My hands were sweaty—nervous I would slip up, make a mistake, or give the enemy the edge they needed. I’ve been through this labyrinthine Facility dozens of times, confident I could navigate it like it were my own home. I turned the corner and heard those telltale words, “Ah, Mr. Beeswax!” Immediately, my vision was filled with an explosion before going red, then black.
“God damn it!” I exclaimed, with a smile. Damn Fat Team. This was 007: GoldenEye. This was The Cave. This was high school. Spending hours deep into the night, hopped up on the worst shit you could buy at a gas station convenience store at 11:30 at night on a Saturday with your closest friends in a dark room huddled around the TV.
We grew up on split-screen multiplayer. We lived for it. Even after it was unceremoniously culled from the popular games and consoles, we would break out the older consoles to relive the glory days. But as the years progress, it becomes more of a distant memory. Partly, it’s an issue of constraints, as games and engines require more assets and processing power to be competitive with other games in terms of graphics and simply the amount of “stuff” in each game— it’s damn hard for one machine to run and process all that information for multiple players at once. However, our generation of gamers, who grew up with the social side of couch co-op and competitive gaming, is growing up and moving apart, requiring those old friendships to adapt. It’s difficult to play a split-screen match when you’re states away.
And so, the era of online multiplayer has already come and taken its place as the current and foreseeably-future master of the medium. Juvenile microphone insults get thrown around, though not nearly as often about one another’s moms as movies and TV would have us think. Matches between 4 players gave way to matches between 12, 36, and now, with the current domination of battle royale shooters, such as PUBG and Fortnite, 100 players all at once. Gaming has become at once more isolating and more social.
Humans still crave that witty couch banter, though. That feeling of being in the same room as your friends, trading jokes and jibes and friendly name-calling, is still the holy grail for video game communities. Enter, streaming personalities: people who cultivate that feeling of friendship with dozens, hundreds, thousands, and even millions of other people worldwide who think, “Hey, I’d love to be sitting on the same couch as that guy or gal, playing with them.” It’s once again a strange and contradictory sense of togetherness and separation.
We, the Couch Bandits, aren’t here to say how much better it was back in our day, nor complain about the current environment of the gaming community at large. Rather, we’re here to love it and celebrate it and have spirited discussion about it in all its forms. We grew up on the couch together, and while we may have some distance between us, we’re happy to use the internet as our new couch. We invite all of you to have a seat and pick up the controller for a round with us.
Sit back, relax, crack open your energy drink of choice, and stuff your face full of chips and pizza as we enjoy one another’s company. Thanks for coming by, and welcome to Couch Bandits.