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Is there life after Fortnite? An emerging trend in game design brings novelty

While the game industry is swamped by the battle royale tsunami and its exacerbated individualism, a game genre is slowly emerging: Cooperative games where players should not compete but must cooperate to win.

Pascal Luban, Blogger

June 4, 2019

3 Min Read

While the game industry is swamped by the battle royale tsunami and its exacerbated individualism, a game genre is slowly emerging: Cooperative games where players should not compete but must cooperate to win.

It is in the sector of board games that their development is made more and more remarkable. Players praise the spirit of mutual help and the lack of prejudice against players who lack « skill".

The Cannes International Games Festival, which ended in February, testifies to the rise of these games. Thus, out of the 12 games named for the prize for the best board game, more than half are cooperative. The winner, The Mind, is one of them.

In addition to the absence of direct confrontation between players, these games offer new mechanisms. While in many games, players tend to seek to improve their own position, Spirit Island encourages them to help other players and develop common strategies to repel invaders. And in The Mind, players must synchronize, without communicating with each other, to play their cards in a certain order. Many cooperative games are also based on the prisoner's dilemma. In the latter, the players are placed in a difficult situation and they have the choice between tearing each other apart or cooperating, the latter being the best option.

These games are also characterized by innovative themes. In Pandemic, players embody doctors fighting viruses threatening to destroy the human species. Cerberus takes as a theme the underworld; players play souls trying to escape.

In video games, the use of cooperative mechanisms is not new. They are found in many shooting games in the form of team-versus-team modes. They are also found in MMOs which are largely based on PvE mode where a group of players faces hordes of enemies in instanced quests.

But several recent productions have pushed their cooperative dimension much further: Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes and A Way Out. In the first, one player visualizes a bomb to defuse and must interact with it while other players have access to documentation explaining the manipulations to be performed. Cooperation is essential. The second title, A Way Out, looks a lot like a console action game. Two players embody prisoners trying to escape. One of the strengths of this title is that it allows playing in split screen, as in the good old days of Halo 2! What characterizes these games is that it is absolutely impossible to win without close cooperation with the other players.

I, therefore, expect to see more and more games based on mechanisms of cooperation between players for several reasons:

First, many players are sensitive to the emotions generated by collaboration, even altruism. The human being is a gregarious animal that gives more meaning to its action when the latter is part of a group project. 

Traditional multiplayer modes generate strong emotions but many players do not dare to play for fear of being humiliated; no one likes to be beaten by other players. Conversely, games based entirely on cooperation are less intimidating. They allow players whose play skills are very heterogeneous to have fun together.

Cooperative games can renew gaming experiences by introducing new mechanisms or themes. In an industry where novelty is an important success factor, game designers will find new sources of inspiration in cooperative mechanisms. 

For instance, in Vigor, an innovative early access game on Xbox One developed by Bohemia Interactive, players can decide to spend their hard currency to increase the collection of resources, the loot, for the entire group of players in their session, even if they don’t know each other.

Mish Mash offers another interesting example. Developed by Kwa Qua, this game offers collaborative drawing experiences based on the game Cadavre Exquis (exquisite corpse) invented by surrealist artists in the 1920s.

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About the Author(s)

Pascal Luban


Pascal Luban is a freelance creative director and game designer based in France. He has been working in the game industry as a game or level designer since 1995 and has been commissioned by major studios and publishers including Activision, SCEE, Ubisoft and DICE. In particular, he was Lead Level Designer on the 'versus' multiplayer versions of both Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory, he designed CTF-Tornado, a UT3 mod multiplayer map built to showcase the applications of physics to gameplay, he was creative Director on Wanted – Weapons of Fate and lead game designer on Fighters Uncaged, the first combat game for Kinect. His first game for mobile platforms, The One Hope, was published in 2007 by the Irish publishers Gmedia and has received the Best In Gaming award at the 2009 Digital Media Awards of Dublin. Leveraging his design experience on console and PC titles, Pascal is also working on social and Free-to-Play games. He contributed to the game design of Kartoon, a Facebook game currently under development at Kadank, he did a design mission on Treasure Madness, zSlide's successful Free-to-Play game and completed several design missions for French and American clients. Pascal is content director for the video game program at CIFACOM, a French school focusing on the new media industry.

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