The future of Co-op

Last week Tycho over at Penny Arcade had a write up about co-op and the amount of games out there that just have partially or completely broken co-op or none at all. Later Microsoft employee Ozymandias, working on foreseeing the future trends of gaming, responded to that with a Co-op Game Bill of Rights, the bill is now already in its second edition and features some core issues that games must implement to not appear broken or bad.
It also features a set of features that are harder to implement and less frequently used in current games but are highly requested by the community.

None of this strikes me as new ideas or even surprising. Let’s get a few things straight:

Games are supposed to be fun. Fun is a hard concept to achieve, Raph Kosters excellent book A Theory of Fun can teach you more about what fun is but basically it is about using analogue systems of rewards that are somewhat challenging and that you have not grokked (fully mastered) yet.
Achieving this kind of fun in not hard in itself, children do it spontaneously every day. But braking that fun is really easy, that’s why we need designers in the first place.
One of the simplest, if not the simplest, ways to increase fun without breaking gameplay is by making it social. Social games are games that encourages gamers to interact or at least communicate about the gameplay. Social grouping is a fundamentally fun feature in human evolution and a large reason to why we choose to group and evolve societies.


What Tycho and Ozymandias have stumbled upon is the lack of game design. This is what gameplay features used to look like in the 80’s and early 90’s. Yes it’s a good idea to spotlight co-op because it is the most popular form of play in gaming today and developers unaware should become aware of this. But when people from within the industry don’t realize they’re kicking the dead design horse it scares me.
Is even our own industry unaware of what thought through design actually means for a game? Are we slowly receding into the dark ages of gaming again?

I like to hope not. In the meantime, check out the Bill of Rights and support a valiant effort!