!
While the days of playing outside may have changed, we’re still social creatures who like to play together! Sitting around with my roommate eating snacks was good, clean fun.
I hope you enjoyed this brainstorm of what makes cooperative games enjoyable. There are a ton of similarities between this list and good UI/UX in products, but that’s a topic for another post. 🙂
Thanks for reading! Next week I’ll dig into a service I loved but stopped using, so stay tuned.
As well, I’m thinking about illustrating posts myself, the way waitbutwhy does it. What do you think?
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