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1. Hack the Shield Controls

My friend Trevor and me are staring at the ‘Play on LAN’ screen, which is empty.

“How do you host a game?” I ask.

“Fuck if I know. Where’s the ‘Host Game’ button?”

We stare at the ‘Play on LAN’ screen some more. Nothing. It’s an empty server list. We hit ‘Refresh List’ a few times, just for the heck of it.

“Go back to the main menu,” Trevor suggests.

There’s no ‘Host Game’ button there, either.

“Go back to ‘Play on LAN’.”

There’s still no ‘Host Game’ button, which isn’t surprising, since we were just there. I click on ‘Refresh List’, for old times’ sake.

“Check the main menu again,” he says. We’re in that phase of the troubleshooting process where you keep checking the same screens over and over in the hopes that something will change next time you go there. But the ‘Host Game’ button isn’t falling for it. It continues to elude us.

I don’t know if it’s an id thing or a Splash Damage thing or an Activision thing – Quake Wars has more names on it than a NASCAR car – but for some reason, there’s no easy way to host a game. You’re apparently supposed to just go online to play and leave the server setup and maintenance to the pros.

“Well, if you guys can’t figure it out,” Douglas says, “I’m just going to play Halo 3. Let me know when you’re ready.” One by one, all the guys poised to play Quake Wars stop waiting at the ‘Play on LAN’ screen and drift away into other pursuits.

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It takes no small amount of Googling, but I eventually figure it out. You have to actually exit the game to host a server. (Pretty tricky. Outside the game is the last place I would have thought to look.) Then there are some shenanigans with having to add command line parameters to the executable. I’m not sure what that means, but I figured it out by finding forum posts from people kind enough to address the issue as if they were talking to fourth graders. But wait, there’s more. Then you have to edit a .dat file to enable ingame server administration. By the time the server is up, I know far more about servers than I ever thought I’d need to know. I’m a stone’s throw from being able to talk about rconning cvars in Linux.

Once the server is up, everyone is doing something else. Douglas is playing Halo 3 on easy. Peter, who gets motion sickness from first person shooters, is trying to lead a splinter group into playing board games. Trevor and Mike are watching a YouTube video of a Japanese man and a bear having a hot dog eating contest. Jude and the new guy are playing Battle for Middle Earth II.

“So you like Men, huh?” Jude sneers when the new guy selects the Men of the West. The new guy doesn’t get the joke. He says he figures Men are the easiest. “Yeah, you’d probably do pretty well with Men,” Jude tells him. The new guy confesses he’s never used Men before, but Men are as good a place as any to start. Jude looks around for Douglas to see if he heard that one. But Douglas is shooting grunts on easy.

“Whichever game you want,” Peter pleads while Douglas ignores him and kills a brute on easy. “Ticket to Ride, Ra, Puerto Rico, you name it.”

“How about Halo?” Douglas says. “That’s the game I want. Get those guys to play one of your wargame things. That’s not my deal.”

“Okay, server’s up, you guys can join!” I call out. But Quake Wars has lost its traction at Shoot Club. We are victims of our own attention spans.

“You’ve never seen Strong Bad?” Trevor asks Mike, incredulous. “Dude, Stong Bad is awesome. You gotta see these.”

To be continued…

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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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