Multiplayer Competition
By: Alex Bowdon


Over the last few years, the biggest major development in the games industry has been the growth of on-line gaming. Where once the majority of games were designed for a solitary user, they are now designed in such a way that, in many cases, multiple players are not merely an option but a necessity. Personally speaking, I’m not against on-line gaming. I’m not even questioning its worth. I just hope that the original brand of ‘personalized’ multiplayer game doesn’t die out as a consequence.

Getting the better of some artificial intelligence within a game is satisfying. Getting the better of a real person is more satisfying still—provided they aren’t incompetent. However, beating a collection of your friends is the most satisfying. If you can humiliate them, all the better, and if you can humiliate them to such a degree that they are reduced to some form of violent tantrum, then you’ve truly struck gaming gold. I’m no sadist or anything, but it is undeniably hilarious to reduce friends to seething balls of impudent fury.

Let’s say you and three friends are embroiled in a game. Choose your target carefully. There are certain characteristics that can define someone as being ‘worth beating’. Of the four gathered players, at least one will be insanely competitive. Whoever that may be, he or she will likely be competitive in all aspects of life. This is because they hate losing, and that’s exactly why it’s all the more gratifying to see them beaten. Chances are that they will also be extremely good at whichever game you are playing, as they will have worked hard to remove even the remote possibility of failure. They will probably have invested hours of practice while alone. Technically, they will be highly proficient at the game, but perhaps inexperienced at the psychological aspect of competition. The psychological aspect in this instance is your own particular brand of malicious vendetta. Computers don’t hold prejudices or grudges—people do.

But there’s a problem. This ultra-competitive individual is better than each of you at this game, so what’s the solution? Well, a team is more than the sum of its parts, so gang up and dole out the punishment. As soon as it dawns on your victim that there is a conspiracy in the offing—which won’t take too long—they will naturally complain at the focused and repetitive ass kicking. However, allow their whining complaints to fall on deaf ears. Better yet, play up to them. Feign innocence. Perhaps one of the conspirators could pretend to side with the poor victim.

Still, it’s probably best to make that moment of realization as painful as possible for your competitive comrade. If you’re playing a first-person shooter, two of you could pretend to take sides with your victim. Then—and the delivery is all-important here—when the victim least expects it, make your collective move. I would recommend that such a move be made simultaneously by the two traitors and preferably in as cowardly a way as possible. A barrage of gunfire to the back of the head will create such a rush of adrenaline-infused surprise and resentment in your victim that a huge girly moan is all but guaranteed. If executed correctly, you should be able to provoke tears.

I remember playing Worms several years ago; there were four players and all were adults. One member of our gathering had been enjoying something of a winning streak, and in our league table he was unbeaten. Something had to be done. I don’t know if we consciously ganged up on him, or whether we just felt he was the biggest threat and persistently attacked him as a result. Whatever the motivation, we eventually reduced him to the brink of defeat. There was a lot of talk as the inevitable unfolded. We homed in on the one resultant fact where defeat would hurt him the most—the loss of his precious unbeaten record. Oh yes, the glorious sullying of his immaculate statistics. It was malicious. We lingered over every destructive detail, wallowing in his painfully drawn-out pounding.

Then, as the final nail was about to be hammered into his team’s coffin, we all fell silent. He was forced to watch helplessly as one of us approached his pitiful last-remaining worm before dropping some dynamite and retreating. The fuse slowly burned and the mighty league leader ground his teeth with barely suppressed rage. What happened next was a veritable assault on the senses. As the dynamite exploded, catapulting the pathetic worm through the air, there was a simultaneous human roar as the deceased worm’s owner lashed out for the reset button. Even before his defeat could register, he would still save his precious unbeaten record by whatever means necessary.

Silence. And then, as we looked upon him—a grown man shamed—hysteria erupted. The defeat may not have registered within the game but its shockwaves would be felt for quite some time. A reaction such as that is not something one lives down easily.

You don’t even need to play simultaneously to have this kind of enjoyment. There is a lot to be said for the humble high-scores table. Not many games utilize point scoring any more, but if one does, then the harrowing shock of turning on a game to see your high score has been bettered during your absence is not to be underestimated. I know the feeling well, having waged a one-man war against a former housemate through 1080 Snowboarding on the N64.

My original aim was to simply better a couple of his scores—as the game was his this drove him mad. However, as I became more adept, I aimed for the high score in every available category. We wouldn’t see each other very often, but we would each start the game and immediately go and investigate the various high-scores tables for signs of damage. If we had slipped a place on the rankings, we would immediately try to rectify it. Unfortunately, this all backfired, as at one point I managed to attain the high-score clean sweep. I had the top three places in every event on every course. From that point on, I was the hunted not the hunter, and it became a full-time job to maintain my snowboarding supremacy.

Have you ever embarrassed yourself amidst gaming defeat? If you have, or know anyone who has, and you’d like to share the stories with GamersHell and myself, then we’d very much like to hear from you.

Email your reenacted tantrums of defeat to me, Alex Bowdon, at: alexbowden@bluebottle.com


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