Historically, my favorite games have all had a cooperative (co-op) element. In co-op mode, players have a shared objective that they work to achieve together. As opposed to a competitive element where one player will win and one must lose. The shared objective unites the players towards a goal that requires planning, discussion, and teamwork. Depending on the game, the type of teamwork required could be symbiotic, supportive, or complementary.
A symbiotic co-op game requires others’ help and assistance to accomplish an objective, you cannot win on your own. Such games include Left 4 Dead, Portal 2, and most Lego series of games (Harry Potter, Star Wars, Batman, etc). Each person has a role that is needed to progress. This type of co-op requires constant communication to avoid frustration, as well as critical thinking skills to get over obstacles and decide who needs to do what. The team-building aspect is my favorite and most frustrating part. This type of game forces you to work with someone you may have never met.
In supportive co-op games both players do not necessarily need one another, but having the other around makes accomplishing objective easier. My character can advance through these bad guys, but it would be helpful if your character had skills that can heal me or help me out. Some of the best first person shooter games are class based where you have medics that can revive, engineers to accomplish an objective, and heavy damage classes to help defeat enemies. Some examples are Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, World of Warcraft, and Dungeon Defenders. This type of co-op relies on players who understand each others’ strengths and weaknesses so that they tailor strategies that benefit everyone.
Complementary games are games in which both players are roughly the same in abilities/features. They require the teammates to coordinate specialties to manage resources effectively, rather than both players spending money on all things available. Teammates must manage their forces/character responsibly so that they contribute to the main objective, but technically, the objective can be reached by going solo, too. Some examples include Warcraft III, Starcraft II, and League of Legends.
Some people can’t stand to play co-op games as they do not like to rely on others. This goes back to a previous post on being a good sport. But working together for a common goal and being on a team are important skills for gamers of all ages to learn and practice. Some of the most fulfilling aspects of life require us to work together, and games can help us learn how to do that better.