You could walk up to me with the shittiest game in the world in your hand, and I’d still play it with you if it had co-op. I could only be considered a brogamer in the vaguest of senses (I think Halo‘s all right, but Gears of War and Call of Duty aren’t really my cup of tea), but I get this irrepressible urge to bump fist and five the highs whenever I see a new game that allows me to team up and kick some ass. More and more games are including it these days (which is good), although we’ve seen a shift from local to online co-op since the advent of Xbox Live (which is…well, both good and bad, depending on your preference). Despite this, most of my co-op experiences these days continue to be local splitscreen affairs.
My younger sisters were the earliest people I can remember playing games with. I broke into gaming pretty late compared to my friends (who all had Super Nintendos and Game Boys), with my parents buying me an N64 in fall 1999. My sisters were strictly passive observers of my burgeoning gaming explorations; they loved watching me play Majora’s Mask and Kirby 64, but they shied away from trying it themselves. We did play a few of the minigames in Kirby 64 and Pokémon Stadium together, but beyond that, I didn’t really get to enjoy the real meat of a game with my sisters until fall 2002.
In the months preceding the release of Animal Crossing, my sisters and I followed the pre-release coverage in Nintendo Power. They ran a great story where a few of their editors played it in separate towns and recorded journals while they visited each others’ homes. My sisters took to the game quite readily, and we spent about a full year taking turns playing Animal Crossing (I had a town for me and my friends, and they had a separate town for themselves). We loved visiting each other and leaving presents. If it had simultaneous multiplayer, it would’ve been the perfect game for us.
I don’t even know how we started playing Tales of Symphonia together, but it was arguably the first “hardcore” game we played together from start to finish. Unlike other games, which they usually only enjoyed for the story or the minigames, they loved Symphonia for the same reasons I did: the character interplay, the setting, and above all, the combat. I’d take the lead as Lloyd, and we had one sister in the back casting spells as Genis, with the other helping me out up front as Colette (and occasionally hanging back to cast). They were really good at it; they understood the sometimes-complicated battle strategy of certain bosses, and they knew which sequence of attacks would lead to the best combos. We’ve played it about three times now, and each time, we start off pretty rusty, but we always manage to utterly destroy Abyssion by the end of it.
Since then, their gaming tastes have been erratic and unpredictable. We played a lot of Pikmin 2 multiplayer (interestingly, the versus mode, not the co-op mode) and Mario Kart: Double Dash!! We toyed with Jedi Outcast and even Halo 2 for a while, although we had a unique way of playing it: I would roleplay a “commander” figure and give them “missions” to carry out within the Jedi Temple or Coagulation, with the winner receiving a point toward promotion, and the loser usually receiving a shotgun blast to the face (but also a point toward promotion…I didn’t really have it in me to favour one sister over the other). I bought them two Harvest Moon games which they played entirely without me (A Wonderful Life and Magical Melody); to date, they remain the only games in our library that they’ve played and I haven’t.
We haven’t been able to play together as much in recent years, mostly because we’re attending three different universities. Still, we try to game together whenever we can. They watched me finish Skyward Sword this summer and Portal 2 a year earlier, and they’re currently watching me play Majora’s Mask for old times’ sake. Four years after I first bought it, I’ve finally managed to get them to sit down and play Tales of Vesperia with me, and we’re about 2/3rds of the way through it (they love it!). Sure, we’re all pretty busy now, but that just means we’re even more grateful for what little time we can spend on playing a few games together.