I love videogames. I play videogames every single day, unless I’ve gone temporarily blind yet again from too much Mountain Dew Baja Blast.
I hate multiplayer games. I also spend many hours each day playing them.
Why? Team Butts, that’s why. A group of like-minded fellows who have drifted apart geographically but are eternally bound, like Prometheus, by a single mistake of their past: befriending a bunch of stupid nerds. To say I hate them would be an understatement; I loathe their very existence with a strength I usually reserve for myself. The satisfaction I get when my fellow Butts experience the same crotch-punchingly brutal round of Halo as I do is almost worth the torture of playing games with these talentless chobs every single day. Unfortunately, this seems to hold true for the rest of the Butts, and so we have spent years together refining multiplayer gaming down to its core components: a subtle potpourri of whining, cursing and losing.
We take this expertise and travel from game to game, dancing on the razor’s edge between bravery and insanity as readily as we breathe and watch anime. We greet the end of each day exhausted, retiring to our race car beds so that we may game again the next day, an unceasing cycle of pain and misery. Will Team Butts ever abandon its foolish pursuit of victory? Only when its members are long dead, far too deep beneath the Earth’s surface to receive a decent Wi-Fi signal.
What gives us the strength to carry on, despite our various physical and mental conditions? Hatred, for both ourselves and our teammates. It drives every gamer to some extent, and the hardy members of Team Butts are gamers in the worst sense of the word. We are not so much individual personalities as large, faceless cogs in a machine that runs on suffering and belches oily sorrow. The only distinctions between us are our individual gaming skills and our tolerance for despair.
In a given day, many groups of damned souls, including Team Butts, ply their luck at several digital masochism delivery systems, or “games,” as they are known outside of the Butts circle. Your group certainly has their favorites; Team Butts mainly plays newer games, as we quickly grow to hate older fare beyond the limits of reasonable tolerance. The hot game at the moment is Team Fortress 2. It provides the perfect type of streamlined, quick and balanced multiplayer experience we crave. Of course, it also provides the mentally defective player base, which transforms any objective-based multiplayer game into a sobbing festival.
Team Fortress 2 is just one of many games included in The Orange Box. But did you know there’s a mini-game inside TF2 itself? It’s true! I’m not sure what the official name is, but we of Team Butts like to call it “eXtreme Server Search,” and it’s an absolute blast. It’s integrated seamlessly into the game, too; just go to “Find Server” and enjoy several minutes of looking for a server that isn’t empty or full and doesn’t contain moon gravity, 8x crits or map rotations alternating between cp_420snipersauna and ctf_yiffydiscofortress. It may be tough, but once you find a winning server you’ll feel like you just came in first place on your team. What satisfaction!
Once Team Butts gets together on a server, we are invariably split up due to auto balance. This isn’t much of a handicap, since the only way Team Butts can perform worse individually is when we are united. Upon joining, Butts Chat is filled with constant attempts at one-upmanship, as everyone tries to prove his team is by far the worst on the server. Initially it’s a simple game of looking at the class roster; debates will rage over which is worse, five engineers or nothing but soldiers and heavies with no medics. My fellow Butts and I quickly descend into the madness, attempting to bring order to a world ruled by chaos and 11 spies.
Our efforts are invariably rendered useless, our teams stubbornly refusing to actively pursue victory. Meanwhile, extended play and observations soon cause Butts Chat to become more heated. Butt Eric may ask if Butt Justin saw that medic attempting to bonesaw the heavy-medic combo taking our point, heavy first; Justin in turn may point out half his team has changed to Sniper during Sudden Death. Butt Enoch will decry the lack of sentry guns or teleporters while we have three engineers standing around and wrestle with the idea of becoming a fourth just so we have some kind of defense. As for me, I’m most often caught screaming about my team all switching to the class I just picked because no one else was playing it. And it happens all the time; as you can imagine, I often end gaming sessions hoarse and shaking.
And let’s not forget Steam, a software package surely spawned by the unholy union of Gabe Newell and Satan in the guise of a ham sandwich. If you’re armed with a speedy behemoth computer this may not apply to you; additionally, I sincerely hope your face rots off. On my computer, Steam spreads like a virulent plague, a computerized cancer that has neither pity nor remorse and will stop at nothing until it devours every functional part of the PC. The rage generated by an errant press of the Windows key or “alt-tab” is truly unmatched, and burns all the way down.
However, sometimes this masochistic exercise in frustration simply isn’t enough. That is when we turn to the real ego grinder, Halo 3. The 4-vs.-4 format makes Halo 3 a perfect match for Team Butts; if only Team Butts was a perfect match for Halo 3. My very first step upon joining a lobby is to mute every non-Butt member. As much as I’d like to help contribute to the team dynamic and coordinate strategies and enemy reinforcements, it’s not worth constantly hearing how my mother is a gay, herpes-riddled walrus by whom the shouter had been fellated repeatedly the previous night.
Even without the distracting verbal soup that makes up Xbox Live, which happens to be a tangy blend of homophobic cursing and racial slurs, we find no sanctuary. It’s painful to admit, but our dreadful Halo 3 performance falls more at the feet of individual members and not on the game itself. Some of us refuse to set our controller sensitivity lower than 10, others are playing on blurry, standard definition television sets with poor color contrasts, and a key Team Butts rule is “never hesitate to fire a shot at an enemy,” even if a teammate may be in the way. Especially if a teammate is in the way.
The corrosive sense of malaise Halo 3 breeds is aided by the overwhelming presence of the Shotty Snipers game type and the horrendous selection of maps available for Team Slayer. Literally every map, from Isolation to Narrows to High Ground, is greeted with a chorus of angry shouts, wordless shrieks and quiet sobbing. During Halo 3, Butts Chat is every act of a Greek tragedy, all performed simultaneously. We’ve gotten so good at losing in Halo 3, in fact, that often frustrating defeats or cheap kills are not punctuated with fury or sarcasm, but instead a rushed description of what happened, which quickly devolves into a primal, gurgled scream. I would say the only sense of satisfaction gained from Halo 3 comes after a round is over, when we go back and give a gift to ourselves: negative “Quit Early” player reviews to people we hate. Regardless of how well I do in a round, nothing can quite compare to giving xXxWeedLord420xXx the official Butts’ Stamp of Disapproval. Teamwork can be a beautiful thing.
We also – occasionally – play Defense of the Ancients, a custom map for Warcraft III. I mention it last because it is, unequivocally, an awful game. Terribly balanced and buggy, the fact that it’s considered a tournament worthy game never stops being hilarious. When the Battle.net cretins are added to the equation, it goes from bad to practically unplayable. Only a few Butts continue to play, and even though I’m one of them on occasion, I still cannot rationalize it. If I had to point to a likely cause, I’d say early-onset dementia.
It bears repeating that I absolutely hate Team Butts and all that it stands for. At this point, though, the hours of frustration and wasted time, coupled with the promise of absolutely no change or improvement, have become a daily ritual. I would have to pick up a hardcore drug addiction and an abusive relationship to even come close to the misery I get from Team Butts in a single day, and gaming is somewhat less expensive and slightly better for my health. Plus I’d have push myself out of this chair, and I … I don’t believe that’s possible anymore.
Does Team Butts just love misery? Perhaps. But then again, we’re gamers, and if there’s one thing gamers love, it’s misery. You’d think it’d be games, but you’d be wrong. How else would you explain partaking daily in what forums, blogs and in-game chat all paint as an exercise in frustration and tears? The twinge of agony, the rage of defeat and a glimpse of victory; these are the things my fellow butterbeasts and I live for.
Bob Harris is a freelance contributor to The Escapist.