I’ve been excited about Monster Hunter World for weeks now, but it’s not because I have an attachment to the franchise. I’m looking forward to the chance to band together with friends and tackle problems together.

Earlier today, the Playstation Network crashed. Though they’d been experiencing outages all week, I’ve no doubt part of the crash was due to two games: Dragonball FighterZ, and Monster Hunter World. Though I’ve got plenty of curiosities about the new anime-styled fighting game, my money this week went to Monster Hunter World. Why? Simple: my friends are playing it.

A long history of playing with others

People look to me for game curation, but I find myself looking to my friends to direct my gaze as well. Over the past year, I’ve fallen in love with streaming and the communities it creates (peep the Intelligame and personal accounts). So even though there are games I want to play on my own, I also hold a soft spot for games I can play with others. This isn’t anything new for me.

Growing up, RPGs were the staples of my gaming diet. Final Fantasy IV was the first game I truly fell in love with, and Final Fantasy XIII I absolutely adored. I’ve always looked for stories in games, and titles like Spec Ops: The Line and Firewatch rank near the top of any “Top X Games” lists I generally assemble. When I think back though, I’ve always poured hours into multiplayer games just for the sake of spending time with friends.

Sleepovers at friend’s places in middle school revolved around Mario Party, Mario Kart, and Pokémon Stadium. I didn’t have a computer good enough for LAN parties, but as we got older, Soul Calibur and Halo entered the fray. During college we played games in separate houses and dorm rooms, eventually flocking to Call of Duty. Nowadays, online gaming keeps me connected to friends all over the world, and there are more games to bond over than ever.

Images provided by CAPCOM

Relishing the excitement

I’ve been curious about Monster Hunter for years: the titular franchise where players gear up and join friends to take down massive beasts. It’s been popular in Japan for quite some time, though the fervor seemed to only reach the states after Monster Hunter Tri for the Wii. Multiple titles came out for the Nintendo DS, which limited online play to Nintendo’s hamstrung networking and small, handheld screens. Monster Hunter World’s release on PS4 and Xbox One marks a big moment for the publisher, Capcom, and players around the world. It’s not just the gameplay and the graphics that’ll appeal, but the interconnected world of modern gaming that makes it easier to team up with friends.

Plenty of games come out that relish in online play: shooters like Overwatch and MOBAs like League of Legends. Cooperative online play is nothing new, but there’s something about the…culture of Monster Hunter that seems appealing. A friend of mine, Twitch streamer TeeGrassi, streamed the game for over 12 hours yesterday; he played it non-stop, through the night. It wasn’t just the hunting that excited him though: he’d gather resources to craft armor and weapons, share strategies with party members, and just explore the wilds. His genuine excitement mirrors many other friends of mine…and I think that’s why I’m excited now.

Most of the multiplayer games I grew up on were competitive, which was fine when I had plenty of free time. This created awesome rivalries: I don’t know how many hours I spent dueling my friends Jereme or Wes in Super Smash Bros. Melee., learning each other’s strategies and styles. There was excitement in those moments, connection. Sometimes though, the competitive atmospheres created space for hurt feelings and dumb shows of dominance with all sorts of groups I played with. Now that I’m older, I prefer working together with friends: sharing the thrill of victory or pains of defeat. It’s part of why I picked up Destiny 2 when it released; I wasn’t in love with the original game, but my friend Mikkel’s passion for Destiny made me feel the new game was worth a shot. I didn’t stick around for long, but the time was still worth it.

Monster Hunter World may just be a game I play until my friends move on to something else. I’m not sure how much I’ll love the RPG-meets-Big-Game-Hunter nature of the world, and I don’t know how I’ll feel felling virtual animals that put me in no danger just to get fancy armor. Austin Walker talked a bit about this feeling of colonialism in his review for Waypoint, and I’m sure I’ll walk away with feelings of my own. But in a real world where so many challenges feel insurmountable, getting the chance to band together with friends to strategize and tackle problems together feels like just what I need.