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Multiplayer pictogram

The term multiplayer ( English multiplayer ) describes in the field of video games a variant (in the video game jargon and mode ), plays in it with or against other people. It is the counterpart to the single player style of play, in which a single player plays alone with or against the computer.


Video games with a multiplayer mode are, so to speak, an extension of board games into the digital world . They allow several people to play together using computers or game consoles . The attraction of playing together on the computer lies in sharing (social) gaming experiences with other, possibly distant people (also from other cultures) or being able to make a direct comparison of performance with real people. This makes the gaming experience significantly different from that of the single player mode, in which there is no social interaction. Sometimes players only find the desired challenge among human players, which the artificial intelligence (AI) of computer opponents with their schematic, easily predictable behavior cannot offer.

Communication between human players who are not playing in the same (real) room can take place via text chat , direct voice communication using a microphone and headphones ( headset ) or video telephony .


The multiplayer mode originated with one of the first video games, Tennis for Two from 1958, in which two players tried to play a point of light into the opponent's end. Even early commercial arcade machines such as Pong from 1972 only offered a multiplayer mode. The reason for this was that at that time the programming of computer opponents was still considered too complex and a single player mode had not yet been recognized as a lucrative business model.

Since the late 1960s, universities and schools in the USA have occasionally developed more complex multiplayer games than study projects. The first representatives were mostly text-based games like Civil War from 1968. Within the PLATO network there was 1969 with a two-player version of Spacewar! the first known online game . Within PLATO, other genres of online games developed rapidly, in particular the multi-user dungeons for a larger number of players.

From the beginning of the 1970s, arcade machines and video games such as B. the Magnavox Odyssey , Atari 2600 or Philips G7000 , the first commercial video games on the free market. These were also initially designed mainly for games with two players. For the Atari there was even a game for four players in 1977 with Video Olympics . From the late 1970s onwards, games that (only) offered a single player mode became increasingly popular. Some games and especially arcade machines nominally still offered the multiplayer mode, but this consisted exclusively of the players taking turns and playing one after the other against the computer.

It wasn't until 1983 that the business game MULE was the first multi-layered multiplayer video game to hit the open market. It was graphically oriented and allowed four players to interact at the same time. 1985 Compuserve offered the first server-based commercial online game with Island of Kesmai . 1987 appeared with MIDI Maze, the first game in which up to 16 players played in a local network on individual computers in the same virtual game world. For the first time, LAN parties could be realized. Since the mid-1980s, numerous games have also appeared that could be played peer-to-peer via modem or null- modem cable , such as the well-known Falcon (game series) .

Since then, a variety of multiplayer-specific game modes with their own rules has developed. The most frequently played multiplayer modes can be found in games of the genres first-person shooter ( Counter-Strike , Battlefield , Unreal Tournament , Quake III Arena ...) and real-time strategy games ( Warcraft III , StarCraft , Blitzkrieg ...). The massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) form a special genre , as these are role-playing games that only exist in multiplayer mode. The umbrella term for other genres is massively multiplayer online game (MMOG).


Multiplayer mode requires multiple players to be able to interact with the video game (at the same time or at different times). There are various techniques for doing this.

  • Network game : The most common technology today is the connection of several separate computers or game consoles via a computer network (either Internet or LAN ). Each player plays on his own screen. This technology is particularly the basis for online games .
  • Same screen : With a number limited to around four players, it is possible to play on the same screen, either on a split screen or on a shared area of ​​the playing field. This technique is often referred to as local multiplayer or couch multiplayer .
  • Asynchronous game : In the case of independently played moves, the game can be played via hot seat , via e-mail or, earlier, by exchanging scores (by post) on diskettes or via bulletin boards . The players can either make their moves at independent times on the same game device or send the moves to each other.

The performance comparison using high scores can be viewed as a more indirect type of interaction .

Depending on the technology used, there is always the risk that other players will exploit technical weaknesses and thus override the rules of the game (see cheating ) when playing games with several participants who are spatially separated from each other .

Categories of multiplayer games

The multiplayer capabilities of a video game can be broadly classified into one of the following categories. The categories are not completely clear, but offer a good indication of the gaming experience to be expected:

Two player games

Two player pictogram

This category is sometimes referred to as duel and describes games in which only two players play with or against each other. Games in this category typically lead to intensive social interaction between people and allow a precise getting to know the (playful) character of the other player. When played as a competition, these games also offer the fairest comparison of game performance, since (pseudo-) random influences from other players are excluded. Most first generation video games (until about the late 1970s) fall into this category. In the field of strategy games, this way of playing is still widespread today. It corresponds to that of chess in board games .

Multiplayer games for smaller groups

Multiplayer pictogram

Classic multiplayer games are games that are played with more than two players, but still in manageable groups. They are differentiated from the massively multiplayer online games in that they are played in a non- persistent game world and with a number of players in which (at least in theory) all players know each other personally or can sit together in a private room. This is typically the case with local multiplayer games or LAN games. They are played in groups of friends, at LAN parties or in smaller groups on the Internet. The focus here is on the group experience. Often teams are formed that require a high level of coordination and cooperation among the team members, and thus bring about social interaction in the group.

Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG)

The category of mass multiplayer online community games includes games that are played exclusively online and in which a large number of other players can play at the same time. Games in this category usually take place in persistent worlds that allow other players to come and go at any time. These features a high anonymity level is reached, the real social interaction inhibits, but roll playful promotes communication and can move players to extreme roles (eg. As villain, outsiders) to accept that might in a real players round to social sanctions lead could.

Multiplayer modes

There are now many game modes that have been developed for multiplayer games. These can vary greatly depending on the genre of the game. In action games, for example, the multiplayer concept often focuses on the competitive , sporty and playful elements. Typical single player aspects such as a story or the atmosphere are then often neglected. In some games, there are also cooperative modes in which an action is experienced together, similar to the single player mode. In strategy games and development games , the rule is that the games in multiplayer mode hardly differ from their single player modes: the computer opponents usually follow the same rules as human players; a special multiplayer concept is the exception.

Common multiplayer modes are (exemplary):

  • Capture the Flag : There are two teams, each with a flag. To score, the opposing flag must be stolen and brought to your own base.
  • (Team) Deathmatch : Each player fights directly against other players. You get points by killing opposing teammates.
  • Co-op mode : Several players can play through the story of the game together, similar to a single player campaign.
  • Conquest : The teams try to take certain places or areas and get points for it.

Social impact and criticism

Video games are sometimes criticized for leading to loneliness and social isolation . This statement could ostensibly be countered by the existence and success of multiplayer games. The current state of research, however, shows a very differentiated picture: In fact, classic multiplayer games that lead to a personal encounter between players can counteract loneliness and in many cases even increase social competence by playfully changing different roles in the presence of other players. In the case of multiplayer games played anonymously on the internet, especially massively multiplayer online games , there is in principle no social contact, or only very much less. Here it depends very much on the individual character development and several factors from the real environment of the player whether a person becomes socially isolated through increased consumption of a video game. Overall, (classic) multiplayer games (excluding MMOGs) are currently ascribed slightly more positive psychological effects than single-player games.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Tristan Donovan, Replay: The History of Video Games , Yellow Ant, 2010, ISBN 0956507204 .
  2. History of the origins of Empire (English) .
  3. PLATO: The Emergence of Online Community , Matrix News, Jan 1994
  4. Early Modem-to-Modem Games , Benj Edwards, PCMag, November 27, 2017
  5. Local multiplayer mode on Steam
  6. Thorsten Quandt, Jeffrey Wimmer, Andreas Wolling, The Computer Players : Studies on the Use of Computer Games , VS-Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2008, ISBN 3531167030 .
  7. Jeffrey Wimmer, Maren Hartmann, Media Communication in Motion: Mobilization - Mobile Media - Communicative Mobility , Springer VS, 2014, ISBN 3531193740 .
  8. Andreas Plundrich, Why do people play World of Warcraft? , Grin Verlag GmbH, 2013, ISBN 3640700945 .
  9. Computer games: CSU warns of a loss of reality in Die Welt from June 17, 2010.
  10. Dipl.-Psych. K. Wölfling: Excessive Computer Games as Addictive Behavior in Adolescence - Results of Various Studies , Interdisciplinary Addiction Research Group Berlin, Charité Campus Mitte.
  11. Internet ABC: about supposed loneliness through computer games .
  12. Institute for the Promotion of Media Competence at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences on issues of effectiveness .


  • Christian Wirsig: The great lexicon of computer games. Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf Verlag, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-89602-525-2 .