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Imagine It: You’ve just single-handedly fought your way through the front lines and into the German base. Your heart tightens when you hear a shout of “Mach Scnhell!” and the sharp clack of bootsteps echoing down a stone corridor ahead of you. More victims? You go to reload, realizing with horror that your M1 Garand is completely empty. Fumbling for a grenade, you find your belt bare. “Damn it,” you think, “I shouldn’t have chucked all those grenades at that train car to see if it would explode.” The bootsteps are deafening now, and the smell of sauerkraut hangs thick in the air. That’s when you spot it: a crate of M1 ammo has been inexplicably placed in the center of the room by the game designers. Salvation! But before you can lunge for it, “Pvt_Hugecock” glides into the room backwards and snatches the ammo, despite carrying only a 9mm and some grenades. He types “Dnt Wrory, I got this,” and then his head immediately explodes as he’s killed by the invading Nazis. You are killed seconds later, while you beat the corpse of Pvt_Hugecock mercilessly with the butt of your rifle.
Imagine It: When you booted up Mario Strikers that evening, you never imagined you’d be in for the fight of your life. But when the lobby computer decided to pit you against a player with a 156 and 0 record, you knew there was no turning back. Let the Bagel Bites burn, you said. It’s go time. After a scoreless first game spent slogging through quicksand, evading Thwomps, and running shrieking from a 50-foot Luigi, you cram some blackened Bagel Bites down your gullet and it’s back to the slaughter. Early in the second game, you tragically let a mega-strike by when the Wiimote slips out of your bagel-greased hands, leaving you down by two. That’s when you catch your second wind. Suddenly you’re unstoppable, making two goals in rapid succession by leaping the goalie with Toadstool. Finally, with ten seconds on the clock, you make your move, blasting your opponent’s goalie with a shock-shell. Totally paralyzed, the goalie can only watch in mute horror as Birdo nudges the ball past him. Your victory assured, you sit back and congratulate yourself on a job well done. That’s when you’re booted out to the lobby. A screen informs you that your opponent quit the game one fifth of a second before your victory could be counted. And you suddenly realize, you didn’t beat a great player after all. You beat a flaming asshole.
Imagine It: The worst possible thing that can happen to anyone has just happened to you. You’ve been killed. In a game. You were manning the rear gun of a Warthog when the driver pulled hard right to avoid a group of Covenant Hunters and slammed your head right into errant sniper fire. Your whole life—all ninety seconds of it—flashes instantly before your visor. Then your head is snapped cleanly off like a breaking celery stalk, and tumbles down a grassy hillside. Yet, you live. For a few precious moments, your consciousness remains, and through fading vision, you watch the Warthog driver stop, leap from the vehicle, and run to your body, which has fallen belly-down over a rocky outcropping. What’s he doing? Is he trying to help you? Can’t he see it’s too late? Gingerly, delicately, the driver steps up to the rear of your body, then backs up a few inches, steps forward again. And again. He mutters “heh…awesome.” Yanking your eyes from the image of your body being defiled, you are affronted by two armor-plated testicles descending from above. The man crouching repeatedly over your head pauses only to take several screen caps. Your brain finally ceases activity, and you log off to take the longest, hottest shower of your life.
Imagine It: A team of designers are putting the finishing touches on the multiplayer portion of their game. Someone at the table brings up the issue of “friendly fire.” This is a team game, after all; should teammates be able to harm each other? Yes! Argues one of the designers, for are the bullets not real? If you drive one through someone at high velocity, do they not bleed? No! Asserts another, for people are jackasses, and will shoot their own teammates for no reason whatsoever. But, asks a third, should we really acquiesce to the darker side of human nature? Shouldn’t we rather appeal to the best in our players by giving them the benefit of the doubt? I don’t care, announces the fourth, and they decide to leave friendly fire on, then share a delicious sheet cake, for it is one of their birthdays (let’s say the third one). Six months later, the game ships, and jackasses proceed to shoot their own teammates for no reason whatsoever. Cake remains delicious.
Imagine It: You’ve infiltrated the Blu base and laid waste to two scouts, a pyro and a soldier with your heavy’s minigun. You never would have made it without the aid of the trusty medic by your side, who valiantly risked his life to keep you patched up and in good health. With Blu’s last command point just ahead, you pause a moment to savor the victory. “Good run, friend,” you growl to the medic. No reply. That’s cool, you think, this dude’s all business (or possibly Japanese). “Well, let’s make it happen.” You take a bold step forward, awaiting the warm embrace of the medic’s medigun, but none is forthcoming. As you hear the sound of Blu team members spawning ahead of you, all you can manage is a frantic mashing of the keyboard. Then the pyros are on you. It’s only twenty seconds later, while your corpse smolders on the ground, that you receive a reply from the medic: “Sry, AFK. Eating cheese sandwich.”
Imagine It: Blizzard’s latest opus, Burgercraft, has finally hit store shelves. You unpack the patty-shaped disc, slip it into your computer and spend the next forty hours of your life perfecting your seed-to-bun ratio, stacking order and learning which kinds of hot deli mustard to pair with the wasabi mayo to unlock bacon. After conquering the single player campaign and defeating the menacing denizens of Filet Of Fish-Opolis, you decide it’s finally time to take this show on the road. Beefy with anticipation, you load up Battle.net and start a multiplayer game with a computer-selected opponent. Assured that you’re in for the epic fight of a lifetime, you immediately start producing lettuce harvesters and reinforcing your fledgling base with a perimeter of pickle spears and fry pits. Suddenly, and without any warning other than the words “kekekekekeke” appearing onscreen, four zerglings invade your base and devour everything in sight. The game lasts all of five minutes, and you’re left with nothing but questions. Questions like, “What kind of douchebag plays like that?” and “A Zerg rush? How was that even possible?”