Difference between revisions of "Single-screen multiplayer"

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Revision as of 14:18, 26 September 2008


Playing a video game on a network and giving each player his own computer, monitor, keyboard, and mouse is fine and dandy for some kinds of games, such as a first-person shooter. In these games, keeping your screen hidden from the other players is part of the strategy. But other games, such as fighting games, show the entire arena to all players at all times. The best way to play these is in person, on one PC, with a big screen and four gamepads.

Single-screen is a common mode of operation for console games but not for PC games?

Why not buy four PCs?
That's expensive.
Why not have each player bring a PC?
Other people in the household want to use the PC.
Why not play on a game console?
Not all titles are on the consoles. Especially titles from smaller developers tend to be underrepresented on consoles due to the console makers' historic policies against dealing with smaller developers.


There are five steps to setting up a single-screen multiplayer match:

Connect a large monitor

Single-screen multiplayer needs a big screen so that all the players can fit around it without each other's heads getting in the way. You may be able to use your television as a monitor, as if your PC were a game console. Look at the back of your computer for one of these connectors:

  • Yellow RCA jack, carrying composite video [photo]
  • 4-pin mini-DIN jack, carrying S-video [photo]
  • 7-pin mini-DIN jack, carrying S-video [photo]

If your computer is a desktop computer, this connector should be close to your monitor's connector. If your computer is a notebook computer, this connector should be near the back. If you can find this jack, then hooking up your PC isn't any harder than hooking up a DVD player. In a few cases, the video card might have only the S-video jack. If you lost the adapter that came with your video card, you can buy a cable that mixes S-video to composite.

If you don't have a composite or S-video jack, and you have a high-definition TV, you can still use the white D-shaped connector that you use for your monitor. The short blue one with 15 holes is VGA; the longer white one with the plus sign on the side is DVI.

Svideo.com has instructional videos on how to connect to a PC as well as cables and adapters.

Connect speakers

Most computers have a sound card with two or three 3.5 mm (1/8 inch) stereo miniplug connectors. [photo of connectors on both a sound card and integrated sound] Usually, the output jack is colored light green, and the microphone jack is pink. Use a Y-shaped 3.5 mm stereo miniplug to connect the output jack to a stereo RCA cable, and plug this into the back of your TV or stereo system. [photo]

Connect gamepads

Most PCs have one or two USB ports on the front panel. [photo of USB port] You can use a USB hub to connect several gamepads to one USB port. One side of the hub has a USB B jack that connects to the PC, and the other has four USB A jacks into which you can plug a gamepad, keyboard, printer, memory card, or any other USB device. [photo of USB hub] We've had good results with Logitech's Dual Action controller. Others may prefer the Xbox 360 wired controller or even an adapter from classic console controllers.

Configure gamepads

Unlike controllers for consoles, each make and model of PC game controller has a different layout of buttons. Each game has its own way to specify which button on your controller activates each function in the game. But some games are not programmed to handle game controllers, instead being hardwired to the keyboard. For these, software such as JoyToKey might help.

Invite friends over

Organizing a single-screen multiplayer match should be easier than setting up a LAN party, as your friends don't have to convince others in the household to let them dismantle and borrow the PC.