Apparently, I'm not supposed to be up here...
"School sucked, extra times tables homework, but it's ok because I'm round my mate Dom's tonight and I can kick his arse at Super Mario Kart."
"Ugh, can't believe I have to do a whole project about the Water Cycle, but it's ok because I'm round Jon's tonight and we're playing some 4-player GoldenEye deathmatch! Time to show my mates where they should've put their Remote Mines."
As a child, my multiplayer experiences were held exclusively within the bastion of my circle of friends and relatives. Sure, I may have gone to a family BBQ and found some distant cousin who perfected Rainbow Road or visited my twentysomething uncle who was lightning-quick and steely-eyed in the face of Duck Hunt, but my childhood memories chiefly consisted of domination over my opponents: Princesses were lapped, Sean Bean was brutally assassinated, little bomb-wielding chaps were crispy-toasted by my hand.
This remained de rigueur
until my first forays into online multiplayer gaming, starting with Quake CTF.
It was when I first started playing Quake that I tried combining keyboard movement with mouse looking (not the default setting for the game) and I found the system initially uncomfortable to adopt; flailing as if embroiled in epileptic siezure, despite my friend insisting that this was the only way to effectively play and exploit the Grappling Hook. I was soundly trounced by my foes and, after typetalking various expletives with maturity, I quit playing.
Fast forward to several years later and my housemate's boyfriend was proudly displaying his new trinket: A Microsoft XBox. Though the controllers seemed far too large, I thought I'd try it out and see how it compared to my mate's PS2, whistfully recalling many fine hours on GTA3
. He only brought round one game: Halo: Combat Evolved
I watched and played Halo
until 3 in the morning.
I was utterly enamoured by the game; the bold protagonist, the charming and cunning antagonists, the innovative play mechanic, the masterful physics, the haunting score, the gorgeous graphics. I was completely besotted by the campaign mode alone.
Then we started playing deathmatch.
Everything came together in deathmatch; the shield regeneration, variety of weapons, powerups, vehicles, all within the vast open fields or the tight glowing alien corridors of the titular ringworld. I became a savage opponent, showing no mercy as I clutched my shotgun, perforated the back of one friend's neck at close range, before switching to my sniper rifle wheeling round, scoping in and snapping my other friend's head sideways from half a mile away.
Fast forward to 2004, my friend gets an XBox Live subscription and a copy of Halo 2.
Now, as I said, within my circle of friends I was an efficient, ruthless, dominating opponent. I was convinced that I must therefore be a pretty damn good Halo
player, even if you threw the whole world into play.
I was utterly, humbly mistaken.
A brief flicker of an energy sword before it penetrated my sternum, a thwip
of sniper tracer fire before I dropped like a stone, the hollow pop and whoosh of an ejected rocket before I was propelled skyward, a marionette of demise. This was all I saw of my enemies. I felt like Mr Magoo
facing off against ninjas. Damn you, Planet Earth, you're too damn good.
Now, in 2009, with a steady job, a loving girlfriend, a baby on the way, a 360, a Wii and a PS3 (much to my girlfriend's chagrin), with my teeth cut on online play with Halo 3
, Gears of War 2
, Mario Kart DS/Wii
, Call of Duty 4
and Battlefield 1943
, I like to think that occasionally I show a flourish of competence - a multi kill here, a point capture there, but my once proud crown of videogame championship gold is now made of eggshell, and I'm forced to nourish on the consolation prizes I occasionally receive.
At least, until the next time my friends come round.