Why Is Killing Each Other So Much Fun?

I fired off my last arrow in the attempt to nail a shot William Tell would have had trouble boasting about. It was from across the map and at a weird angle, with three obstacles in the way. But my aim was spot on nonetheless. The arrow sailed, poised to pierce my enemy’s heart, when she jumped.

She landed safely and scooped up my failed projectile giving her five to fire back at me.

Shit…

She cleared some ground quickly, easily traversing the obstacles I would have bragged about if I had won. Two arrows were then loosed, aimed directly at my head. I wanted to grab the first one from the air in a show of style, but then the second would have been the end of me, so instead I dashed backwards to safety. There was no relief in this game of predator and prey as she closed in on me, firing arrows with enough of an onslaught to keep me from picking up any of the precious ammo for myself.

I leaped to the side, my feet planted into the wall before I jumped from it in an epic feat of acrobatic acumen. An arrow pierces the wall where I was a second ago, and I see an opening. In her fervor to kill me she got just a little too close. I plant both my feet into the top of her skull and she crumples in a heap on the ground.

I won, and damn does it feel good.

And thus is a typical game of Towerfall. I love these games. TGAX can’t get into a room together without Towerfall, Samurai Gunn, Starwhal, or Nidhogg getting a few rounds played.

But it has me wondering, why is killing your friends so much fun?

These local play games have stolen my heart when I won’t even pick up a typical multiplayer game. Nameless killers and victims, lucky shots and way too serious skill shots, or even playing with a friend while in different locations…this experience does nothing for me. But four people in a living room and I’m sold.

I loved Goldeneye, the Smash Brothers lineup, and now the renaissance of indie arena combat games. There’s just something special about pulling out a victory when you were assured defeat, and turning instantly to your friend to laud it over them. It’s a truly social experience to get laughed at for some dumb mistake you pulled that cost you the match. It brings out my competitive side unlike an online multiplayer game has ever done.

The atmosphere is a big game changer. There’s just something about having three friends in the room with you when playing with each other. And there’s the instant will to want to get better at the game so you don’t have to see the gloating face of your friend after getting murdered for the tenth time in a row.

I just don’t get that when playing online. I may get a kill on someone I don’t know, and they may take their revenge a few minutes later. But in this always on, always connected world I feel the exact opposite. There is a mindless disconnect to it all. I don’t care who the other people playing are. I have no connection to them apart from we were randomly placed into the same match.

And why should I care? There’s nothing there for me to connect with. I’ll never play the same person again. There’s no real platform to get to know anyone on Xbox Live before or after a match besides having a lobby with mics open. And honestly, who does that? It’s so much easier to mute everyone to kill the assholes you know are there.

So we’re in this weird paradox of the most social and connected experiences we can have are the most analog and anti-digital. Which is fine, apart from game companies moving so far away from this model. Split-screen is dying a slow death. I don’t think Xbox One even features LAN multiplayer anymore. When Dead Rising 3 launched my friend and I played everything in co-op mode in the same room together…through Xbox Live. Same goes for Minecraft Xbox 360 Version.

It’s a sad state, and I wish the larger game companies could come to realize just because something is newer doesn’t necessarily make it better. Gamers like split-screen. We like system link. We like playing together in the same room.

And we love killing each other.