We called it “2 player mode” back in the day. When you fired up Contra, Double Dragon 2 or Streets of Rage, the first question is “2 player?” and everyone immediately understood what that means; fun! The co-op experience, as it’s called today, takes many forms. It ranges from multiplayer co-op with small groups in Fortnite or Rainbow Six Siege to 4 player Co-op in Borderlands. For me, the fun was always in the PvE or Player vs. Environment games. Most notably , Borderlands 2 became my favorite co-op experience, not just because of the game itself, but the memories I have from it.
During my time at The Coalition (at the time called Black Tusk Studios) in Vancouver, my relationship with my girlfriend was starting to grow. Today we are going on seven years, but at the time it was only a year and change . Moving to Canada meant that I would be away, and that our relationship would go on via long distance. I read a lot about folks speaking about their difficulties with long distance, and yes it is difficult, but it only works if both parties want it to. For us, gaming was a big help; at the time we found something that would keep us spending hours and hours with each other – Borderlands 2.
To be quite honest, we both just fell into this game. We were both talking about games that had some sort of co-op in it that we would both be interested in, which was difficult to find. I like more action based games, her preference was RPG style games. We did have some fun with World of Warcraft, especially when a new expansion came out, but that typically lasted about a month and we both would fall off the game. Borderlands looked fun, it was a shooter, but it had a RPG-ish loot system that appealed to us as well. We figured we would give it a try.
Months later, we were 60+ levels into Maya (my character) and Zero (hers) and we were having a blast. Playing through the first time was enjoyable, the story was actually quite hilarious and fulfilling. We started getting attached to our Siren and Haiku Ninja as we progressed. We learned over time that our special abilities worked better when we combined them, when we focused down targets, when we swapped out weapons based on our abilities and most importantly; had fun doing all these things. Anyone who has played Borderlands can speak about the comic book/cartoony visuals or the large loot system but we started to find out more about the game. We were listening to audio logs about Maya being part of a special cult that considered her someone much more powerful than she thought she was, that Zero was a character that Handsome Jack, the games villain, could not understand in the slightest and did not know how to counter him.
The deeper we went into the game the more we spoke to each other and the closer we became although we were thousands of miles apart. Even after playing, we would be on Whatsapp or Skype talking for hours about powering up a Goliath, letting it run around killing enemies for you and then killing it a its Ultimate Badass level to get epic loot. There were nights where it was after two a.m. and we would be looking out over the top of the lighthouse during the Captain Scarlett campaign and just talking about the quest we were on to get here. The screenshot at the top of the blog was taken in 2014, almost two years after the Scarlett campaign was released. We were playing through our third time on Ultimate Vault Hunter mode, and we were still having fun.
There were many memories that were made like this during the game. The incredible challenge of pushing through the last part of the Wildlife Preservation with a plethora of Badass Loaders has left such a memory that the music of that level was played through headphones during all of my programming exams during my fifth academic credential at Full Sail University. The ambience of that level, despite the crazy combat, calms me down and helps me focus. The experience of swapping out deaths as we confronted bosses from Bloodwing to BNK3R, finding tiny crevices to hide and calling out to each other for heal boosts or assistance is something I have never experienced at that level of enjoyment, eclipsing the Shadow Warriors of Double Dragon 2 or Big Fuzz from Contra 3.
Playing the game cooperatively with someone who you share a personal relationship with is something that is very rare, and having it as a memory that will live on forever in my mind is something I hold very dearly. This is coming from someone who mostly spends his time behind the controls of single player experiences. Having to go online, co-op or versus in any game requires me to be in some mood to do so, I cannot simply jump into it as it rarely allows me to relax and have fun. Borderlands 2 however managed to do that just right. Whether it was the hilarity of Marcus and his “no refunds” policy to the overhype of Mr. Torgue, Borderlands 2 is something that I consider as the best co-op experience I have ever had. However, I am also quite certain, that playing it with that special someone may have been the reason the memories will stay with me forever.