How do you make time to play games?

Great news! Both Torchlight and Ratchet & Clank are both going coop! Torchlight 2

A lot of games are opting for cooperative or immersive multiplayer modes to allow players to be more social and have even more fun with their products.

But there's a problem. Sorry to be the grouch, but the first step of getting out of a trap is noticing it's there. Cooperative and multiplayer games are mostly synchronous. Which means you have to play them at the same time. In fact minimizing gameplay lag is on of the largest problems game developers have today.

But is that really a good thing? It's great for action. But it's terrible for pick up and play gaming. Which is already the dominant form of play if we compare online games and casual platforms such as the Nintendo Wii, DS and the iPhone with more core audience devices such as the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360.

The problem with multiplayer is the same as with loading times. If we, as developers, are trying to convince our players to spent $60 and 20 hours to play our game, the game really needs to be fun and easy to get into. Loading times subtract from the experience, but not nearly enough as waiting for friends, not having friends or worst of all; having friends that all need to cash out $60 for the game. This kind of tribal synchronisation is very probably not that usual.

We need to open up to the fact that games are a part of life and start designing for finding new friends or, if possible, playing with friends asynchronously.

Coop wrong for its purpose?

Coop play is used to let players play multiplayer without the stress of competition. But does coop serve this purpose?Most coop games simply duplicate the singleplayer gameplay mechanics to create coop play, this technique inherits the problem of competition because the players are now competing for the same objectives or, worse, taking seperate paths as in Gears of War which makes play singleplay but with extra penalties of death. A more interesting use of coop are the paralell objectives for squads in Resistance 2 online multiplayer or the paralell objectives on battlefield in the upcoming RTS Battle Forge. Perhaps paralell multiplayer is a better goal for cooperative play. What do you think?