What Happened to Playing Games Together Offline?

Long before COVID-19 the trend for gaming online had taken over that of going to a friend’s house

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Photo by Florian Olivo on Unsplash

COVID-19 pushed the accelerator for many industries. One of which has been gaming. A popular past time has been catapulted to the attention of the world, with runaway successes such as Animal Crossing taking centre stage. In a year that has seen much change, the move to seeing friends virtually has taken precedence.

The virus known as COVID-19 has required the world to adopt a certain level of distance from each other. Friends have been kept at bay and moved into the corner of the screen, where they can be muted at will. The ability to come and go has taken the limelight and left late-night gaming sleepovers as a distant memory.

Gaming Sleepovers

I was born in England and throughout my life have adapted a great many gaming consoles. From the Commodore Amiga to the Nintendo 64 and the Sony PlayStation. I remember the day when wires were your friends.

If you wanted to play a two-player game, then you needed to invite a friend around to your house. Those wishing to push the boat out even further needed to invest in additional controllers, many of whom ended up with wires looking worse for wear. In a similar vein to when you pack the Christmas Tree lights up, the lights would tangle over each other and require strength to separate.

Tripping over controller wires, endless multitaps and missing memory cards are some of my early memories of gaming. We would play into the early hours of the morning, rest for a few hours and start again. This was until the advent of wireless controllers and online multiplayer.

The Decline of the Second Controller

Around the time that the PlayStation 4 was released, I noticed a growing trend. After a few months, console deals begin to reduce the number of controllers in the box. This was no longer a selling point.

If you wanted an additional controller, then you had a critical decision. Do you buy the latest videogame or a new controller? They cost the same.

Before this time, most people looked at boxed deals and prioritised those with an additional controller, as it saved money in the long run. This trend began at the end of the PlayStation 3’s lifespan and carried on through. Internet speeds had begun to increase at this time, and more stable options were available to players.

The trend has moved from the home to catch-ups via Discord and the PC, PlayStation or Switch.

The Rise of the Cloud

The Cloud as a concept has existed since the early 20th century but with the average internet speed lacking, it was not until 2010 when things began to move forward.

Cloud gaming has been experimented with since the early 21st century, but the technology and internet speeds were not optimized for its implantation until several years later.

The first major cloud gaming service was OnLive, which launched in 2010. It made use of a small game streaming console and a special controller, and was capable of running several games that were available for consoles at the time, including the original Borderlands and Darksiders.
What is Cloud Gaming, Digital Trends

Whilst Cloud gaming is something that is still proving itself today, we have seen an increase in gaming online. Not just with the arrival of COVID-19 but before this time also. Society was moving online as standard direction for years. The global pandemic arrived to light the fuse and really explore the world of online gaming and push Cloud gaming to the next level.


No-one needs to be reminded of the global pandemic. It has arrived to fundamentally alter the way in which we live.

With regards to videogames, it has seen the most loop warm launch in history, with usual industry events such as E3 being cancelled. Companies pivoted and did the best they can but with staff working desperately, they have had to make do.

This, however, has not tempered the juggernaut that is people’s enthusiasm for gaming. Stories of PlayStation 5’s being replaced with cat food during delivery have made themselves known. If you needed any more proof that videogames are popular in 2020, then this was it. People were so determined to get one that they would change their contents for cat food.

Animal Crossing has also gone from strength to strength, with people creating their own islands and inviting friends along.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons was released exclusively on the Nintendo Switch on March 20, 2020. The simulation game allows players to build up a community from scratch on a deserted island. The Nintendo title was a roaring success, selling more digital copies — five million — in a single month than any other console game in history.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons Sales, Staistica.com

This trend of meeting friends online was started before 2020 and will continue long after, to the ruin of second controller sleepovers.

Will we See a Change in Trends in 2021?


Online multiplayer will continue to be the dominant trend. This is primarily due to the global pandemic, but when restrictions ease, people will continue in this manner. This will in part be due to hesitation and in part to sticking to what we know best.

The world is interconnected and we prefer to have surface-level interactions with people online rather than in the real world. Within the gaming universe, this is partly due to the fact that we can do so much more. We can add virtual ears around our friends, we can mute them, and we can disconnect whenever we choose. It is the next level in interaction and like the dinosaurs of old, this fossil will be left with his memories.

A Final Thought

Gone are the days of multi-taps and numerous wired controllers that created numerous trip hazards. 2021 is full of virtual interactions that bring us closers to our friends than ever before. This is keeping in mind the world of VR, in which you can physically see your friends in the game as a playable character.

Before COVID-19 the preference was for remote gaming and with the global pandemic, this will only increase in importance. The days of sleepovers which included multiple gamepads are gone. The most controllers that anyone will have in the house is two, as this allows you to continue gaming whilst one controller charges.

We live in a world that is interconnected by the Cloud and run our interactions accordingly. We are a social society but we are also one that is disconnected from face to face experiences. We live our lives online and gaming will continue to ramp up this trend long after COVID-19 has left our shores.

Written by

A writer of many things, all of which make him think or smile.

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