Game Riding Shotgun

What hap­pens when you’ve got two gamers (me and my wife) who can’t play a game togeth­er, but you both want to play? Some­one rides shot­gun. This can be due to the game being sin­gle-play­er, or more recent­ly, due to the need for some­one to hold an infant.

The per­son who rides shot­gun does­n’t have to focus on con­trols or the repet­i­tive tasks that take up a lot of time on gam­ing. They focus on the big pic­ture, missed details, and so on. If the game is some­thing you’re both inter­est­ed in, you com­bine to become some­thing of a super­play­er. For exam­ple, I can’t spot those hid­den flags in Assas­s­in’s Creed for the life of me, but she’ll pick out one that’s under a pile of hay, which is itself under a tarp… three miles away, through dense fog, around the cor­ner. She spots the tiny cor­ner of that flag, and we get clos­er to com­plet­ing the game. In Pix­eljunk Mon­sters, I point out that she tends to stand next to mobs, wait­ing for them to die, when she could be three steps away, upgrad­ing a tow­er while she wait­ed. And we get clos­er to get­ting a rain­bow on that lev­el. (Yes, you can play PJM with two players–and we often do–but when I get home from work and she’s play­ing, I don’t say, “Drop that and let’s play togeth­er.” I fix myself a drink.)

Game Rid­ing Shot­gun can be real­ly fun, but the game has to be fun to watch, very well designed or com­pelling in some oth­er way. So Assas­s­in’s Creed is beau­ti­ful and has a good sto­ry, but a fight­ing game gets kind of bor­ing when you’re not play­ing it, because it’s so repet­i­tive. The orig­i­nal Dis­gaea had a real­ly fun­ny sto­ry and crazy fight animations.

In social games, there’s anoth­er angle. We start­ed out in World of War­craft with her rid­ing shot­gun. We designed char­ac­ters togeth­er, chose which to play and where to lev­el, which quests to do, and so on. (This is why most of my toons are women, and this is why I’m stuck with mul­ti­ple high-lev­el women toons now that she has her own account. I don’t know what every­one else’s excuse is.)

Prob­a­bly the best ben­e­fit of some­one rid­ing shot­gun in a social game like WoW is that our super­play­er worked even bet­ter in con­ver­sa­tion than it did in game­play. Some­one would speak (type) to us, and either of us could respond. I’m a fast typer, so the per­son on the oth­er end did­n’t know that we were two peo­ple unless we told them. So our super­play­er end­ed up being 100% more fun­ny than me alone. Our friends in WoW who learned that we were a “play­ing cou­ple” became excit­ed when my wife got a com­put­er and an account. The down­side for me was that when she got her own account, my per­ceived wit dropped by 50%. Well, maybe 55%. She’s pret­ty funny.

Rid­ing shot­gun has its ben­e­fits, and when there is a qual­i­ty sin­gle-play­er game it can be a great time for both of you. I’m real­ly look­ing for­ward to play­ing Por­tal with her game rid­ing shot­gun, as well as Dis­gaea 3 and try­ing our first Final Fan­ta­sy for the PS3, when­ev­er that comes out.

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