There's a free video game expo in Austin and you aren't there - but dozens of game developers are showing off their wares. Of particular interest: offline multiplayer games. Why plug into the net when friends can game from the same couch?
"There's been a resurgence in the local multiplayer scene in the last few years," said Australian game creator Jake Strasser at the SXSW Gaming Expo in Austin, Texas - a three-day event that began Friday.
The Adorable Ugly Naked Wrestling with Friends Game
The push for more offline multiplayer encouraged Strasser, a film major, to team with a few art majors and a self-taught programmer to make one of the most (unintentionally?) disturbingly cute games in recent years. Somewhere between Catdog and Human Centipede exists this sumo soccer video game.
"It's a wrestling game about friendship," he said of Push Me Pull You.
He and his friends met regularly to talk in-depth about game design while gaming together and decided to put their hobby to good use.
"We knew we wanted to make a four player game, because there are four of us," Strasser explained. "We realized the most interesting version of that would be to join the partners together, because that kind of forced cooperation."
The Sports Game for Friends Who Hate Sports
The same was true for Rick Felice, who's involved with "games makesmanship" at Tipping Goat. He grew up playing four-player Atari 800 games with his friends and wanted to recreate that experience for modern gamers.
"For me social gaming was always sitting in front of a TV and actually socializing with people," he explained.
To that end, Felice developed (is developing) Super Slam Dunk Touchdown, a game that would allow four to six players to beat the ever-lovin' snot out of each other so a hockey stick can knock a bowling ball through a hoop.
"I think it stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of sports as a kid, combined with a lot of fondness for sports video games," Felice explained. The game certainly shows that pedigree, recalling the glory days of games like Arch Rivals, one of the few basketball games that encouraged punching.
While Felice's game teaches an old dog new tricks, other multiplayer games are working to re-invent gameplay.
The Game that Turns Friends into a Dancing Fools
"All our games are kind of physical and a bit awkward and experimental," explained Eline Muijres of the currently-dormant Game Oven Studios from the Netherlands. "We really like multiplayer games and especially local multiplayer games because you get close to each other and in our games it's all about getting a bit awkward and intimate and touching each other."
"We wanted to make a dancing game, but we didn't know how to make dances because we're game developers, we're not choreographers," Muijres said. After Googling "ballet," Game Oven found DNB. "We just called them and said, 'hey, we want to do a game with you,' and they said, 'okay.'"
The end result is a game ready for houseparties. Muijres said each time she's demoed the game with strangers has been a unique experience.
"Some people are really nervous, and other people are all over the place and really excited," she said. "We really like that interaction between people. It's not just about you and I anymore, but about we."
We Need More of these Games
I was going to write a whole treatise on why more offline multiplayer games are needed, but this webcomic from Safely Endangered says all that needs said.
The SXSW Gaming Expo continues through Sunday - be there, or be sad you missed it.