Regular readers of this blog will know that while I love playing games, and love playing games with my husband Rick, the difference in our respective video game skills can make that pretty difficult. Competitive games mean that I’m usually eating Rick’s dust for most of the experience while cooperative games mean that Rick has to carry me most of the way.
However, we’ve found a way to enjoy playing games together where my skill deficit doesn’t matter. We play single player games together, using a system I like to call “tandem gaming.” The conceit of tandem gaming is simple enough, two (or more if you like) people play a game together, either taking turns or splitting up the different phases of the game among those with the best skills for those phases.
While this method won’t necessarily work with every game, or even every couple, I figured I’d run down some of the genres of video games that have given me and Rick the best tandem gaming experiences.
Examples: Anything by Bioware, anything by Telltale
This is probably the #1 genre for me and Rick and lead to me playing through my first AAA game all by myself. After watching Rick play Mass Effect 2 for the gazillionth time on his own, we decided to start a game of it together: I would make all of the dialogue and other choices, and Rick would take care of all that pesky shooty action stuff. It worked out great and I was able to import my character from that playthrough to Mass Effect 3, where they introduced a Narrative difficulty setting, which deemphasized combat to the point where I could actually play through the game myself. And while I could probably play a Telltale game by myself as there isn’t any precise shooting action, we still prefer to play them together, debating choices and snarking each other for not reacting quickly enough.
Examples: Portal, Escape Goat, Limbo
This discovery sort of happened by accident as I was watching Rick struggle with a sequence in the first Escape Goat, only to stroll by and point to the solution on the screen. While Rick is usually the one holding the controller, it’s always nice to have a fresh perspective on a puzzle, especially from someone who is able to see things a little differently than you do. While we sometimes trade off the controller for these types of games (depending on whether they are 3D or not), we always have fun trying to explain our solutions to each other and then fail miserably at executing them correctly.
Examples: Dear Esther, Gone Home
Another genre I could probably play on my own, walking simulators are fun for us to play together since we can take turns holding the controller and discuss where we think the story is going while we’re playing. It’s actually a lot like watching a TV or a movie together, except that we get to decide where we go and what we interact with next. Also, the simplicity of the controls mean that we both get equal play time, instead of me waiting around for Rick to finish a firefight so I can pick which love interest to harass next.