Local multiplayers: alive and mooing

Some of the earliest memories I have of gaming revolve around local multiplayers. Like playing Pong against my dad after my grandparents found an old home version in a charity shop; arguing with my brother over who would be Mario and who would get stuck with Luigi; duking it out on Street Fighter with friends at the arcade in a local bowling alley. Good times.

Back then there was no online world. Before I reached my early teens and the internet slowly became a ‘thing’, multiplayer meant friends and family getting together in person – either on the sofa at home or in front of a machine at an arcade – and trying to kill each other digitally. You couldn’t turn on a video game and connect with another player on the other side of the world: you had to be in the same place, in the same room.

Multiplayer gaming is now completely different and local games are all but a thing of the past. Those that do exist can sometimes still require an internet connection to play, leaving out individuals who don’t have access to affordable or reliable broadband. You know that new release you’ve been waiting ages to play because it looks so awesome? Sorry, non-connected gamers – it’s being marketed for its online-only content.

Bullion, video game, island, treasure chests, pirates, swords, palm tree, sand, sea, bulls

I miss the joy of local multiplayer, working together in pixelated adventures and battling in digital wars. It was a shared social experience that created a sense of camaraderie between us: a ‘personal’ event which brought everyone in the room together. While online gaming has enabled us to connect with others from all over the globe, it struggles to entirely recreate that cosy, ‘intimate’ feeling.

Perhaps that’s why I was pleasantly surprised when Matthew and Ben from Leda Entertainment coaxed us into playing Bullion as we walked through the doors at last month’s GEEK expo. I’m not going to deny it: billed as a game of ‘fighting, looting and bovine piracy’, this isn’t a release I’d usually be drawn to. But something happened as I sat down with my other-half and stepson and we each picked up a controller.

Players take on the role of Captain Long John Silverside and his crew of scurvy sea-bulls as they land on the legendary Islands of Ser-LLoyn and incur the wrath of the gods. The aim of the game is to smash the chests and grab as much treasure as you can, while outsmarting your opponents and avoiding the skeletons. It’s every bull for themselves and, as the official website states, only one may survive the curse of the cutthroat cattle.

‘Rematch!’ I yelled after Ethan beat both Pete and I twice. My stepson came out on top during each of our three goes and we still can’t figure out how he did it; we may have gone easy on him during the first round but then things became a little more competitive. Here was a simple game, quite innocent and without all the realistic graphics or complicated mechanics, and it was managing to inspire that same friendly competition I’d experienced with my family all those years ago.

I think it’s important for us to show Ethan these experiences. As I commented on a recent post by Wakalapi, it’s so easy for him to view gaming as friends as a solitary activity completed on a small mobile screen; and while that has its place, it misses something vital. Gaming can be so much more than just a method of passing the time: it can be a way of bringing friends and family together, and creating fond memories.

So thank you to the guys from Leda Entertainment for bringing Bullion to GEEK and for encouraging us to play as we walked by. And more importantly, for showing us that the local multiplayer is still alive and mooing.