In the beginning, if you wanted to play video games with someone, you had to do so sitting next to each other. As technology has evolved, so has multiplayer — not only can you now play with others online rather than in-person, playing online is now the multiplayer standard. PC games were the early adopters of online play due to the convenience of being on a system that inherently connects to the Internet by design.
Consoles, however, had online play come at a slower pace. Many people were still playing splitscreen multiplayer on consoles when PC users were playing online. The turning point for online play on game consoles was Xbox Live on the original Xbox, most notably with Halo 2 becoming an online phenomenon. As times progressed, game consoles have caught up and are now fully online-enabled with streamlined services (including streaming), eliminating the need for in-person multiplayer. You don’t need anyone to come over to play games with because you have thousands of people ready to play online, including your friends.
This could be seen an evolution of convenience. We strive to make things more convenient for ourselves in any medium, also known as the path of least resistance — we have digitized renting videos, shopping, and spending time together, all to remove the inconvenience of doing things the more strenuous way, as we have evolved to do over the centuries. As we can attest, though, communication is always better in-person than over a phone or video call. Online play brings a great fix for when you want to play together but can’t in-person, but has it replaced moments that could have been spent together in the same room? Plus, how can you shove your friend for hitting you with a blue shell in Mario Kart if they’re twelve miles away? That’s the most important factor of all.
Online play is a very useful feature. It connects us instantly, removing the constraints of physical distance and need to convene in-person. However, as media evolves and everything becomes digitized for our own convenience, it is possible that we will find that this convenience comes at a cost. It’s an interesting time we live in, because we’ve developed technology that may be giving the average person more power than they realize or are ready for, and we’re going to have to grow into it through self-awareness and knowing what we value and what’s worth the extra effort to carry out.