I want you to consider the last time you were really enjoying a social gaming experience. Did it have to do with graphics, the fluidity of the controls, the intelligence of the NPCs that may have been involved, or did your enjoyment have to do with something else entirely? I tend to think that my enjoyment has much more to do with the latter than any of the formers listed. I think that the "something else" is the shared experience of our gameplay. I think this social experience is a critical component to any successful quest, cooperative campaign, team deathmatch session, etc.
We tend to have most fun when we are most "Present" in an experience. I've said this a hundred times before, but it's so critical. Now one could argue that all of the aspects of a game need to be working together properly in order for us to experience the present, but I don't think that's necessarily the case. How many times have you watched a really bad movie, but it was enjoyable because of the company you were keeping. I know my friends and I look forward to watching some really bad sci fi flicks, just for the experience of watching them. But it has more to do with watching them together, rather than just watching them in general. Honestly, sometimes we seek them out over whatever big award winning blockbuster is out there. So is this experience that different for games? I don't think that it is.
I've played what would be considered "bad games" by reviewers, but because I was having fun with my friends, they were fantastic. I can remember dozens of nights of Halo 2 (which I would consider this a great game on its own) team deathmatch where I couldn't tell you if we were winning or losing at all, but we were having a blast. I think that so much gets lost in the focus on intuitive controls, immersiveness of the game, and whether or not we're winning, that we miss what's really important about the experience. The human piece. Without getting any more preachy than I already have, I'd love to hear folks favorite multiplayer stories. Leave them in the comment section below, or share with me on Twitter, Facebook, etc.