Editor's Note

Meant to be Broken?


Online Experience Not Rated By the ESRB

There’s a reason for that, you know. Because online, anything can happen. It’s not a sealed, predictable experience like an offline game. Online, there’s people. Who knows what they might do?

I’ve never had any really outrageous experiences online. Not even on Xbox Live. Part of this is because I just don’t play that many online games. I hate people, you see, so there’s not really much in it for me.

Once, however, I gave into temptation and opened the door to Live. I had just bought one of the Splinter Cell games, and wanted to try the two-person co-op. Turns out one of my online “friends” was also looking for a game, so we connected.

Now, I call this person a friend, but I didn’t know him at all. We frequented the same videogame-related website. We chatted a few times online. We owned the same game. I suppose he and I had more in common than 90 percent or so of the human population of Earth, but I didn’t actually know anything about him. His name, for instance. Or his definition of “good manners.”

This last would have been useful intel. I’m afraid I committed a mortal sin in online gaming terms while playing with him: I logged out in the middle of a mission and went to play with someone else. He could see me online, I’m sure, and see that I was playing with someone else. I wouldn’t blame him if he hated me to this day for that. But I allege it was not my fault.

See, he was eating jambalaya. I know this because he was doing it while we were playing the game. I could hear the chomps and slurps and swallows. The dude didn’t’ even bother to turn off his mic; he just sat there, playing and eating. How he managed it, with both hands on the controller, I can’t guess, but manage it he did.

I couldn’t have known it was jambalaya that he was eating, per se, but for the fact he told me. After he’d belched into my ear.

“Sorry. Jambalaya,” he said, then kept on eating. At some point I believe there was also a can of something opened, then swallowed in mighty gulps.

If not for the fact that we were, in effect, tethered mouth-to-ear by way of a high-speed, high-tech communications system, I probably wouldn’t have cared that the dude was grabbing some chow. People gotta eat, after all. But thanks to the miracle of technology, he was essentially inside my brain, slurping and burping and, frankly, making me ill.

So I logged out. It was cowardly, I know. I didn’t bother asking him to mute his mic. I didn’t bother saying, “Excuse me, bro, can you, um, not be a douche?” I just bailed. I reasoned at the time that dude should have known better, but so should I have. Friendships, online or off, deserve at least the courtesy of drawing the line. If your friend still insists on crossing it, then you punch him.

This issue of The Escapist, Issue 243, “Meant to be Broken,” is all about “the line” in games: how it’s crossed, by whom and why this is sometimes a good thing. Alan Au gives us a look at “anti-walkthroughs”; Jaz McDougal explains why Red Faction: Guerilla is a better game when you can cheat; Murray Chu uncovers the mayhem wrought by exploits in Left 4 Dead and Team Fortress 2 and John Szczepaniak writes about the class of gamers who cheat for a living: game reviewers.

Enjoy. And be good.


Russ Pitts

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