The ‘coop fallacy,’ as I’ll call it, is a simple one. We should not confuse having fun with friends with good game design. Watching a bad movie with a friend can be great fun, but we don’t come away thinking it was a good movie. Similarly, our friends should probably get some of the credit for how fun coop gaming is.
Granted, we can’t discount external elements either. Cooperation itself can be fun. We have entire sub-genres, like MMOs, that would make lousy single player games because they smartly leave gaps to be filled by interaction with others.
Coop modes in games are actually among my favorites. Games like Day Z, Left 4 Dead, and Dawn of War’s Last Stand have given me some great experiences. Yet I also see severe shortcomings in them that are rarely mentioned, perhaps due to lack of competition.
This is precisely why I raise this concern against such good games. These are good first steps with new ideas, but we should not be content with them. There’s opportunity for refinement, and we have to be able to accurately discuss their current flaws to get there.