Most commonly appearing in the form of split-screen, offline multiplayer in the developer-supported sense has gone the way of the steam locomotive and propeller plane in recent years.
Even as gaming continues to grow as a communal experience – today’s bestsellers boast online firefights between the dozens, and Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony all trumpet socially attuned online networks – the amount of multiplayer time we actually spend face-to-face has diminished to the point that split-screen games are a bona fide rarity. That intimate competitive spirit fostered by Goldeneye, Mario Kart, and so many more during split screen’s golden age has now been twisted into a music/dance/3D/party/fitness-game amalgamation of frivolity that occasionally delivers a Dance Central or Kinect Sports, but more often than not settles for Michael Jackson: The Experience.
The book hasn’t been written yet; Smart Glass and the Wii U GamePad’s emphasis on multi-screen gaming will present new offline opportunities for games of all creeds. Whether or not developers will choose to utilize them is unclear – but we’re holding out hope. We can’t afford to lose sight of the fact that great gaming can also be social gaming, without a connection bar or spec of bandwidth at hand.