We talk at length here about game structure, analyzing everything from critiquing widespread gender disparity to broader subject matter like breaking down the multifaceted fantasy genre. That’s all well and good, but what about something as simple as who you choose to play all those video games with? It’s something intimately interwoven into our experiences as gamers: the ability to connect with another person through a mutually cherished game. With that in mind, I put this to the FemHype team: who comes to mind when you think of your player 2? I’ll be asking you the same question at the end, so have a comment ready.
Easy: my two childhood friends, Zachary and Jessica. Video games were just one of the many glues that held our friendship together throughout the hot summer days in California. While we played many games from Diddy Kong Racing to Final Fantasy to Legend of Zelda, the game we consistently pooled our heads together over was Pokémon.
I still remember being enormously upset when they received Pokémon Gold Version and Silver Version for their birthdays and my mom wasn’t able to afford it at the time. It just felt so wrong not to join in on the experience with them and debate over who gets which starter! Thankfully, their parents took pity on me and went and got me a copy. Cue us immediately sitting down on the floor to coo over the full color graphics.
Playing video games with others is similar to reading the same book or watching the same television series; you compartmentalize your friendship/acquaintance into a mini-journey where you can reflect not just inwardly, but outwardly. There’s just something really memorable about walking along the same path and doing it a little bit differently than those beside you. And let’s face it: it really, uh, enhances the experience to have someone else to play a horror game with.
When I think about the person I’ve played video games with most of my life, the first person I think of is my younger sister. Growing up, we shared everything: bedroom, furniture, clothes, food, books, and the video game console at the time. I remember Nintendo systems was the only kind of game consoles in our room and my older brother got the other, more modern ones. (I wasn’t jealous! Well … maybe a little)
At first it was just her watching me play, then eventually she got interested and we started taking turns. I guess I got better at playing video games than her, because while she was playing she would always ask me for help, passing the controller my way. We’ve played a lot of Mario Party and Mario Kart 64 together since those were the only multiplayer games we owned at the time. I remember how we openly teased each other we when stole stars or coins, but then started to realize that one CPU was getting too far ahead, so then they became our target (It was mostly Luigi or DK). Even when I wasn’t playing Mario Party with her, I would watch and see if she needed help. I even wore the top layer of my skin away from playing the Tug-O-War minigame. Man, that stung! But it was worth it because I did it for her.
Nowadays, I play with my boyfriend, but I think back fondly to those N64 days. I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed playing with someone else if it weren’t for my little sister. I still get excited when I play with my boyfriend, although I should calm down from time to time as I let my temper get the best of me (I blame Hyrule Warriors entirely). Remember to crack jokes and cuss at the video game, not your player 2.
My brother has been my video game co-pilot for as long as I can remember. When we were kids with dial-up internet and no video game consoles, we used to spend hours playing the same LEGO flash games over and over again. Being the older sister, I was usually the one playing while my brother watched and gave advice, but as we got older we found some games that were actually pretty fun when I steered with the keyboard and he shot at things with the mouse.
These days, we’ve moved on to games that actually support multiplayer, but we still only ever play together when we can be in the same room. We pick a game like Team Fortress 2 or Just Cause 2 that allow us to host a private server, then we come up with increasingly epic minigames to keep ourselves entertained inside the deserted game world. It doesn’t matter that these are games we could just as easily play against each other remotely; we like playing in the same room. Why bother typing cursewords and movie lines into a tiny chat screen when you could be shouting them at the person sitting a few feet away instead?
Despite being a largely solitary gamer, I find that watching my loved ones play games has been the source of some really great bonding experiences throughout my life. I have some very fond memories of watching my dad play through the Elder Scrolls: Morrowind on the Xbox and facepalming quite a lot when he would go on unprovoked killing rampages through small towns. Not long ago, I made my husband play through BioShock while I was sick in bed for a week, and doing so helped me sleep better when I was otherwise having trouble drifting off.
Lately, I’ve been watching my boyfriend go through his third straight Dragon Age: Inquisition playthrough, and we have a really good time gossiping about which romances are the most fun to play through. The fortunate thing about gaming is that it’s not typically a faux pas to chat while you’re playing, so it’s easy to have fun and fulfilling conversations while sharing the experience with loves ones!
The person I played with was always my brother. From a young age we were playing together, starting with the SNES and moving up to the N64. We were Nintendo kids through and through, but it never felt like we were missing out. We could play Sega games if we wanted to, but it was the Nintendo games that we really loved. Even now, my brother and I still try to find games to play together. Even if it’s just phone games, I’m one of the first people he reaches out to for talking about a new game.
I guess it was our way of bonding, really. It became a big part of our life when our parents weren’t around or when we didn’t have anything to entertain ourselves with. It would be fun to play games together and see how far we could get on Star Road (not far) or who could get the best time on Mario Kart (not me). It was a way that we could bond and connect so that even when our interests became incredibly different from each other, we were able to still share something.
When you’re gaming together, whether it’s with a family member or a friend, it reminds you that there’s more. So often we feel like we’re the only one who has been pitted against all the demons in the world. Video games like to tell us this so we can feel important and like the hero, but instilling some camaraderie between gamers whether it’s because they’re in a guild together or because they’re your player 2, it’s a whole new way to experience the fantasy worlds that video games can offer.