Bearhugger70 Has Opened A Chest

Throughout life, one tends to pick up a collection of what I like to call “Third Party Insensibility Detritus”. It is a collection unlike most others, whereby most items are entirely unrelated, undoubtedly annoying that they exist at all, yet are still with you by choice and will almost certainly raise a smile even though it will invariably go hand in hand with a facepalm or disdainful eye-roll.  The level of acceptance of these annoyances depends on how endearing they are, or how much of a reluctant groan they evoke, and none moreso than the collection built up over the years of occasional co-op gaming.

My own personal collection started some twenty-two years ago as my best friend at the time, and fellow geek, Graham, arrived at my flat bearing the usual bag full of the latest games, one of which was the soon-to-be-classic Pinball Dreams from Digital Illusions.  Before long, we were graced with that familiar image of a proud griffin spreading its wings as it sat atop a green marble plinth – it was the 21st Century Entertainment logo, and it quickly became the sign that we were about to have a great night.  In hindsight, I have no idea why the decision was made that one of us would control the table flippers while the other would take ownership of the space bar in order to produce the much-needed table bump, but that’s exactly what happened.

The results from this tactic were varied. Quite often, the bump provided just enough of an advantage and allow the ball to pick up the speed required to pull off those special moves but, more often than I care to remember, the bumps were inappropriately timed and would invariably cause the ball to go careering into the nearest bumper, sending it in entirely the wrong direction.  Regardless of how inconsistent the results were, we continued playing in this manner whenever we hung out with Pinball Dreams as our game of choice.  Having played the game on various platforms since, including my ‘phone, I can honestly say that there is no physical limitation that would prevent one person from taking full control on their own – it’s three buttons, after all – and, it has to be said, it’s much easier to kill that high score when you’re not relying on someone else slamming the table for that extra push.  The thing is, as annoying as it was, it’s still a very fond memory and one which jumps to the forefront of my mind whenever I hear mention of that beautifully-perfect game.

Skipping past the countless years spent in a band with a couple of musicians who, even after years of playing the same songs, would always make the same mistakes at the same point… and pull the same disgusted faces as they realised, once again, that their muscle memory betrayed them with meticulous accuracy, we come screeching up to date with the lastest of my foils: Pete, aka Bearhugger70.  As much as I love the guy, I can’t help but admit that he is a walking in-game liability.

There’s a rule I like to live by when playing Command And Conquer with friends, and that is that we decide beforehand how we’re going to play the game. This could mean we go for all out war in a typical no-holds-barred approach or, as in most cases, we have the understanding that we’ll take the time out to actually savour each aspect of the gameplay so that, rather than rushing in with a fleet of Auroras before the other has had a chance to build a Strategy Centre, we allow ourselves the opportunity to take time over the base building.  Even with such a structured approach to the session, there will be times where a wandering unit finds themselves in enemy territory and will be attacked – it’s how the game was written, and it’s unavoidable unless you monitor each and every unit and stop them from attacking.

"So, no superweapons... agreed?" "Agreed!"

This is, as I’ve just said, an accepted part of the game mechanics.  You will, without question, lose several units through nothing more than curiosity or expanding your base to the point where you become within range of your opponents’ base defenses.  Should this issue arise, the generally-accepted approach is that you let nature run its course or move your own units out of harm if they’re mobile.  Unfortunately, Pete sometimes gets a little carried away with himself and conveniently forgets the temporary peace pact, taking this opportunity to unleash his fury on whichever of his opponents’ units are doing the attacking.  It’s not until the once-sporadic “unit lost” audio notifications become more like a crazy rap song that you realise there’s more to this than just accidental death, and a quick jump to the affected area usually shows a horde of some description laying in to some poor unsuspecting squaddie that happened to be standing too close to a cluster of palm trees when Pete decided to throw his towel on to the sun lounger.

Sorry dood, I don't know how that happened!

Taking this a step further, however, there was one time where Pete himself made the suggestion of having an “infantry-only” match.  It wasn’t something that we’d ever done before and so, not wanting to under-think the situation, I asked for clarification and was told that it was exactly as it sounded: nothing more than armed personnel.  Fair enough, I thought; it wouldn’t be as much fun on a tactical level, but it would be an interesting exercise nonetheless.  What Pete neglected to mention, typically, was that “infantry-only” meant something entirely different in his mind, and it wasn’t until we ultimately engaged in war that I discovered this… as my foot soldiers made their way across a sizeable map and were almost-immediately wiped out by Pete’s automated base defenses.  Whenever this particular episode is brought up in conversation, there is always the same wry smile coupled with the look of feigned innocence as he pleads ignorance.

From the first moment we played Borderlands together, however, this level of facepalming has increased to the point where I have often found myself staring at the screen in silent disbelief.  Anyone who has ever joined Pete in Pandora for a co-op session will attest to the fact that allowing him to drive while you take the gunner seat is not a viable option if you don’t have enough cash to justify a respawn.  To say that his driving was poor would be like saying Andy Parsons enjoys a simile here and there.  Yes, I know what I did there.  If the road is straight and smooth, Pete will endeavour to find even the most minuscule of imperfections, and hit it at just the right velocity to flip the vehicle over… and it’s usually when there are just enough enemies around to make it near-fatal if you manage to survive the crash itself.

If you’re lucky enough to grab your own vehicle or live long enough to climb out of the gunner position, there is still the chance that you’ll find yourself facing an oncoming enemy horde with little, or no, backup from our beloved Bearhugger70.  It was always surprising just how difficult some of the later levels were in Borderlands, especially given the perfectly balanced skills of my character and the carefully-selected choice of weaponry, yet I would still die with my wingman standing next me.  I say “standing next to me”, because that’s exactly what would happen.  I’d be in the middle of a bleed-out, trying to pull my gun around to catch an enemy in the sights with a view to killing them and getting my second wind, and I’d see Pete’s character standing there admiring the view with the sort of nonchalance you tend to see in an old lady as she roots around the bottom of her bag for a bus pass while the ten or fifty people behind her get soaked in the pissing rain.  Then, just as the inevitable respawn occurs and a fucktonne of cash is syphoned from my inventory, Bearhugger springs to life again and rushes forward to rummage through the spoils. MY spoils.

It wasn’t until one particular evening that I discovered why this was happening on a regular basis.  We were playing split-screen co-op in total darkness on the Xbox through the projector rather than on two separate machines and yet, with Pete sitting to my left, I still ended up bleeding out as his character stood scratching his balls.  Using the respawn wormhole effect as a convenient time-out, I took the opportunity to glance to my side to ask what the hell he was playing at when I saw his face light up.  No, I’m not speaking metaphorically.  The fucker was busy texting some woman, with his face brightly illuminated by his ‘phone screen, and when I gave that “what the fuck” look and shook my head as I explained how I kept getting killed… the response was a less than enthusiastic “Hmmm?  Oh… sorry dood” and if it was acceptable to actually voice the word “lol”, then I’m sure he would have.

These liabilities are outdone, however, by something which has actually transcended annoyance, shot past anger and has taken its place on the coveted Throne Of Inevitable Facepalms.  Whether being pursued by a pack of angry skags, hunted down by some twisted suicidal General, or being shat on by oversized spiders, one thing is sure to bring a smile to my face regardless of how much I’ve just been ripped off by the Respawnometer after being killed thanks to an oblivious wingman, and that is the strange hybrid emotion of greed and curiosity that Borderlands has bred in my best mate.  If his co-op buddy is only twenty metres away to the left and a red crate lies fifty metres to the right, the sight of me bleeding out and on the verge of death will almost certainly result in the same on-screen message as the life force drains away…

Bearhugger70 has opened a chest.

Does it stop me from playing games with him?  Of course not; in fact, we’ve only just started our sixth or seventh co-op Borderlands playthrough, except this time we’re soaking in the beauty of the PC version.  His foibles, however deadly they are, are as much fun for me as my own “King Of The World” or “Wouldn’t mind seeing her underdome!” antics each and every time we play.  It’s these little familiarities that make co-op gaming so much more than just a couple of people playing the same game, and that is where the longevity of these games lies; it’s like coming home again.

Last five articles by Mark R



  1. Lorna Lorna says:

    :D I watched Pete driving recently in Borderlands. He managed to hit almost every single rock, obstacle, and building that was on screen. I also remember well, your howl of rage as he drove the Racer off a precipice but bailed out in time to save himself, while you plummeted to another respawn. I enjoy co-op from a different aspect… watching from a safe distance as you two play and laughing to myself every time there is an outraged shout, while I safely tick along in single player mode.

  2. Rook says:

    The only time I’ve experienced Pete’s driving is in a Burnout Paradise online session and crashes and smashes are part of the game. I do recall a multiplayer session or two on Borderlands but Pete and I had separate vehicles. After mine got destroyed I stole his and left him stranded on the outskirts of the wasteland. :)

    I also recall when he was first starting and I was level 40 or 50 and Pete spent ages trying to kill me in a duel while I just stood there taking the damage; and at the last minute shooting 1 or 2 times, taking Pete out instantly denying him the kill. :D

  3. Edward Edward says:

    I wouldn’t know how it is playing Borderlands with Pete, but I’m sure someone on the GL team past or present could faithfully regale you all with how I’m the worst co-op partner at Left 4 Dead ever. Trust me, it’s not on purpose, it just happens!

  4. Stu Stu says:

    God I miss Pinball Dreams.

    Love the article, out of the regular guys I game with there is definitely someone I know with similar co-op skills. For instance: Horde mode on Gears 3. Boss wave. We’re both hunkered down behind the pillars in the center platform on Overpass and the round is almost won…foolishly I try to squeeze off those extra few ‘active reload’ powered bullets but go down. I call out for help…no reply, I crawl towards his feet thinking he’ll see the little icon and hear my cries over XboxLive….the screen gets redder and I ask again. The others that died and can’t rebuy have now joined in, “Dude! Get Stu up”…I die. Three or four seconds later he inevitably dies too apologizing for not being able to see where I was.

    He’s the guy that hoovers up ammo, even when not needed. The guy that despite never playing a game before argues the strategy with those that have and goes off doing his own thing (usually ending up with everyone dead because he’d gone off and wasn’t covering the left or something). The guy that hears his little kid cough once and before you could say ‘pause’ has dropped his controller, headset and vanishes for about 15-20 minutes.

    But for all of that; we still love the guy and we’d always take him over a LIVE random any day, any time – even when it likely means a much slower progress and a lot more death all around! :)

  5. Pete Pete says:

    Erm…. not sure what to say really lol

    In my defence when we said infantry only I took the turret things as being part of the base itself and that we wouldn’t use any vehicles or aircraft! An easy mistake to make I’m sure everyone will agree!

    As for driving in Borderlands… well, it’s not the best system for a car now is it! :D

    All the other stuff… erm… call it a magpie tendency when it comes to crates in general! The other bit is me being a tart and there is no real excuse lol ;)

  6. simonjk says:

    I had a ‘Pete’ from back in the days when we used to play NFS; Hot Pursuit and Tekken 1 together and we stayed friends for many years constantly owning the same consoles and such untill the magic of online play on the 360 enabled us to play from differant homes. Problem was he totally got the multiplayer bug and I didn’t. He always demanded we play whatever game he wanted or get all his online achievements first – with the inevitable absence when it was my turn. But my first straw was the 50 wins on Smackdown in which he got his achvmts then sold the game and my breaking point was spending 2 days straight on Chromehounds just to get a Gold Hexigon using the squad we had created and owned for 8 months for him to leave the squad ’cause he got a offer from a better squad’. Needless to say after that I never started playing a game untill he finished the multiplayer or simply showed as offline.

  7. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I miss Pinball Dreams too. Hugely. I had it on my last ‘phone but it’s not available on the one I have now, which is crap as I used to play it a lot. I still have my original 3.5″ floppies for the Amiga though, and I’m sure I can find the PC version of it somewhere if I scout around enough. I adored the Nightmare table, and how it mocked me every time the ball went down the trap.

    Having a Pete in multiplayer really is a cool thing though. I’ve never been much of a multiplayer or co-op gamer, as I’ve said here so many times, and it’s not really JUST the game that makes it fun, it’s who you play with. Granted, I don’t think I could have as much fun playing Hot Pursuit with Pete as I have done playing Burnout Paradise, or get so much of a laugh from playing something like Halo as I do from Borderlands… but if it was just with a bunch of gamers that take themselves too seriously and are going all out for the kills or whatever, then the experience wouldn’t be the same. It’s the Peteisms that make it fun.

    Thanks for the comments guys :)

  8. Tania Tania says:

    I was in a Red Dead Redemption session with Pete and a few others and badly needed some ammo after clearing a gang hideout. So I headed for the ammo chest and just when I was about to open it: *BAM* a bullet in the brain from Bearhugger70. As I was re-spawning I asked “what was that for?” His reply was “MY chest!” *Facepalm*

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