Learning to Play cooperatively

I’m occasionally left in charge of my nephew, or should I say he is left in charge while I provide food and games. Either way, my nephew who is 7 at the time of writing has been recently corrupted into my hobby of playing games. We are still working on mouse usage as a primary control form but hey you cannot win them all.

Anyway I digress, as with many things it’s usually children who show us the way or open up a new way of thinking. You see, he loves to play “cooperative” games and we’ve been playing Portal 2 and Broforce as of late, I’m not complaining as I’m personally sick to death of minecraft, his other gaming vice. Unfortunately for me, he doesn’t appear to have ever learned how to play cooperatively and it sent me down a path of reasoning on when we learn this behaviour.

So what do I mean he doesn’t play cooperatively?

Quite frankly the only way to describe him is as a troll. Yes, I just called my own nephew a troll and he’s damned good at it. During a game of Portal he will deliberately go out of his way to kill me and howl with laughter, never mind the objective, if he can kill me he will. If I were to suggest a competitive game, he’s instantly against it. An example is an early door puzzle requires you to place a ball on a pressure pad, he figured this out himself with no prompting and being the fool that I am thought “hey, maybe he gets this!”. I walk towards said door and suddenly find it closing on my face to howls of laughter from the little blighter. He has even mastered the “Ok, I’ll not do it again” and promptly murders me with the door again. I’m not equipped to defend against such callous deviousness in a coop game!

His Broforce habits are a little more forgivable, since the game is so hectic but he’ll deliberately take the floor out from under you just to rescue another “Bro” or escape on the helicopter at the end of the level without you. It’s going for the glory.



Simply put he has never had to play cooperatively, the behaviour has never been learned either in game or with siblings. I grew up with my brother and I both being somewhat avid gamers, some of my greatest gaming memories come from besting cooperative experiences with him, all the way from Bubble Bobble on the C64, Apidya and Chaos Engine on the Amiga to Future Cop LAPD on the Playstation. I’m writing this after playing a game of “Satellite Reign” with him, working together for a common goal. I can’t think of a single time that we’ve deliberately bated the other in these circumstances.

What’s my point, you cry? It’s that this behaviour still carries on into adult life. I’m going to use Counter-Strike as an example, as it’s one I’m fairly familiar with. Players within CS:GO are put into matches by the matchmaking system based on their rank. This is a measure of how well you do against other players and is a very loose approximation of the Chess ELO ranking system. The idea is that you are pitted against players of a similar skill level and for the most part it does work. The rank system however does bring out some interesting behaviours in some people.

Bad Habits

Firstly, the lone wolf syndrome. The glory hound, who won’t play with their team. In CS:GO this is particularly painful as competitive matches are set 5 vs 5 games. Your lone wolf is likely to run off by themselves hoping to grab a couple of kills to make themselves look good. In reality, your lone wolf is going to run into the enemy team by themselves and get killed for their hubris. They will then blame everyone else for getting killed despite their actions leaving a gap in any defence and taking the game to 5 vs 4.

The Teamkiller, certain game modes on CS:GO have you defuse a bomb which takes a couple of seconds. If the enemy team is all dead, it’s just a time game. Some people will kill a team mate just to get the glory of defusing the bomb. It’s unlikely to throw the round unless the killer is completely stupid, but it instantly breaks any cohesion and creates a bad feeling putting the victim on a tilt. Reason for killing? Glory.

Shut up and make your point

The inability of someone to be able to play cooperatively is in fact a character flaw. Someone who has never learned the value of working as part of a team is not going to be a productive person. My nephew is a 7 year old and you could chalk up his trollish behaviour to being a young boy but what happens if you never outgrow that behaviour? You get people who put themselves first with no thought of others. Sometimes a game is just a game, but I like to think you can get the measure of a person by they way they conduct themselves in a game or other activity.

Who said video games can’t be educational?