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cooperative games

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Cooperative games (co-op games) are a form of play or sport in which players work with one another in order to achieve a common objective. The goal of a co-op game is to reduce emphasis on competition and increase emphasis on the social aspects of play or sport. 

In business, cooperative games are often used as team-building exercises. There are three main types of cooperative games used in team building:

Communication activities

Game: PictionEAR-y
Supplies: Paper, pens, several printouts of simple line drawings
Instructions: Team members pair up and sit back-to-back. One person is given a picture of a simple image and the other gets paper and pen. The person holding the picture gives verbal instructions to their partner for how to draw the image they've been given. At the end of a specified time, drawings are shared among teams and evaluated for accuracy.

Problem solving and planning activities

Game: Tower of Terror
Supplies: Uncooked spaghetti, masking tape, string and marshmallows
Instructions: Team members must use supplies to build a two-foot tower within a specified amount of time. The tower must be capable of standing on its own for five seconds or the task will be counted "incomplete."

Trust-building activities

Game: Hat full of fear
Supplies: Paper, pens, hat
Instructions: Each participant write down a work-related fear anonymously on the pieces of paper before placing it into a hat. The hat is circulated and each participant takes out a piece of paper. The participants read the fear they selected aloud to the group and explain how the person may feel.

Cooperative video games

Cooperative games used to have a larger presence on game consoles but had a resurgence on the PC with survival games such as Left 4 Dead, a zombie survival game where players can join a team as human survivors or a team of “special infected” zombies who, aided by the zombie horde attempt to stop the survivors from progressing to safety. In consumer gaming, survival games seem to be among the more common co-op games. Sharing items, helping each other through obstacles, helping partners up and to recover from injuries are common game mechanics.

Many co-op games historically were just single player games with the ability to have a second or more players join. Often difficulty was increased by way of giving enemies more hit points, increasing attack rates, enemy attack damage or increasing the number of enemies.

Co-op games can be local on the same system or played remotely between systems using a network connection. In rare cases a combination of multiple local team members and network players can join in the same game. This combination is difficult to implement due to the complexities in coding for multiple players on a single machine along with players joining from networks.

This was last updated in February 2019

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