214: Society of the Spectator

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Society of the Spectator

When it comes to videogames, you don't have to be holding the controller to enjoy the experience. Josh Hilley explains why some single-player games are best played with more than one player.

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I can Totally relate to this article (great article BTW) because my younger brother is ALWAYS watching me play games.

A good article, although missing out the finer points of backseat gaming, and how sometimes it annoys you when you know what you have to do but can't and the guy behind you is laughing at you as if to add insult to injury.

Am I the only who can't stand watching others play instead of playing myself? Until I read this article, I always assumed that was the more common stance.

Backseat gaming is a science.
A backseat gamer can either annoy the guy who is actually playing or improve the experience, with only a fine line between the two.

This something I can relate to very well. Since i played video games all my life my sister liked to come in and watch. She wouldn't have to say anything, but she just liked sitting there watching me playing something. Then I got Tomb Raider for my birthday, I never had the patience to finish it but it spawned something beautiful.

My Dad, an occasional gamer took over the game and started again, before we knew it he was hooked, and the entire family (Dad, me, Mum and my Sister) would gather round my PlayStation and watch him play it. This became a staple of the family life for the next five years with each new Tomb Raider game. I didn't have to worry about finishing it, my Dad did that, we would all help him on the puzzles, four heads are better then one in this case. It was like one of those family outings in the car and you need something it pass the time. Except in this case your destination is a boss fight and an epic end game cinematic and you pass the time by all working together to navigate too your destination.

The point is, just because a game may just be single player doesn't mean it has to be like that, having someone sitting and watching you play is just as much a fulfilling social experience then both picking up controllers and letting fly. It is still multilayer of sorts as they are joining in the fun with you by helping you spot an enemy or solving a puzzle, and sometimes taking over so you can have a break and they can have a go. It's still a shared social and great experience because you are both having fun and bonding, because you are thinking on the same level. You are effectively both playing it.

I do think it's a shame as games in my opinion have gotten easier to play as they got more complex. It's hard to find a good game of Tomb Raiders caliber, ones which require you to think more about what you are doing and in which case someone watching can feel more involved. I picked up Sonic 2 on the XBL Arcade and despite knowing what to do, it still was as tough as nails as it always had been, I completed it yesterday for the first time, 17 years after I first picked it up and discovered the world of video games. Now video games are more accessible, more people can pick up and play. I feel in my opinion that the art of sitting around the TV and watching and helping someone play the game has been lost a bit in the last ten years.

A game that can draw you in without playing it can be more fun then picking it up. You see things the player themselves may have missed since you don't have to worry about aiming and pulling the trigger and have more time to take in the environment.

It's cool that you bring up Mass Effect, because that's exactly the game I was thinking of when you mention spectating aka backseat gaming. While it can be helpful and seemingly interesting to view the game from a second perspective, I avoid it with seething passion. When I'm gaming, I'm in the "zone". I get immersed and the last thing I want is whoever is sitting next to (or very creepily behind) me commenting or instructing. I don't even consider saying "here, you play for a bit". I like to keep my games "single player" if I can help it.

So now I'll go back to Mass Effect. I used to play that for long periods of time and my girlfriend would always watch. Now some people would say, "there's your problem." Wrong. She's a gamer too and can relate to the immersion one gets when playing a single player game. However, I can still hear "this is boring!" ringing in my ears. Some people just can't stand watching or being watched while playing games. It bores me to tears to watch Mass Effect, when I'm not the one holding the controller.

Ultimately, it's up to the individual. As for me, stop watching - backseat gaming is not my idea of fun.

I often find that people are quite happy to watch me play Uncharted, my cousin actually encouraged me to continue playing when I reached to eject the disc and put in a multiplayer game.
The only other shared single player experience was GTA, playing until you died or failed a mission, then handing over the control, not quite the same experience.

That actually reminds me a lot of something some friends and I used to do regularly.

My roomates and I used to have game nights where we would get food and beer and project someone's computer screen on the wall and "collectively" play through a point and click adventure game like Monkey Island or one of the Sam and Max episodes. It's a ton of fun and I highly recommend it.

The first time I played through Ocarina of Time I did almost the entire play through with a friend, which made the experience so much more endearing to me.

I think that it makes the whole experience more fun if there are more people getting involved.

A lot of the games "I" have played over the past couple of years were done alternating spectator mode with my boyfriend. While we have a lot of similarity in gameplay styles, there are also areas where we're quite different.

If not for spectating, there are games I might not have tried out on my own.

My kids also did this when they were younger, especially in the days when I could only afford one controller :)

Backseat gaming is a science.
A backseat gamer can either annoy the guy who is actually playing or improve the experience, with only a fine line between the two.

Lately I've been watching my wife play Fallout 3 and she's pretty good at finding stuff but she'll sometimes send me to the vault wiki to look something up. She'll also find things I missed sometimes. I enjoyed watching her clear out Paradise Falls the other day. I try not to backseat game with her (although sometimes I have to: she just doesn't pay attention to the red blips on her compass) but I do let her know if something interesting is coming.

Eagle Est1986:

The only other shared single player experience was GTA, playing until you died or failed a mission, then handing over the control, not quite the same experience.

That's better than the actual multiplayer modes in most games.

You can do that with any game but it is best with GTA.


Eagle Est1986:

The only other shared single player experience was GTA, playing until you died or failed a mission, then handing over the control, not quite the same experience.

That's better than the actual multiplayer modes in most games.

You can do that with any game but it is best with GTA.

Oh, without a doubt. Both players can enjoy the story and the comedy of the game. And if one player has been playing for a while, they can simply go on a rampage, which can be just as entertaining for both players, bringing about their own death

I love watching my brother play games. And he enjoys watching me play. We both have rather different tastes in gaming, he likes FPS and I like the more strategy/action games. It's gotten to the point that there are some games that we won't play unless the other is there. Halo, the new Prince of Persia and Fable2 are ones that come to mind.

It's interesting that a pastor's daughter would hone in on a game called Beyond Good & Evil.

I would never bother to play Viva Pinata of my own accord. But to watch a skillful green thumb cultivate a garden that grows at rocket speed... that's very nice.

I put off playing any of the Half-Life games in the Orange Box for months after I got it because my girlfriend preferred to watch me playing Team Fortress 2. This was before she re-learnt how to play "hardcore" games after a decade in the casual gaming wilderness. Eventually her interest in watching TF2 grew into taking a few turns - always as the Pyro at first, because when a Pyro is spinning in a circle firing wildly at nothing nobody bats an eyelid - which led via baby steps to her current ability to school me at Halo 3 deathmatches. Sometimes.

Eagle Est1986:


Eagle Est1986:

The only other shared single player experience was GTA, playing until you died or failed a mission, then handing over the control, not quite the same experience.

That's better than the actual multiplayer modes in most games.

You can do that with any game but it is best with GTA.

Oh, without a doubt. Both players can enjoy the story and the comedy of the game. And if one player has been playing for a while, they can simply go on a rampage, which can be just as entertaining for both players, bringing about their own death

My friends and I don't even bother with the story missions if there's more than two of us, we just rampage (especially if it's a GTA with rampages) or as we call it "when keepin' it real goes wrong." Chapelle Show anyone?

Other good multiplayer-singleplayer games for my wife and I: Sims 3 and Fahrenheit.

I had my similar experiences when I was at my friends house for Comic-con and I was playing Madworld. As I rode the carnage train shredding through each level my friends who haven't played the game watched in awe as I made several different executions on the doomed horde of enemies to continuously feed their hungry eyes.

Then came the day most of us gamers experience. I was playing a game of Lego Batman and my wife who has only played PC games most of her life and hasn't ever played a single console game wanted to play with me. She progressed slowly as I knew she would from the beginning but had troubles with ladder climbing, jumping and a number of other control issues in the game. After passing through one level when I wanted to play more I had to stop because she wasn't having as much fun as I thought she would. I have since planned to play other simple games with her and see how she likes them.

I never play when my family are around, they are all backseat gamers, even my 5 year-old brother. My mum is one of those people that thinks that they are right, no matter what, which can be highly frustrating >.>

I remember beating Metal Gear Solid while my roommate watched me back in college. It was such an interesting phenomena. After awhile, I had more and more people start watching me beat the game. Towards the end, they insisted that I not go any further until they where all there and able to watch me beat it. With fighting games, I always find that people who dont know how to play, love to be voyeurs. I cant tell you how many epic battles occurred with almost a legion of onlookers watching. It got even more intense once people with real skill came into play. I love having people watch and sometimes, I like to have others watch. I loved this article!

Me and my brother both like video games quite a bit. I would watch him for hours playing all the way through Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando, Jak & Daxter, Super Mario World and Spyro: Year of the Dragon. Looking back on those games (ignoring how pathetic their graphics are compared to a decade of development), gaming probably is one of the nexuses that permits us to be so close.

Soon enough I plan to get him onto Team Fortress 2.

I love watching others play games. Whenever I play, I can never stay on task enough to see a game to its end. It's a bit of a relief when the task of playing gets handed to someone else.

Something else to mention is the Let's Play, where someone plays through a game for the Internet to watch. I absolutely love watching videos of games I don't have the patience (or the system) to play myself.

I never had the patience for Resident Evil 1 remake for the GC, so I watched my friend as he played through it on a speed-run. Immense fun, especially my ceaseless (good-natured!) lack of seriousness when faced with horrific zombies and the fun of being consulted when a puzzle came along. Some things just went by easier with two players.

I experience this regularly. My brother watches me sometimes, and vice versa. Sometimes we get a little controlling, but most of the time we share the experience. We share laughter at funny moments, congratulate each other for awesome moments, and recognize (and laugh) at defeat. I usually do the watching. For me, watching someone play a video game is a close second to playing video games. I also watch Let's Plays and enjoy spectating and commenting on them.

Back when I was in college, I was a huge game-watcher. The reason for that was because my computer was a pile of crap (it could play "Half-Life" if I turned the settings way down, and this was in 2002), but some of the other guys in my dorm had fairly new, fast computers. So if I wanted to see what the new games looked like, I had to watch on one of theirs. So if I wanted to see what "Return to Castle Wolfenstein" or "Black and White" or "Battlefield 1942" looked and played like, I had to watch.

One of my top 5 gaming experiences ever was playing through Ico with a friend. I call it playing through, even though I never once touched the controller. We sat there, he controlled, I watched, and we both reasoned through the puzzles and soaked in the atmosphere during the 2 separate 4 hour blocks it took us to get through the game. The emotional impact on both of us was the same - whenever we had to leave Yorda to complete a puzzle, we were both anxious and sweating. Whenever she got captured and started to get dragged down the black pool, we both sat up straight, hearts pumping, and could not relax until we had rescued her. I found it amazing that I could experience the game so directly without ever playing it, but it seems from this article and these comments that it's not so uncommon, and I love that. I have since played Ico through multiple times trying to recapture that feeling, but although great, it's never quite the same.

Now my wife and I are going through Braid, swapping the controller, and it's been a really great experience.... I'm thinking I should do this more.

Games were the focal point that got people together in my dorm hall last year. If it weren't for Halo 2 or SSBB playing in my friend's room I would never have met alot of my other friends. (at one point we had 11 people in that tiny dorm)

I was about to fire off about how this was complete poppycock and that most games are not fun to watch being played.

Then i remembered that recently i dug out Zelda: Majora's Mask and had a crack at the Great Bay Temple while my brother was in the room and we had a pretty good time trying to figure out what the smeg you had to do and where you had to go in the dungeon.

this is pretty much the story of my life. my earliest gaming memory is watching my dad play atari and bally games i wasn't old enough to grasp. when i got older i went to my grandmother's house and watched in awe as she tore up the NES.

My brother grew up watching me play final fantasy, and i would eventually watch him play disgaea. my best friend and would switch off in order to get through RPGs we'd never get through on our own.
when i went to college, my roommate and i sat on opposite sides of the room playing WoW. i'd go idle in a town somewhere and watch him raid.

Now that I live alone, I find i have lot less interest in games than I used to. People make such a big deal about games as an interactive medium that we forget they're perfectly enjoyable as passive entertainment, too. i've wasted hours watching people play through entire games on youtube; the gameplay forms a narrative that can be more engaging than the actual story.

This is the Article that made me sign up to The Escapist. Im really proud of the work that went into this, even if i can't always apply it to my life. I had aspirations with games like Fallout 3 and Oblivion to play it again on a different karma status and different specializations. None of them fell through, and i really don't feel like i missed the experience because of it. I am glad to see that other people fall into the trap of playing a moral choice RPG over again to see how the 'evil' path turns out, only to be immersed in the experience and begin to care about characters all over again.

Even though a lot of games are multiplayer in a lot of senses, ive always liked games that don't make it boring for everybody. Great Article!

I get my bro to do all the evil paths too. I think siblings are born with alternative good/evil mindsets. Sometimes at LAN parties, we have one computer set up as 'observer', so some of us can watch stuff unfold whilst the others try to destroy each other. Its the secret power! Also my friends have only seen the whole of Skies of Arcadia because they watched me play it, as they kept getting stuck halfway.

Co-op Single player is fun. My old roommate and I would swap games, He'd do one, then I'd do the other, or we'd swap bits and pieces through the games. Great first article, I hope to see some more contributions on the Escapist from you in the future.

I often have more fun playing a single player campaign with other people, taking it in turns death for death, I've often said that more games should have co-op but that is another topic. GTA and MGS are great examples for me of games, that are great to play on your own, but a lot more fun with someone else enjoying it with you.

But like I said, I would love for more games to have co-op, even games like GTA and MGS

me and 3 other friends used to gather on weekends (usually to sleep in each others houses) and played every RE game there was for the play station, Parasite EVE, Final Fantasy VIII, Dino Crisys, Silent Hill all those "survival horror" kind of games wich we enjoyed (it was like gathering to watch "the night of the Zombies" or something) more recently when i bought Fatal Frame: Crimson Butterfly, i got with a friend and played in the night with all the lights out (NEVER DOING THAT AGAIN WE ALMOST SHAT OUR PANTS), also, a lot of Ace Combat games were finished that way (my friend finished 1-3 i finished 4-6)

we did it mostly because of the story, it was a great way to spend time toguether and if one died in a scene, the other guy would take over (something that almost never happened in those games, well, except Ace Combat and in some bosses in RE the controll changed hands rather fast and the award to whoever won the boss fight was to keep playing untill death)

but more recent games have forgotten a good story, a good setting, me and my friend were absolutelly horrified of Ace Combat 6, such an awfull story telling (the other games had simmilar if not stupider storyes, but at least they were told in an amazing way) i dont know, whenever i call a friend to play we never again play a game to finish it, we play to "entertain" owrselves (play a few tunes on Rock Band, kill each other in Halo 3 or Call Of Duty 4... and thats about it)

no game that haves "multi-player" included feels good thought, in Gears of War 2 you can play the story "Co-op" but as my friend stated, "what´s the point??? its just a stupid story anywhay we are better off with the horde"

perhaps RE were horrible storyes too, but at the time, any game that involved a setting that at least resembled something scary was good in our book, we jumped and i panicked when Nemesis got into the police station trough the window and we were all amazed that i managed to kill him (by severall runing in circles and i took so much damage we thought i was done for), we were puzzled by the fact that his body was not there after going to save, i trew the controller when he showed up again later in the game, we all got startled and panicked when the dogs jumped into the building trough the windows, we screamed when the locker door opened and a cat jumped out (this one in the school of silent hill), it was all good fun, we were "living" a story, i still have to find a game in this "next gen" era that allows me to recreate that "feeling" of "being there", they had taken so much time in creating all those amazing grafix and implementing multy player in new ways that they have alienated the good storytelling, or at least thats how i feel.

God of War.

Awesome to watch when the friend playing knows what the hell he's doing.

"...which allowed you to choose between becoming a beacon of light or a feared scion of malice"

I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed that individual sentence.

I'd also like to add that I rarely enjoy seeing someone else interact with a computer game, but I love to "perform" while playing a game. I like to create enjoyable experiences for people to spectate.

I like to show people this hidden gem: http://soytuaire.labuat.com/
and then I pretend that I'm doing more than I'm actually doing by clicking the mouse at the right moments or moving the mouse in such a way that it seems I have more control over unfolding events than I actually do. I never tell them I do: but tech savy persons tend to take in the illusion if they hear a mouseclick and see something happen that the mouseclick must have instigated it: never mind that it took me half a second to respond to actually make the mouseclick.

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