Hacked Off: Why Have Split Screens Become a Thing of the Past in Most Video Games?

As a child I remember spending a lot of time playing games with various family members. Whether it was Pokémon Stadium or Perfect Dark, it was always more fun to play with them than just by myself. Nowadays I prefer single-player, but that doesn’t mean co-op is no longer fun. Yet, unless I’m playing with someone over the internet, it is nigh impossible to play with those near you.

We’re now in a world where it is easier to play a game of Halo with someone on the other side of the world than with someone sitting five feet away from you. While most people play with those over the internet far more frequently than those in the same room, that doesn’t mean split screen’s irrelevant. Maybe I want to have my cake and eat it too, better yet I’ll just have two cakes, one for eating and the other for admiring. Couples, families, or housemates would all make good use of a split screen mode. It’s as if developers want people to lock themselves away from other people.

Obviously, you can still play games with those in the same room, it just involves swapping controllers. It doesn’t offer the same enjoyment of you all playing at the same time, but it’s better than nothing. The main type of games this works for are shooters, and normally you follow the rule of play until you die, or if you’re playing awful, three deaths. Well, there are always those people who don’t know how to acknowledge when to swap. The kind of person that spends nearly two hours playing before they ask if you’d like a go. Clearly they think they’re so good that I just wanted to sit and watch them play. Halo has been one of the strangest, seeing as it was always a big player in split-screen playing. Apparently, we no longer need it. As if all of a sudden the people we played with could no longer bare being in the same room as us, so now we need the internet.

I remember playing F1 2012 with my housemates at university. It’s a shame these games don’t have split screen, as I played F1 World Grand Prix as a child against my siblings. Now I can actually drive the cars properly, so it would be more of a race than crashing my way around the lap. So, there are several ways the game can be divided so all three of us play. The most obvious is splitting the number of laps by three and switching when finishing your third. Another is to just alternate after each lap. Instead, we made a third way, a much more exciting one at that. Each lap has three sectors, so we were designated a sector for the race. Sure, this involves more hassle, but it’s better. It means everyone stays focused and doesn’t retreat to their phones, and you also become experts at your sector. This way helps to stop losing too many positions if someone is struggling. Which was obviously not me playing it like Mario Kart.

There is another option: I could just buy another console. Simple, really. I could probably find £200 inside the sofa and maybe the rest of it in some of my trouser pockets. It’s not just the console you have to buy, but you’d need to buy two copies of every game. It just doesn’t seem like a good use of money. I’m sure this is what developers are hoping for, but it just doesn’t work in practice. Families are not likely going to spend x amounts of money for this. Nintendo are the best for split screen games, which could be as they’re a ‘family’ console, but why must that be a trait solely for families?

I know there are sacrifices they have to make to the quality when making it split screen, but it’s worth it. Indie games are the best place to currently get split screened games. It makes sense, seeing as they have a smaller budget. Yet I’d like to see more AAA games go back to offering both options.

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