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Choosing the right game is an important decision, they are not cheap after all. Once you have identified the games you set-up supports, you then need to choose what style of game best suites the people you play with.
Some of these choices will be determined by which genre of game you like playing with your friends. Shooting and racing games lend themselves most obviously to play in groups, but other genres such as adventures and strategy games can also become much more engaging experiences when played with other people.
Once you have chosen a genre, you have the following types of multiplayer game style to work with. Again, some of this may be determined by the consoles and controllers you have to hand, but just as much this should reflect the people playing. Groups of mixed ability may enjoy team games where they can be assisted by more able players. Expert groups may want to play their favourite game with the difficulty on maximum to provide a challenge to their player party.
- Split Screen Multiplayer: These types of games involve multiple players by providing a portion of the screen for each person. This enables multiple players to be involved in the game using just one console. Although popular for the PS2, Gamecube and Wii it is becoming less common in modern 360 and PS3 games which are unable to sacrifice horsepower from the visuals.
- Shared Screen Multiplayer: These types of games create a multiplayer experience where players all share the same screen space. The display often scales to fit each player on the screen even when they are a long way apart. Football and fighting games often take this approach as the shared view doesn't impede the players ability to take part in the action.
- Competitive Multiplayer: These types of games provide experiences where players compete against each other and the computer. Obviously lending itself to sports and team games, these competitive ways to play have also dominated the shooting and fighting genres because of the direct combat and expertise involved in each.
- Cooperative Multiplayer: These types of games provide an experience that can be played together by multiple players. Unlike the simple arena contests where players work together to kill the most enemies, true co-operative games are designed to take players through a story experience together. This will involve sections where players have to work together to proceed. So cooperative games - on Mario Galaxy or Modern Warfare Reflex on the Wii for example - enables a more experienced player to jump in and help the less experienced.
- Assistance Multiplayer: These types of games provide a cooperative experience where players of different abilities can collaborate. Some examples, such as Mario Galaxy or Modern Warfare Reflex on the Wii, enable a more experienced player to jump in and help the less experienced. This also works in reverse, where the expert player controls the main flow of the game and the novice plays a supporting role, something that make these games ideal for families.
- Meta-game: These types of games provide additional motivation to play the game than simply completing it or achieving a certain score. A meta-game create additional challenges that overarch the game itself. Co-operative experiences often offer a meta-game as a way for players to compare their performance overall while still contributing to the team off ort in a particular level. Achievements on the Xbox 360 and Trophies on the PlayStation Network are examples of meta-games. They each provide points for achieving certain tasks across a range of different games so that players slowly build up a score for their performance on the console as a whole.
Finding the right genre and style of multiplayer game for your friends or family can make all the difference to their enjoyment of gaming sessions. A little time spent beforehand both on the games themselves and the equipment set-up is well worth the investment.
Written by Andy Robertson
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Andy Robertson writes the Family Gamer column.
"Videogame reviews for the whole family, not just the kids. I dig out videogame experiences to intrigue and interest grownups and children. This is post-hardcore gaming where accessibility, emotion and storytelling are as important as realism, explosions and bravado."
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