The Designated Driver
Hey, aren’t online shooters great? Man vs man. Team vs team. Tactics, skill and cooperation all coming together in a virtual gladiator arena. Well, here’s the thing (god, there’s always a ‘thing’ with me) – WARNING: painful metaphor ahead. How many of you have been the designated driver on a night out? Watching your friends get more and more pissed and conversely less and less intelligent until that point in the night where you are regretting ever offering to drive slightly more than a random Chilean miner regrets not phoning in sick a couple of months ago. Still, they are having fun and that’s what counts. The next time you see them it’s all ‘wicked night, yeah?’ (assuming their dialogue has been written by someone BBC3′s comedy writing department) as they recall all the brilliantly fun things that happened that night. Even if all you saw was people with temporary cerebral palsy dropping kebabs.
If you don’t drive, or are an incurable alcoholic, you can recreate the magic by simply being in Microsoft Party Chat whenever a new multiplayer shooter comes out. This happens to me a lot. You get invited into a party. You’re playing something calm and obscure, maybe an unassuming Xbox Live Arcade game. A quaint puzzler like Chime perhaps. They are working their way through the latter challenges of some game you’ve happily avoided like Blur. This is good as you can chat about the important issues while taking no interest in what each other are playing.
A third person joins. ‘Hey man, how’s it going? What are you playing?’
“Just tapping up a bit of Dead Space.”
“Oh how is it?”
“Not bad actually.”
“I didn’t really rate it. A bit too fetch questy.”
“Yeah I know what you mean. Still I’m enjoying it for now. It was only cheap.”
“Hey what boss isn’t? Anyway, I’ve got a week off now.”
“Cool, man. Ooh, new highscore on Chime.”
“Chime eh? Is that any good?”
“Yeah bit of a bargain actually. Good music.”
“Cool, I might get onto that later.”
And then it happens.
Someone invites their mate into the party.
“Hey, anyone fancy a bit of Battlefield?”
“Yeah, give us a second and I’ll join you. Invite a few more people in.”
Ah fuck. Suddenly your nice little party has been gatecrashed by pricks, virtually stealing your stuff and pooing in your bed. Leaving your party open instead of invite-only is like posting a house party on MySpace, Twitter and Facebook. Some prick who is a friend of a friend of someone on your friend list joins. And then his mate. They are probably 17. Then someone else whose vocabulary starts and ends with “alright?”
After a while, the other seven people in your party are firing up the game while you continue playing literally anything else rather than it. Now I’m in the minority and so many of you are the ones playing these games and what you lot think is happening is far different to the reality. What you imagine is something akin to the not-getting-fucked-by-an-alien-warrior bit of Predator. Firing up the lobby, with imaginary ‘Long Tall Sally’ playing in the background. Checking your loadout. Spitting virtual chewing tobacco all over Apollo Creed’s shoes except this time you are all sexual tyrannosaurs. I’m the Ainsley Harriott looking bloke but I’m not dry-shaving with a razor, I’m slitting my fucking wrists with it hard enough to pay the debt to society for bank robbery in Saudi Arabia.
The map loads. One of you moves forward, scouting the opposition as the rest divide between guarding the crates or whatever fucking mundane shit it is that you lot are doing and assaulting the enemy. The noobs on this game always come from that direction so you create a diversion while flanking in behind. One kill, two kills, three. Racking the points, keeping them down like Josef Fritzl. You’re in their base scoring points. Who’s this prick trying to kill me? Knife! ‘Stick around’. The objective is secured. The enemy is bouncing off of you like schoolkids off of a Volvo.
A couple of them sneaking in from the North. The team take them out before they can even get close. Eventually a couple of the opposition quit, completely demoralised. Don’t mess with pros, kid.
Here’s what actually happens.
I can’t join you. Hang on I’ll send you another invite. Are you guys in the same lobby? Yeah, just sending the inv… oh shit they’ve started. I just got kicked. Yeah me too. Okay try again. Nah, still can’t get in. Have you checked your NAT settings. Yeah I have. They are open, what about yours? Hang on, I’ll restart the router. Invite me back in. Okay, let’s try again. Ah, finally. Okay let’s go. Oh man, these guys all have their clan name inside their actual gamertag! D34THCR3W Kill3r? D34THCR3W AsSaSs1n? Oh, they must be American. Or very fucking stupid.
Everyone rushes forward.
Fucking snipers! Shit. Fucking lag. Why haven’t they fixed this lag? Right, I can see them. Got him! Oh fuck I’m dead. That’s bullshit man. Yeah can you lot get back and defend we’re getting fucked here. Yeah shot you you bitch… oh fucking hell, that guy’s definitely cheating. That guy’s far too good. If it wasn’t for him we’d have a chance. These guys must play this all the… oh for fuck’s sake. Can I get a little help here? Where?! To the left. Your left or my left? 11 o’clock! 11 o’clock? What? From where the tank is. But the tank’s mov…. fuck’s sake. Right I’m in the base, get here now! I’ll get there when I can I’m just respawning. Okay. Okay… almost there. Bloody hell… cool, I got him. Right almost in the base. I’m here. Where are you?! Oh, I died about a minute ago. Fuck’s sake. Well can we go in together nex… oh you cheating cunt. Fuck sake. I’m not playing this until they patch it. Cheating bastards. Ha! I fucking killed you. How did he snipe me from there with a shotgun?! They need to fix this. Ha! Got y… oh man how did he not die? That’s bollocks. No way should he have killed me there. Fuck they are in all our base. Arghhh! Have any of you seen the trailer for the new Saw movi… GAME CHAT ONLY! I’m going sniper. They’ve got a tank! They’ve got a… ah fuck I’m dead. Killed you, Bitch! Argh.
“Hey wait, Sarge and Dietrich ain’t dead. Their signs are real low but they ain’t dead.”
“Well I say we go back in there and get them.”
“Fuck that! Halo: Reach anyone?”
Wouldn’t touch it with yours, mate.
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