8 Amazing Video Game Moments That Happened by Accident
EVE Online, the massively multiplayer online 401(k) simulator set in outer space, is going to be a TV show soon. Video game adaptations are nothing new, but the twist here is that the show is based on players' stories: their anecdotes, wars, alliances, and dramas that popped up organically -- wholly independent of any kind of pre-existing plot. Every bone in my comedian body wants to mock Online Role Playing Game: The Show, but the gamer in me knows that I can't. It's a brilliant idea.
That's the best part of gaming, after all: those unscripted, unplanned moments that stick with you, even when the story is lost to a hazy blur. So I asked the question in this thread, and I'm asking you folks now: What's your most memorable unscripted video game moment? Here are just a few of my favorite responses, as well as my own loosely related experiences in similar situations -- because I'm an uncompromising narcissist, and of course I found a way for this to be all about me, me, me. Hey, speaking of me, I'll go first with my own category:
Perfectly Timed Glitches
A Television's Viking Funeral, by Brockway
Sometimes a broken product is far better than a fully functional one. Anybody who called for their horse in Red Dead Redemption, only to find a confused Swedish immigrant responding in its stead -- still totally ready and willing to be mounted up and ridden about -- understands this to be true. Possibly my best gaming moment ever was brought to me by a broken product, even though the game itself worked fine. It was a magnificent, epic hardware failure that I will never forget:
I had just bought Brutal Legend, and I was loving every second of it. If people tell you that game wasn't worth playing, do not listen to them. They do not see epic van murals every time they close their eyes; they do not understand awesomeness; they are terminally deficient in vitamin rock. It's not perfect, but it is a fantastic experience, and you should be ashamed of yourself if you let a few less than stellar reviews stop you from playing 1980s High School Burnout: The Video Game.
But I digress.
I had just gotten a new super move -- one that let me play a guitar solo to bring a flaming zeppelin down on my enemies -- but I hadn't used it yet. I'm no philistine: I don't cough at the opera, I don't wear white after Labor Day, and I don't play my bitchin' murderous magical guitar solos anywhere but on a lightning-ravaged mountaintop. After driving to the top of the largest, spikiest, most appropriately metal peak I could find, I got out of my hot rod and played the solo. As advertised, a giant burning zeppelin came screeching out of the sky and slammed into the ground, setting the world aflame. The screen inverted from the impact. Random colors spewed out in every direction. The whole image shook and swayed and went to static, then did that old school "powering down" blip. Everything went black. It was perfect.
I thought it was all part of the special effects for the super move.
It was not.
My TV, an old CRT model, had exploded right at the climax of the zeppelin crash. I had to drop $500 on an entirely new television that day, all because of one use of one super move in a single video game -- and I wasn't even mad about it. The timing was just too perfect. That appliance could've gone out while watching Judge Judy disapprove of somebody's baby daddy, but no: It was the Viking funeral of televisions -- it died showing me a flaming, screaming blimp explosion while electric guitars wailed on a mountain top. I hope I die half as metal.
Awesome Cinematic Saves
If we're honest, most of us spend our gaming time hopping in a corner until we're unceremoniously butchered by a mutant bunny. But every once in a while the stars align, and you come kicking in the door like a digital Bruce Willis, ready, willing, and surprisingly able to save the day.
Black Hawk Down of the Dead, by BlueNirvanna
Off the top of my head, one time while playing DayZ jumps to mind. For anyone who doesn't know what DayZ is, it is a mod for the military simulator game ARMA2. It's one big map with tons of places to go and zombies are everywhere. Also bandits are always trying to kill you for your beans. Surviving as long as possible is the goal.
So while playing DayZ with the Skype group, Reverend and I were the only ones on at the time and decided to fly around in the helicopter and shoot shit up with the big guns. Shooting zombies or hopefully some other players. While flying around, though, we ran into a group of survivors being mauled by zombies from a nearby town. They had a car and must have stopped it near the town to try and loot it but attracted all the zombies. Now, we had set out to kill people, but we knew this group of people and that they were friendly, we had given them guns and stuff before. So here we are, swooping in with a helicopter, guns blazing and killing zombies left and right before landing. I jumped out of the pilot's seat to bandage one of them who was telling us they didn't have any medical supplies and that one of their friends had passed out and was being eaten. After bandaging him I ran over to about four or five zombies that were chewing on some corpse and sprayed them till they dropped. The guy was still alive somehow and I managed to save him with blood bags and bandages. They didn't want to leave their car behind so they instead jumped in that and drove off while Rev and I flew off into the sunset, having just saved the day.
You Win the Medal of Honor for Heroic Spasms, by Dickdastardly4
I was playing co-op mode of Medal of Honor: Rising Sun with a friend of mine and there was this mission where we had to infiltrate some city without being detected. You started out the mission with these bitchin' silenced pistols that were essentially one-shot kills but only had a one-bullet capacity and took about 10 to 15 seconds to reload, I guess to encourage you to be stealthy.
So we started off the mission perfectly, making our way into the city without raising any alarms until (since we were 15) this started to bore us and we just started running around pistol-whipping dudes. When the alarm went off, me and my friend got separated because the level was essentially all narrow, twisting alleyways.
Anyway, all the enemy soldiers had followed me and I was being overwhelmed. All the while, my friend was running around in circles, looking for me. I ran into a dead end and two soldiers chased after me. I shot one with the aforementioned bitchin' pistol, but the other one stepped up to me while I was struggling to reload, raised his rifle, and was just about to shoot me ... when my friend stepped out of a nearby alley, put his gun to the soldier's temple, and blew his head off.
It all looked so cinematic. Me helpless, struggling to load my gun as the enemy raised his barrel to blow me away, my mate stepping out of the darkness, right beside him, at the very last moment, and blowing his head off.
In reality, my mate hadn't meant to do it at all. He was still running around in circles and only ran out of that alley by chance. When he ran into the soldier, he panicked and pressed the "fire" button instinctively.
James Bond's Psychopathic Murdering Cousin, by Brockway
I was playing Team Fortress 2 on the Xbox 360 (boooooo, I know, I know -- but in my defense, the video card for my PC had just fried from playing too much TF2). My team was, as usual, appreciably terrible (myself included). See, most multiplayer matches are made up of two teams: one elite, experienced, uniquely themed fighting force ... and a bunch of random schmoes still trying to figure out which button jumps. You know that feeling when the lobby loads and the opposing team is:
Charles, Bronn's Son
Bronn, Charles' Son
Good Grief, Charley Bron
And your team is:
You're fucking doomed, and the game hasn't even started! They're so organized that their team has a cutesy theme, and you've got a stoner, somebody's dad, a 10-year-old kid, and a Dicknob. But what can you do about it? You have to try ...
And trying we were. But as expected, we were getting butchered. Their armed sentries were tearing us up, and we were all so terrible that nobody wanted to play as the spy -- the one class that excels at taking out sentries. I'm bad at all games, in general, but I'm particularly awful at shooters, and even worse at shooters that involve a lot of complicated gadgets and subterfuge. But there was nothing to be done for it: I could try to do my best as the class we needed, or we could just sit there and die with our thumbs up each other's asses in a giant conga line of incompetence.
I chose to spawn as the spy, sneaked up behind enemy lines, and dramatically, ominously ... loitered. I lacked murder-confidence. Suddenly the entire enemy team came charging past me. I knew they didn't see me, because I wasn't on fire, but I also knew I couldn't do shit about it unless I wanted to be on fire. Then I saw it -- the spy Holy Grail. The line. Just as I got within stabbing range, the whole team went single file to get through a doorway, and I butchered every single one of them, sequentially. Even better, it was right as they were coming through the last doorway to attack our capture point. So my teammates guarding the point saw a line of soldiers, heavies, pyros, demo men, and two medics -- fully powered up and ready to unleash hell -- coming straight for them, and justifiably lost all hope. Then name after impossible name starts popping up, all dead. Just a mishmash of different tones of screaming and spurts of blood, and then I jog out from behind the doorway, alone.
"You're the best spy I've ever seen," said one teammate. Thirty seconds later, I died trying to knife fight a missile turret because I couldn't remember which button places a sapper, but for that one beautiful, shining half-moment, I was James Bond's murderous psychopathic cousin.
Awesome Cinematic Failures
And for every single action-movie-quality rescue you perform, there will be a hundred instances of you tripping over your own grenade and apologizing to your team as your balls explode.
Fuck This Horse Anyway, by Nick Lapointe
Three years ago, I was playing Red Dead Redemption the day after it came out. I had just gotten off the homestead and I was about to start exploring the world around me. I'm trotting down a path when I see a dude getting mauled by five or six wolves. Naturally, I pull out my gun to kneecap him to make it easier on the wolves. I'm galloping toward the guy to shoot him before the wolves can finish him off, and I start aiming my six-shooter. Unfortunately, I hadn't quite gotten the hang of shooting from horseback yet, so instead of shooting the guy, I end up shooting my own horse in the back of the head. I tumble off the horse and fall over the edge of the nearby cliff, somehow losing my gun. Then the wolves chase me down ...
The Walrus in the Aerial Ballet, by Brockway
The Battlefield series is one of the most perfectly balanced gaming experiences out there. It's simple and approachable enough early on -- you might even score a kill or two in your first match and feel pretty good about yourself -- but you soon realize there's so much more going on around you, and your quaint "kill or two" is not now, nor has it ever been the point. In short, it's fun and easy to get into, but soon grows in complexity along a very logical learning curve.
And then there are the airplanes.
The planes in the Battlefield series (and, to a lesser extent, the helicopters) are like an optional calculus course at a grade school for special children. All of your previous gaming experience will tell you to nab the bitchin'est machine you can find and blow shit up with it -- and that works fine if you find a jeep, an artillery gun, or even a tank. But the second you step into a plane or chopper, you'll find you've dropped yourself in the middle of an intricate aerial ballet, only you're not a dancer: You're a brain-damaged walrus with boxing gloves taped to his feet and a crippling sense of vertigo. Unlike some players, after it became readily apparent that I flew planes about as well as I flew ice cream trucks, I stopped taking them. Either a better player on my team could use that plane to drop screeching sky death on the enemy, or I could break dance it into a river and die in a much-deserved fireball. The choice made itself.
As usual, my team was getting murder-blasted right in our lifeholes (this, uh ... this may or may not have had something to do with me spending half the game trying to jump a speedboat into a military bunker). Our base was almost overrun. A squadron of tanks had rolled in, mowing down my fellow soldiers left and right. And nobody was taking our planes up! I had to assume that my teammates, like myself, were too nervous about taking off in such valuable equipment, only to miss a bombing run and crash it into a mountain. But damn -- the enemy would use those planes if we didn't, and that would be worse than nothing! I saw my chance. The runway was clear. A squadron of my teammates was off to the left, momentarily holding the tanks at bay. My vision narrowed. My palms started sweating. The opening chords of "Eye of the Tiger" started playing in my heart. I manned up. I mounted that cockpit.
The instant my wheels left the ground, one of my own players came careening over a nearby hill in a jeep and clipped my wing -- just slightly, just enough to redirect me a fraction of an inch. The nose of the plane dipped down, caught, and pirouetted -- Do you see me, Daddy? I'm a dancer! I'm in the ballet now! -- and then slapped down on the pavement, backward, upside-down, and exploding. Right on top of my own squad.
Killing every single one of them, and myself.
I can't help but picture it from the other squadron's point of view: They're over there playing out the climax of a war movie -- all dug in against impossible odds, the unstoppable killing machines slowly coming for them. Then, a shadow comes over them. One brave young soldier looks up, just in time to see an airplane somersault butt-first onto his head.
I hope he saw my face, there in the cockpit, just before dying. I know it's impossible, but I hope my avatar waved.
No Story Is More Tragic Than Your Own
The human imagination is an incredible thing. We can listen to others spin tales and be moved by them, but nothing will ever touch the stories you tell to yourself, when given a stake and a blank slate to fill in. (Or you could just fill it in with tits and pop culture references like you did all those Mad Libs.)
Daisy, Daisy, Give Me Your Answer Do ... by Wash
A recent game of FTL I played: I tend to invest a lot of imaginary personality in blank-slate characters, because I need to go outside. I was playing with the Mantis B ship, whatever it's called, the one where you only get two startup crew members, and I managed to keep both of them (Gatsby and Daisy) alive right up to the final boss. I got very lucky with the random drops (Burst Laser III in sector one, Ithankyou), so we were basically crushing the boss into paste, teleporting aboard to disable his weapons, then creaming him repeatedly with lasers while he sat there feeling like an idiot.
Anyway, while not paying particular attention, I teleported Daisy into the last of the weapon rooms, not noticing that it had a breach. By the time I cottoned on, it was too late, and she asphyxiated before the teleporter could recharge. It sounds stupid (because it is stupid), but the disappearance of the little green sprite was actually quite upsetting. She had survived seven sectors in the cold of space and countless boardings of enemy vessels. She'd fought pirates, rebels, and those automated drone things, and come through it all, only to die alone, sealed in an airless room on an alien ship. Her reward for her determination and survival was to die a undignified, agonizing, and pointless death in a battle against an opponent we were easily beating. It felt like a game of FTL written by George R. R. Martin.
The Tragic Origin Story of Dick Squadron, by Brockway
I couldn't be guiltier of this behavior. And when XCOM gave me a randomly generated soldier named Dong, what was I to do? I wrote his biography in my head. This is the tragic story of Dong Li, the Chinese Berserker with everything to prove:
For some reason, most of my existing "A Squad" -- the high-level guys I used for the hardest missions -- were European or North American. Not white, but definitely Western. So when Dong came along, I assumed that the other members of A Squad, being soldiers in a tense situation, probably weren't going to be terribly PC about the dick connotations. They would make fun of Dong, naturally. When he got promoted, his randomly assigned call sign was the generically badass "ghost." He made it up himself, I decided, but nobody else really used it. The rest of the squad called him "Phallus," because it sounded vaguely like that go-to military nickname, "phalanx," to Dong's foreign ears. But obviously it just meant "dick." What's worse, he was a little hefty, and bald -- he even kind of looked like a human penis.
And because they teased him, Dong overcompensated. He was always first into the fight -- nobody dashed into new, unknown situations but Dong. Nobody charged the last enemy to take the risky finishing shot but Dong. Nobody used grenades while still standing in their radius. Nobody but Dong.
And impossibly, Dong survived. He should have died his first battle out, behaving so recklessly, but he stayed with me for most of the game. A special accomplishment, since I was playing on Iron Man, which means no reloading. But XCOM is a merciless bastard, and it spawned a squad of those Alien-esque monsters, the Chrysalids, right behind Dong after he had already used up his turn. It was too late. The squad tried to cover for him, but shot after shot was a miss. The aliens tore him apart, and worse: They poisoned him. Which meant that when Dong died, he came back as a zombie. The squad was shell-shocked. Some of them panicked from the trauma: They knew they had pushed him into making these kinds of decisions, and they gave him shit now and then, but they had always respected Dong's giant balls. Eventually, I took out the aliens, saving the undead Dong for last. With a heavy heart I put him down -- with a grenade. It was his favorite weapon; he would have liked that. When we got back to base, I changed all of the high-level soldiers' hairstyles to bald.
I never called them "A Squad" again. They were, now and forever, Dick Squadron.
Buy Robert's stunning, transcendental, orgasmic science fiction novel, Rx: A Tale of Electronegativity, right here. Or buy Robert's other (pretty OK) book, Everything Is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead. Follow him on Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook.