LIFE LESSON: In life, there is an endless variety of things coming your way for the sole purpose of fucking you up, but if you're alert to your surroundings, your chances of defeating them are greatly increased.
What do Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, and Left 4 Dead zombies have in common?
They all teach you the important lesson: Don't give up.
"Hi, Gladstone, it's your boss, Jack O'Brien. I think it's great that you're writing about gaming, and that should really be appealing to our younger readers, but then you start #2 with a joke about a song that came out in 1986. I guess I'm just wondering ... what the fuck is wrong with you?"
Lots of messed up stuff can happen to you in Left 4 Dead. I've mentioned most of it already. But it's not uncommon to spend a substantial part of the game near dead, and as long as you keep on going, you'll find some extra ammo, another medical pack, or some additional weapons. Don't get me wrong: I've died in Left 4 Dead many, many, many times. Sometimes the game is completely rigged, hitting you at once with a Boomer, Hunter, and Tank. That's right. More than once I've been covered in zombie puke with a Hunter tearing my flesh off, only to survive and be pummeled to death by a Tank. But there are also enough moments to reward your faith and tenacity that you should never lose hope.
LIFE LESSON: Don't give up. That thing around the corner could just as likely be a good thing, rather than more trauma.
I really like the message of #5 through #2. I think they're true and a totally fine way to live your life. (Even the part about avoiding crazy bitches.) But there is one very clear message in Left 4 Dead that, while it may be a genuine life lesson, is also cynical and depressing: Lead the way -- sort of.
What do I mean? Well, when you play the game with automated companions, you're forced to lead. If you rely on your teammates, you'll never reach the next safe room or final evacuation destination. And as I said before, the game will usually punish you for pure cowardice. If you run away from Tank and leave him for your friends, he'll incapacitate them, and then when he incapacitates you, there will be no one left to save you.
And this will be the last thing you ever see.
But, the game has no problem with you phoning it in. Lead the way, but then Tank comes? Oh, take a few shots, but put your three teammates between you and he. A Charger is coming? Back up and start shooting so it charges your teammates instead. Same thing with Jockeys. The game will punish you for abandoning your teammates, but it seems to reward you for kinda screwing them over while making a big show of helping out.
This is like the friend who disappears when a drunk starts something in a bar fight and then is all like, "No, man, I was getting the bouncer!" The game might be right. Things probably are better for people who behave this way. Political people are survivors, but I've rejected this message for the first half of my life, and I'm not going to become an asshole for the second half just because a video game tells me to.
LIFE LESSON: You don't have to do everything Xbox tells you.