Video games have some of the most dedicated and versatile communities known to the internet, matched only in zeal and focus by porn addicts and Civil War reenactors. And while games are never too coy about their objectives (collect that star, shoot that guy, press X to not die), in some cases, their community will decide for them, spawning an entire new metagame that's even more fascinating than what the developers planned.
Prepare to see a bunch of famous games in a whole new, slightly disturbing light.
Overwatch is the hot new thing on the competitive multiplayer scene, with millions of players lining up to play iconic heroes like Speedy Girlnextdoor, Iron Apeman and Clint Eastwood. What really sells Overwatch, though, is that it feels like good clean fun in a genre that's usually festooned with blood, dirt, and teenagers shouting homophobic slurs through their headsets. And developer Blizzard aims to keep it that way, even if that means downplaying a certain character's buttocks area. It's somewhat ironic, then, that this T for Teen shooter nonetheless became a F for Fetish breeding ground.
If you've ever played Overwatch, you may have noticed someone playing the healer, Mercy, using her "Imp" skin and slavishly following the toughest player on the team. If you're wondering what that's all about, there's a perfectly simple explanation: That player's way into BDSM. The highly attractive healer character has been a surprise hit within a certain subset of the domination and submission fetish community, leading to people playing her as what they refer to as a "healslut." These players will find a tank (big, burly fighters) to be the "dom" to their "sub." They'll then play their healer like she's a housewife from the '40s, spending the entire match servicing, rewarding, and praising their tank. Oftentimes, they'll have a kinky private chat during and after the match -- praying they haven't been living out their sexual fantasies with a horny 12-year-old who got way more than they bargained for.
The practice of being a "healslut" has gotten popular enough to warrant its own subreddit (warning: you will see animated genitals), where open-minded people share their experiences of submitting themselves in-game.
By now, the practice has leaked over to other multiplayer games, with players even publishing guides on how to be the optimal healslut -- a relative term when it comes to gaming with one hand. In shooters, where the most important thing is usually racking up kill counts and destroying lesser players, it's quite refreshing to see a subset of players who find the greatest joy in healing and supporting their team members. And hey, if in the process someone achieves a win streak in their pants, more power-ups to them.
Team Fortress 2 is a multiplayer shooter which launched back in 2007 and quickly became the new gold standard of interactive cartoon violence. TF2's iconic aesthetic has received widespread praise and made it one of the most recognizable games in the world. However, this has come at the cost of the developers severely limiting how players can customize their characters with prized loot. So how can they show that they're the baddest dude in the land? By wearing the fanciest hat.
Because of the very limited customization options in TF2, headwear quickly became the most easily recognizable status symbol for experienced gamers. The rarer the baubles festooning your fighter's face, the longer a player must've spent performing suicidal rocket jumps across enemy lines. When they realized how crazy their community had gotten over these accessories, Valve decided to go the consumer-friendly (read: lazy) route and let the players create their own cosmetic items to display in-game.
Then, in September 2010, the company turned on their "Mann-Conomy," allowing community-created items to be sold in their official store and the artists to start making money off their creations. If you read that sentence and thought, "How adorable, all these little tykes making a few extra bucks selling their imaginary hats," then you don't understand the obsessive-collective nature of the gamer. In only a couple weeks, some of these cosmetic modders had made upwards of $47,000, having to fly to Seattle to physically pick up royalty checks too big for their PayPal accounts to handle.
Making a living designing and selling gaming endowment enhancers isn't exactly revelatory, but TF2 gamers went one step further with this new influx of cosmetic items. They set up an entire barter economy, which has been valued at over $50 million. While collecting items and weapons in-game can be a grind, many entrepreneurial gamers quickly figured out that it was easier to trade for the necessary materials and craft them themselves. First, 23 pieces of scrap metal get you one key. Then, nine keys get you a Bill's Hat. 2.66 Bill's Hats get you a pair of earbuds. Then you get the power. Then you get the women.
Like any good commodities market, rates constantly fluctuate based on more conditions than Mario has hairs in his thick mustache. Valve even set up graphs to track item prices. Here, we can see that something like Max's severed bunny head usually runs somewhere around 55 USD(!), but the price can be very volatile, because the world doesn't make sense anymore.
Valve even went as far as to hire an economist to help manage this real economy. That man was Yanis Varoufakis, who later became the Greek Minister of Finance. It's not often you can say that moving from overseeing an in-game store to running an entire country's finances was at best a lateral career move.
When Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain came out in 2015, it was immediately praised as the greatest game ever made that makes absolutely no sense. For a guerrilla warfare game dealing with Soviet occupations and African mercenary forces, it sure featured a lot of fire demons, ghost snipers, and guys with lizard faces dressed like the Lone Ranger. Ironically, it was the multiplayer mode where players could find a straightforward, comprehensible narrative: Nuclear Armageddon is bad, so let's get rid of all the nukes.
As part of the game's multiplayer mode, players can develop nuclear weapons, which makes them more formidable and discourages other players from attacking them -- at the minor cost of transforming your character into a demon. The only way to regain your humanity is to disarm your warheads and renounce your participation in the Cold War. But this isn't some tiny cosmetic gimmick, which gamers found out when they uncovered a hidden cutscene revealing a secret endgame.
Konami eventually confirmed that this cutscene can only be triggered when every single nuclear weapon has been removed from everybody's arsenal. Not a single player on any console can have a nuke, be building a nuke, or even look longingly at some enriched uranium. How on earth is that even possible, since there's going to be at least one sociopathic gamer out there who thinks he's Ernst Blofeld? Well, some MGSV players got together to form a group in order to steal and disarm every single weapon. The group is known as the Metal Gear Philanthropists (an homage to the second MGS game), and they've inspired others to do the same. However, an opposing group known as the Patriots (another MGS callback) has risen up to try to stop the disarmament. That's right, World War III will be started for the lulz.
Barely a month after the revelation, the number of nukes in the game went down by 60 percent, though it has gone back up since then. Between griefers and trolls, it's hard to say if we'll ever get to see the cutscene legitimately. Still, we wonder what will come first: our world's nations disarming their nukes, or the game running out of trolls?
Our money's on world peace.
Counter-Strike is the definitive PC multiplayer shooter, an arena where the most elite 14-year-olds gather to auto-snipe, quad-kill, and jump-shoot their way to glory. And like the gladiatorial battles of old, fortunes can be won or lost betting on these brave warriors. Though these fortunes aren't paid out in gold or silver, but cute outfits for their weapons.
Since the release of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, the franchise has given rise to a large-scale betting industry known as "skin gambling" -- not to be mistaken for the industry that trafficked Liam Neeson's daughter in Taken. Players can earn or purchase "skins" for their weapons, giving them a distinctive color and pattern. Developer Valve thought it would be fun if players could also bet these skins on matches, gaining more if they end up winning.
Getting more bright colors for your digital toy seems like a harmless wager -- until you realize that, with any sufficiently rare commodity, people can start selling their gambling winnings for actual money. How much money were they raking in from this venture? At its peak, Bloomberg estimated the value of the CS: GO gambling industry to be a stunning $2.3 billion. And If you're wondering what the U.S. government's reaction is to an unauthorized, underage billion-dollar gambling den: It's gone full Lithgow.
That's right. They totally outlawed dancing.
The government has repeatedly compelled Valve to shut down the skin trade, claiming the company is "facilitating" third-party gambling sites. The perfect example for that is CS: GO Lotto, which set aside any facade of legitimacy by letting you gamble real-world money on what is essentially a weapon skin cockfight. And because they hadn't yet filled up their Scum Mete, anonymous website operators Trevor Martin and Tom Cassell also posted several YouTube videos claiming that they themselves had made thousands of dollars betting on the site. The site doesn't seem to be operational anymore, probably due to the massive lawsuit alleging it had set up an unlicensed and illegal gambling operation. Boy, whatever happened to playing Counter-Strike for the purity of getting to shoot an enemy player in the head and then teabag their lifeless skull?
If you're talking about large games, it's hard to top Grand Theft Auto V. The fictional city of Los Santos is big enough to compare to real-world metropolises. If they get tired of robbing banks, players can take a walk through the vast parks, or even band together and ride hogs across the endless freeways. But these are GTA players we're talking about -- if they're going to do some nature-observing or biker-ganging, they're going to do it hardcore.
The documentary Onto The Land, filmed entirely in-game and focusing on GTA's wildlife, lasts 15 minutes, but took half a year to research and develop, which is five and a half months longer than we've spent making anything. The video creators had to follow the animals around with virtual cameras, like a real documentary crew, except with a lot more yelling at the animals to do something.
Of course, if you're more interested in marine wildlife, you can watch the other GTAV nature documentary, because holy crap there are two of them. Into The Deep only took a few days to put together, but unlike the other film, the creator didn't have any access to special editing tools, and only had the normal in-game camera control. Still, it's a great homage to the true unsung hero of GTAV: the poor bastard who had to program the fish AI.
That said, what's the exact opposite of a tranquil celebration of nature? "A biker gang" would be a pretty good answer.
That's a documentary about a biker gang known as the Reaper Lords. GTA Online thrives on players forming loose-knit crews to get into all sorts of lethal hijinks, but if you want to be a Reaper Lord, then you had better be prepared to take that shit all the way, from your first cigarette to your last online play. They have a mandatory dress code, as well as a code of conduct not just for current members but even for prospective ones. These guys are so intense that they have their own PR person, who claims that working with the group is basically a full-time job.
A day in the life of a Reaper Lord can be plenty of different things. If they aren't recruiting, they might be engaged in combat training, learning special bike techniques, voting on prospective members, or merely riding their hogs around like a bunch of badasses. With this level of dedication, we wouldn't be surprised if legitimate biker gangs approached these GTAV players for tips, though we have no idea why any violent, tribalistic maniac would want to hang out with a bunch of bikers.
Fallout 4 is the kind of game with an average playthrough time of "infinity." One of the biggest game worlds ever made, there's a lot of things that the game will let you do. But it turns out, not all players will want to shoot mutants, craft pistols, or even banter with a robot. If you ask some what game they want Fallout 4 to be, they'll simply answer: "Minecraft. "
One of the biggest selling points of the latest Fallout game was its settlement crafting mechanic, in which players can build and shape post-apocalyptic homesteads to their liking. But some took this new feature a bit further than others. We'll start off with something more modest and low-key. Say hello to the Scrap Dragon.
Builder kavkavkav decided that the apocalyptic wasteland wasn't horrifying enough, and so he created a giant dragon out of scrap metal in order to further terrorize downtown Boston. Though according to the NPCs, it's still less scary than Logan International Airport.
Other great constructions include a fully functional Rubik's cube ...
... and a recreation of Columbia from Bioshock Infinite.
However, the ultimate testament to both construction ability and megalomania must be the Eden Settlement.
With his own two hands (and a PS4 controller), creator Jug made a tower that is as tall as the game allows, with a smooth white exterior and a fully furnished and wired-up interior. All he needs to do now is put a giant neon sign with his name on it, and Jug could run for president of the post-apocalypse.
Still, for those with no architectural skills, there's always still the slumlord option. Like this player who, instead of creating an architectural wonder to live in, decided to build his own cult compound. He built a terrible shantytown, robbed travelers at gunpoint, and then forced them to stay and work for him by getting them hooked on hard drugs. And in case anyone dared to question his authority, he created a fighting arena to punish dissenters publicly.
The Tetris Company
Video games have to cut content all the time. And oftentimes, for a number of reasons, that deleted content remains part of the project, hiding somewhere on the disk/cartridge, waiting for someone to fish it out like a prize in a cereal box.
Finding these hidden gems can be a lot of work for little payoff. Gamers might unearth unused graphics, or disassemble the game and pore over the very-difficult-to-read assembly code underneath. Sometimes they hit a mother lode, like Super Mario Bros. 3, where a number of unused levels, enemies, and even mini-games that never made the cut were uncovered. The original Super Mario World also underwent quite a transformation, with an entirely different game lying dormant underneath the released one, from the sound down to the coins. But perhaps the most successful example is Sonic the Hedgehog 2, which had entire levels cut from the final game. Thanks to the efforts of hackers and fan programmers, one of these cut levels was resurrected and added to the game's latest release. Who knows, with those kind of detective skills, they might even discover the line of code that made every Sonic game after 2006 terrible.
But the most frequent thing these 8-bit archaeologists find isn't bonus monsters or hidden levels, but secret rants against other developers -- or hidden illustrations of pot leaves. And that's just what was left in The New Tetris for the Nintendo 64, written by a furious and vengeful programmer showering his wrath onto the source code.
Programmers clandestinely venting their frustrations by hiding them in their game's code is a surprisingly common occurrence. For instance, in a Japanese pachinko game known as Pachi Com, one of the programmers included instructions on how to turn off the incredibly annoying noise that one of his bosses forced him to add. Most of them aren't that helpful, however. In the NES game Erika To Satoru No Yume Bouken ("Erika And Satoru's Dream Adventure"), if you watch the ending screen for over an hour and a half and then press a certain sequence of buttons, you can see a message from one programmer badmouthing all of his co-workers, calling them a bunch of porn-obsessed smelly bastards. But the hidden aggression award must go to the creator of Mad Professor Mariarti for the Amiga, who hid a file in the game's music threatening to track down and break the legs of anyone who hacks the game. At that point, it's kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
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