Shoot Club

Shoot Club: Night of the Cat, Part One

Tom Chick | 8 Nov 2007 21:00
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"Far right drawer when you're facing the sink."

"Okay, thanks."

"New guy?"

"Yes?"

"What is that?" He's holding a bottle of IBC.

"Root beer. Is it okay to have one of these?"

"No, no, that's fine, you can have anything in the fridge. But that's a twist top. You don't need a bottle opener."

"I know, but it hurts my hand." He holds up his palm to demonstrate the part of himself that would be afflicted. And now I've completely forgotten what I was doing - building Naginatas, I think - and I have six idle peasants. If Trevor didn't suck as bad as me at Age III, I'd be dead.

Soon enough, Trevor is all over me with Arquebusiers, or maybe they're Chu Ko Nu crossbowmen. They all look alike. The new guy leans his face down again.

"Sorry to disturb you," he says, "but there's someone at the door."

Why is he telling me this? At Shoot Club, you just walk in, like on a sitcom. You don't knock. You don't queue up. You don't wait to be announced. You just come in.

I'm trying not to lose focus on the fact that my Samurais are on a separate hotkey from my Yabusames, who need to flank around to kill those stupid flamethrowers Trevor built. The Chinese had flamethrowers? I guess it's not that far a stretch, considering the magic all-seeing Buddha statues, shrines that hypnotize animals, and ass-kicking monks doing killer kung-fu on monkeys and bears. Just let me summon a dragon already, Age of Empires III. You know you want to.

"Just let him in," I tell the new guy.

"Okay," he says, as if what I just suggested was somehow strange.

It turns out Trevor didn't bring Arguebusiers or Chu Ko Nus. They were Qiang Pikemen. The tooltip tells me Qiang Pikemen are good against cavalry, but I don't need a tooltip to tell me that. The piled up corpses of my Yabusames make it pretty clear. Now I'm checking tooltips to figure out what's good against Qiang Pikemen and wondering if I should build whatever these guys are who are called Ashigarus. Maybe if I'd played more Dynasty Warriors I'd know this stuff already.

As I'm bringing up my Samurai, something happens that totally throws me. It's so unexpected that I confuse my twin realities for a millisecond. Is this fast black shape with bump-mapped fur darting before my eyes in Age of Empires III or the real world? It doesn't belong in either.

It's a cat. Having jumped behind my keyboard but in front of my monitor, it sits there and considers me, its rump obscuring the part of the screen that shows how many villagers I have on each resource, not to mention the minimap where Trevor's army is a red blob descending onto my base. The strange thing is, I don't have a cat. It doesn't seem to care. It just sits there and considers me with its indifferent yellow eyes.

To be continued...

***

Tom Chick has been writing about videogames for fifteen years. His work appears in Games for Windows Magazine, Yahoo, Gamespy, Sci-Fi, and Variety. He lives in Los Angeles. Shoot Club appears in this space every Thursday.

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