Chaos normally ensues. There are rules, sure, but they're ignored. This isn't gentlemen's racing at its finest; it's just good-natured fun where everyone's up for it and wants to have a giggle. At the end of it, the organizer makes up the scores and updates the league table. It's another example of the gamer making the game what they want it to be. It simply wouldn't exist without you. It couldn't exist without you.
Developers are beginning to realize this and building co-operative experiences into more and more games. Call Of Duty: World At War, Mercenaries 2, Saints Row 2, Left 4 Dead and even Fable 2 feature online play that allows you to experiment together (in a purely non-sexual manner, of course). While each has scripted or heavily designed sequences to play through, they deliver the real thrills through emergent gameplay, leaving you to do what you want.
While sandbox worlds are designed to give us the freedom to play however we want, online connectivity enhances these opportunities more than we may realize. Witness machinima, born out of "normal" multiplayer games and almost fully integrated into Halo 3 in its Theater Mode. A single game results in many unique perspectives, as each player filters a shared experience into something individual and unique.
It means that you, Mr. Amateur movie director, don't have to faff around with complex hardware in order to make the next Red vs. Blue, or work too hard to come up with something as inspiring as Tricking iT2 (except on your mad gaming skills, of course). Hopefully you'll do something more original, though.
Even Geometry Wars 2, with its expertly integrated achievements, continues to ebb and flow months after its release. No mods have been released, and the multiplayer mode offers virtually no freedom for experimentation - it's simpler than that. The addition of online score boards, harking back to the game's cabinet-based heritage, means that the challenge constantly shifts and changes. When you're in the middle of a run, the next score to beat is there, taunting you. It's almost like your virtual friend is there in the room, laughing at your repeated failures.
Regardless of what you achieve and how you do so, the point is this: That achievement is yours. Climb to the top of the Agency tower and dive into the pool, by all means, but it's simply something the designers wanted you to do. Getting a jeep to the top of it with the help of a friend, though? That's all you, baby. That's all you.
Darren Sandbach is struggling to make the switch from mouse to joypad. He is no longer confident in his rocket jumping abilities.