Player 2 has had many roles in the history of video games. Early on, this was typically a competitive role, or even direct opposition with the coveted Player 1. But as time went on, people realized that working together was also a cool thing to do. And so “Co-op mode” let friends play games together, working towards a common goal that they were WAY better at achieving then their piece of shit team-mates.
For me, the pinnacle of co-op mode was the one included with 2011’s Portal 2, sequel to the cult classic Portal. Unlike many co-op games, the idea of competition was removed entirely as the two robots, Atlas and Peabody worked together to solve the devious tests put forth by the AI known as GLaDOS. Why, the only thing better would be if the Game Grumps did a Portal 2 Let’s Play.
Arin “Egoraptor” Hanson and Dan “Danny Sexbang” Avidan are the titular Game Grumps of the Game Grumps YouTube channel (though they are no longer it’s only players). They are a great team with Dan’s ability to keep a cool head and Arin’s ability to actually play modern games, there are few challenges they can’t overcome.
Now, this isn’t the first Co-op game the Grumps have tackled, who could forget their legendary Kirby’s Epic Yarn playthrough? Or their playthrough of Super Mario Galaxy? Yep, Super Mario Galaxy was a co-op game. However it belongs into another category I like to call “Little Brother Co-op”. In these types of games, one player, in this case Arin, actually plays the game, completes the objectives, wins glory, while the second player, Dan… helps? Dan quickly abandoned his role as a star-bit-collector pretty much episode one of the playthrough.
Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with these type of co-op games, they let players who may not necessarily have the same skill level have fun together without holding each other back. In fact, the advantage “Little Brother” co-op games have over games where both players are, if not equal (Arin is clearly the brains of the operation when it comes to Portal 2) than necessary, is that one can still enjoy the game without a second person (or third. Looking at you *Triforce Heroes*…)
However, sometimes these type of games can go wrong, especially when co-op functionality is added on after the fact. Let’s look at another member of the Game Grumps family, Ross “Rubberross” O’Donovan. The Irish-Australian conductor of the Steam Train recently tried out the newly implemented co-op mode of Shovel Knight with his wife, occasional Grump contributor Commander Holly Conrad. Things did not go well
Part of the problem is the disparity of their skill levels. While Holly is by no means bad at video games (she does have a Let’s Play series after all.), Ross is far more skilled and he quickly becomes frustrated. Another problem, that Ross mentions a few times, is that the players are unable to pass through each other, causing the knights to get in each others way constantly. The levels were also clearly designed for only one player at a time. It was almost cringe – worthy watching the fairly jovial Ross scream in frustration at his wife, who by all accounts is an incredibly kind and sweet person, as she quietly apologized. Now my point is not that Ross is a monster just because he let his temper get out of hand. These things happen and I’m sure the couple are absolutely fine. My point is, if you are going to put co-op in a game. Do it right.