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Multiplayer used to be all blood and violence, and it was nothing to do with Mortal Kombat. It was because multiple players had to be in the same room. This turned every game into a dual-level Master-Blaster Thunderdome: The controllers directed the video game battle, while our clumsy physical bodies flailed blindly at each other.

Kennedy Miller Entertainment
This is a pretty good summary of most video gaming.

Back then games weren't multimillion-dollar franchises. An '80s game was considered fancy if they hired someone other than the programmer's kid to write the plot, and the "game balance" was money they'd stolen from children by lying with the box art. This created digital worlds where players could discover more brand new dick moves than Adam and Eve.

7
Eating Your Friend --Rampage

Bally Midway

In 1986, Bally Midway realized that most games were filled with giant monsters but still forced the player to be a wimpy human. That's half as boring as the real world!

Bally Midway
In most games you're the little green guys and having less fun.

Rampage turned three simultaneous players into King Kong, Godzilla, and a giant werewolf by replacing their fuck-giving glands with crystal meth.

Bally Midway
It's in the eyes.

Rampage was more directly named than most pornos, and more satisfying. You smashed your way through an entire city and army simultaneously, replenishing lost health by consuming wimpy humans, and when that health ran out, you turned back into a wimpy human. Which meant your human cerebellum returned just in time to understand why your ex-friends were chewing it.

Bally Midway
Looks like Ralph still has the canine anal hygiene thing going on.

Being eaten gave your attacker a tiny sliver of health but reset your score to zero. Modern kids won't understand "score," as the only numbers in modern games are how many times you killed your friends and how many bullets you have left to do it again. Back then interfering with a player's score was like interfering with a rancher's favorite sheep, in the back of their stolen pickup truck, which you'd crashed into their church. It violated morals they didn't even know they had while offending the rules of the universe. It turned a game about eating a city into a bitter morality play about the futility of war, starting a vicious cycle where they would eat you, and you them, and in the most destructive 69 in history you'd spend the rest of your lives making sure neither of you ever amounted to anything.

6
Shooting Food -- Gauntlet

Atari

Gauntlet is another example of "Old games were directly named and hated you." It wasn't a game, it was an endurance experiment to see how much gamers would put up with, and the answer was "everything." The game set four players against infinity enemies in infinitely looping levels of a universe that hated you so much, your health constantly drained, even when nothing was happening. The only way to continue was to insert more money. It was the arcade equivalent of a highway robber. It couldn't have more clearly announced its intention to kill you and take your money if it pulled a gun, and we loved it. I still love it.

Atari
And it's still the closest I've come to a foursome.

Getting to higher levels was like Moses trying to part the Red Sea in a world where the one true god was Ra in a beard. You could only stave off death by eating food, and you had to shoot everything, but shooting the food destroyed it. Shooting the food was like pulling an all-nighter with co-workers to finish a project, waiting until they went to the bathroom, and then pissing in the hard drive. It might have been an honest mistake -- the new Mac Pro looks like a wastepaper basket -- but you've still screwed everyone. Shooting the food broke the spell of video games. We suddenly realized that the last hour of relentless paint-grind had been work instead of fun, and now that dick had wasted it.

Atari
Your co-workers, about to file an "unsatisfactory performance" review.

It didn't help that the game featured an early speech synthesizer that sounded like Stephen Hawking's computer suffered the same problems as Stephen Hawking's body. "Wizard needs food badly" told the wizard he was about to die, and all his imminently ex-friends that he was at his most vulnerable. It was a combination of schadenfreude, viciousness, and a subconscious understanding that you hadn't actually done anything fun in the last two hours. You'd shoot the food just to enjoy their screams. Then die immediately and outnumbered, and it would still be a relief to return to a real world where someone hates you. It wasn't co-op, it was Pyrrhic relationship counseling.

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5
Shooting Scientists -- GoldenEye

Rare

GoldenEye was the video game equivalent of the real Bond: good with guns and father of an entire generation of bastard offspring. At the time it was the greatest console shooter ever made, and it contained more Bondian dick moves than every Bond girl put together. Choosing Oddjob, selecting Caves, using proximity mines, randomly spawning closer to the only body armor on the map, and then acting like you were actually any better than other players -- it featured more ways to electronically screw people than the entirety of Q Branch.

Eon Productions
"With this pen I could kill a man, then please his wife. And I would never connect an unscanned laptop to a secure government mainframe, unlike certain idiotic pretenders to my name."

GoldenEye didn't just spawn the modern shooter, it pre-empted holodecks by giving lonely dicks something to do with their time. The game loaded levels with civilian scientists, told us not to shoot them, then gave the scientists guns and grenades because it knew exactly how much was wrong with us. It was like telling someone not to think of a pink elephant after giving them a pink elephant gun. It was a psychology test the entire generation failed. It's why every modern game is now a dirt brown gun in a ruined world.

Rare
"Hold on a second, I can make a red 'ink blot' psychology test."

You ended up helping the weapons scientists with their work, researching just how many bullets a human body could absorb. You shot them in the leg, in the shoulder, in the knee, in the "other" (which was the crotch and never not hilarious). It was reverse Operation, where you carefully inserted objects into a helpless body.

Rare
We had to kill him to prevent the Soviet Union from mastering flat-top technology.

Killing too many scientists failed the mission. Some people just didn't care. Other players worked out exactly how many they could kill on each playthrough and get away with it, which is actually way scarier. Players spent days bullet-prodding the scientists into blowing themselves up with rage-grenades, editing their greatest slaughter into a 10-minute video, and then uploading it to the world, because the Internet is a portal into human madness that makes the Lament Configuration look like a Rubik's Cube.

4
Killing Your Friend -- Battletoads

Rare

Battletoads was a more blatant copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles than the second season of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. You played as Rash, Zitz, or Pimple, because we really were that dumb as kids, and their quest was to defeat the Dark Queen, because it's really easy to manipulate dumb kids.

Rare
And she helped them manipulate themselves, and was just as physically mutated as the giant talking animals.

Battletoads wasn't a game, it was a secret project to electronically destroy the human soul. The game was harder than a diamond strap-on and did similar things to you when you played with it.

Rare
Dramatic re-enactment of this game and your childhood innocence.

Either that or it was a secret project to trigger latent psychic powers, as that was the only way to get past the jet bike levels.

Rare
Unfortunately, they only rage-triggered spontaneous human combustion.

It was proof that kids would spend four months subjecting themselves to thumbscrews if that was what they'd spent their birthday money on. And it was jealous. It would murder your friendships to force you to spend more time with it, because friendly fire was always on. You had a better chance of staying friends with someone if you entered a Saw trap together.

Rare
This was usually followed by a real-life re-enactment.

Thumping each other was fun, but every Battletoad was equipped with the grappling equivalent of the double Vulcan Nerve Pinch: holding a friend or enemy above your head paralyzed them, while you could walk around the level, loudly wondering which instant death pit you'd cast them into. There was no way to break out. Wiggling your joystick might as well have been a euphemism for all the good it would do, and at least then you'd be showing them who could be the dickiest while playing together.

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3
Flaming Snipers -- Team Fortress 2

Valve

Video game snipers are assholes -- you need one to get rid of some annoying shit, but if you're saddled with three, you'll find it very difficult to go anywhere, because the plural of "sniper" is "too many." A good sniper surgically removes enemy medics, but bad snipers are a row of parasitic ticks wedged into the map's most inaccessible crevices. Snipers treat their own team as background animation in a single player game. They reverse the polarity of having teammates: The more snipers you have, the more outnumbered you are, because in every firefight half your team is two miles away clicking on random objects. It's like getting fire support from an outsourced data entry firm.

Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images
"See, what you do is miss 20 times, then scream about lag."

They're just being dicks, but you double the dickery by sniper blocking: a bizarre reversal of reality where violent video games allow passive resistance. By standing in front of their scopes, you block their line of sight. Please note that pissing somebody off by standing directly in front of their gun barrel does not work in the real world.

David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images
And saying "You don't have the balls" legally makes this a suicide.

Team Fortress 2 has the ultimate sniper blocker, the Pyro, a class that expresses its emotion through a flamethrower (you can express 90 percent of all emotions in online games by setting things on fire). The flames can block a whole deck of snipers (2fort represent), but only until you're all slaughtered. Because now your team has even more players on the sniper deck not hitting anything. But you don't care, because you're angry with them, and you swear you'll vent your rage until your last breath. Which you'll mix with acetylene and ignite in their faces.

Valve
"MMM-HM-MHM-HMMM!" (translation: "AND TURN OFF YOUR MIC WHEN YOU'RE EATING!")

2
The High Jump of Murder -- Contra

Konami

If you haven't played Contra and can't grow a beard, that's why. (Gender has nothing to do with it. Beating Contra without the Konami Code can give premature female snakes a full lumberjack.) Contra is what happens when the Ghostbusters catch Rambo's spirit animal and trap it in a Nintendo cartridge: an encapsulation of everything that kicked ass in the '80s.

Konami
And the only place where the Alien isn't the most blatantly penis-powered murder machine in the picture.

You play as "Mad Dog" Rizer and Lance "Scorpion," soldiers specially trained to support badass nicknames on top of badass regular names. Possibly because "Rizer and Lance" sound rock hard in a much pornier way. Their only abilities were "killing everything" and "moving right, up, or forward after doing that." And they were so lethally trained, they could kill you with their calf muscles. In video game hero training academy, when the drill sergeant says "JUMP!" you ask "How high?" And he says "TRIPLE YOUR OWN HEIGHT FROM A STANDING START!"

Konami
He learned that move to impress Samus Aran.

They could leap six meters straight up while carrying more ammunition than an aircraft carrier. Never mind toppling dictators, their calf muscles could have replaced NASA by just kicking things into orbit. And they were the only weapon capable of friendly fire. Horizontal levels let slower players prevent the screen from scrolling forward, holding everyone back. But vertical levels let the faster players enact natural selection. By rapidly jumping, you could force the screen up, and while you couldn't push it past your friend, you could push it past the ground they were about to land on. Followed by plummet-swearing and death.

Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images
"I SINCERELY REGRET HOGGING THE SPREAD GUN!"

Apparently you're only attacking the communist insurgent aliens (depending on game version) because you're being chased by a quantum nihilism field. In the real world, when you don't observe something, you can't be certain if it's alive or dead, but that's only because the real world is a wimp. In Contra, if you can't see something, it's definitely dead.

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1
Killing Time -- Super Mario Bros.

Nintendo

Unannounced pausing is the multiplayer etiquette equivalent of shitting in the champagne bucket. You need to ask permission first, and you still probably shouldn't. The most brutal pause was possible in Super Mario Bros. It was a game from a simpler time, when developers simply didn't know that players would use anything to murder the hell out of anything they could, despite that already being the plot and mechanics to 90 percent of their games.

Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
He just scored a 40-kill combo in the magical land of candy.

Super Mario Bros. didn't have a real multiplayer mode. Instead, two players could take turns, as Nintendo accounted for the fact that some psychotic parents had more children than consoles, creating a daily after-school juvenile Thunderdome. Each player had a controller, but the pause button only worked for Player 1. And when you've got a bored child waiting for his turn in a video game and only one button he can press, he's going to hit that button like a rat with an electrode in its genitals.

BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images
And with similar levels of dignity and self-restraint.

You couldn't drive the other player insane forever, because back then players had to be in the same room. Which is why multiplayer video games didn't yet function as infinite asshole amplifiers. You can't use total control of time to dominate enemies when they can just physically beat the shit out of you. (A solution that the Doctor's enemies seem strangely incapable of. Matt Smith is lovely and all, but he'd snap like a twig.)

BBC
Eccleston, on the other hand, could Glasgow kiss you into the next century without using a time machine.

Which was why the cunning Mario would wait until Luigi was running full tilt toward a long jump, pause before launch, unpause immediately, and cackle as Luigi plummeted to oblivion.

Nintendo
Probably because Mario just worked out the gender ratio in the Mushroom Kingdom.

Which means that Nintendo might be celebrating the Year of Luigi, but it's just the 30th anniversary of him being screwed.



Matt Moffitt focuses the pure passion of the ex-Battletoad and is the bane of Arkhangelsk scientists.

Luke shoots at the Duck Hunt dog in The 4 Most Hated Characters in Video Game History and pilots a giant mech in The Truth Behind Pacific Rim. He also has a website, tumbles, and responds to every single tweet.

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