I've never been athletic. I was born with hilariously bad eyesight, my coordination is far below average, and, to be frank, I just don't like sports. As a kid, whenever my Dad would drag me out to the back yard to play catch with him, I would protest, because I knew that I wouldn't catch the ball, no matter how hard I tried. For most of my life, the fact that I wasn't good at sports didn't even bother me – I had plenty of other interests to keep myself occupied, and a great group of friends, too.
It goes without saying that moving brings a lot of change with it. Around this time last year, I packed up my bags, hopped in a truck, and rode from North Carolina to Mississippi. It's the third major transfer in my life, and probably not the last one that I'll go through. I'm used to moving around, I'm used to starting over, and I'm used to having to adjust. What I'm not used to is having to do all of those things at such an important time. These years, the earliest stage of adulthood, are the point where I'm watching all of my friends go out and start living their lives, and I've just been left here to sit in the dust. Without many common interests to make new friends with, and without any of my old ones, I've been depressed. Typically, I spend my free time alone, playing video games.
When I was younger, games were a social tool, designed to amplify the enjoyment of a sleepover or family cookout. Sure, Sly Cooper, Spyro the Dragon, and other single player titles left a big mark on me, too – but it's the memories of couch co-op and split screen matches that resonate with me the most. Whether it was slamming a go-kart into my next-door neighbour in Crash Team Racing or mowing down Gungans with my best friend in Star Wars: Battlefront, I was sharing a moment with someone else. In short, games filled the sports gap and helped me start to maintain childhood friendships.
There's still a place for local multiplayer in gaming, but to say that the scene hasn't changed would be obvious denial. Aside from the great stuff being put out by Nintendo and a few indie developers, there are not many colourful, weird titles to jump into with a buddy by your side; the industry is much more focused on competition now. Playing Call of Duty online or on the couch with a pal can be tense, but it loses its thrill after a couple of rounds. I like to compete, but there's no point in it if I'm not having fun.
And that's why Rocket League, Psyonix's half-racer, half-soccer sim, is my new favourite game. It's aggressive, easy to understand, and, above all else, as addictive as crack cocaine. I've never played anything quite like it, and yet it brings back all those same warm, happy feelings as the games that I grew up with. Having come home to spend the summer with family and friends a few weeks ago, video games were honestly the last thing on my mind; like I said, the industry has changed, and, in my opinion, games are no longer the ideal way to spend time with someone. I still think that's true in the grand scheme of things, but Rocket League is one hell of an exception.
The best games for local multiplayer are the ones that are built on simple ideas. Anyone can understand Rocket League, know its ins and outs, and be a decent player after an hour of game time. It's not a game for gamers, it's a game for everyone. And that's great for me, because most of my friends hardly play video games these days – introducing them to it was a bit of an accident in itself. I had noticed that someone, who was subscribed to PlayStation Plus, had not downloaded any of his freebies for the month. I swiftly informed him that he was missing out and went to the PlayStation Store to see what was available for July. At the time, I hadn't played Rocket League – I was foolish enough to not bring my PlayStation with me when I came home – but I had heard all the praise from Push Square and other gaming websites.
We both went out on a limb, mostly out of boredom, and tried it. Lo and behold, Sammy Barker hadn't pulled a fast one: Rocket League really was that great. Within an hour we were hooked, and what was originally just the two of us playing offline quickly evolved into a rotation of assigned goalies and forwards, five total, playing against people from the world over. There's no feeling quite as satisfying as when someone walks up behind you with a set of wide, curious eyes and asks: "What are you playing?" To which you respond, with a smug grin: "This is Rocket League. You can play next, if you want."
It's been years since I've stayed up late with my peers, huddled around a television, enamoured by a screen. I've missed it, too. I'm not the kind of person who gets hung up on nostalgia, but to be able to share that moment is something special, no doubt. Objectively speaking, Rocket League is still pretty great – but most of my enjoyment boils down to the fact that it knows how to bring out that hectic aura in a room, complete with laughter and the shouting of obscenities as a mini-sized car explodes. It's a shame that so many developers only care about competition and performance when it comes to multiplayer. They could learn a few things from Psyonix, if you ask me.
Do you agree with Ryan that the industry needs more simple local multiplayer games? Have you been enjoying Rocket League with friends? Boost jump into the comments section below.