Previously on TMA Mondays, I reminisced on some personal experience with gaming relationships that meant more to me than time wasted in front of the tube. Today, I have one more story I would like to share, but this time, it is not about me at all. I have no emotional connection to the games in question, so I will not be getting into detail much about what was played. I merely stood in the background as a spectator, observing a bond built between two friends over nights and nights of noob pwning. This is a true tale of two gamers.
I have never been a fan of online multiplayer myself. It’s just one of those trends of Modern Day games that took off like a runaway train, and what very few attempts I have made to jump on board have not exactly been an appealing experience. However, I will never ostracize it, because no matter how much I despise the obnoxious, immature, homophobic, sexist, racist delinquents that pollute the community and paint us all in a bad light, or how so many developers feel so obligated to put online content in their products that they waste time and money shoving it in when they could be polishing the mechanics or lengthening the campaign, I still spent three of my years at Western Oregon University witnessing first hand the birth and rule of what the noobs of Xbox Live now infamously know as… The Society.
The story begins with one man named Kevin, AKA Deviant Society. Here was a man who bears conviction with every step he takes. A man of indomitable spirit, and a paragon of masculinity, and in many’s eyes, the very definition of a self-pleasuring fool. Yet underneath layers of Narcissism, this man had a dream, and that dream was to create an army of gamers under one flag. His flag. And together, they would strike fear, frags, and T-bags greater than the battlegrounds of Infinity Ward have ever witnessed. Using his college residence Arbuthnot Hall as a launching point, Kevin sought his first recruit. While many young gamers of Arby were already qualified with 360’s and established experience on Xbox Live and its extensive library of online shooters, Kevin sought someone with a clean slate. Someone he could meld to be his ideal cohort. Someone special.
Just around the corner of his own room resided Sam, a quiet, socially challenged hermit from Fall City with a niche group of friends (including myself) and never shy from his PC. He may not have owned the latest console at the time, but Sam’s gaming skills, thanks to his years of hacking, torrenting, and hard earned NES/SNES xp, were sharper than anyone else in Arbuthnot. Kevin saw this in him right away. Being the self-proclaimed master of Psychology that he was, Kevin knew exactly how to find what made the mysterious Sam tick. Before long, it took little more then some competitive motivation and a little push to get Sam out of his comfort zone, enter The Terminal (the third floor lounge), and log into Xbox Live under the alias, Nutt Society.
And so, Deviant and Nutt Society took Xbox Live by storm, leaving a trail of noobish blood in the wake of all the main events: Gears of War 2, Halo 3, Call of Duty 4, Left 4 Dead, if it was big, they were there. I myself witnessed firsthand the day the two of them earned an Extermination Medal (received by eliminating every single player on the opposing team before any of them respawn) on Halo 3. In fact the two of them were so good that Sam actually got reported by some sore loser claiming that his User ID Nutt Society was “offensive,” thus leading him to change it to simply Sam Society. Soon their numbers grew across Arbuthnot hall, as 360 owners rallied behind them.
- Justin, our neighbor: Clone Society.
- Jarred, neighbor #2: Specter Society
- Jake, neighbor #3: Muted Society
- Ivan, Arbuthnot Hall’s 2008-2009 RA: Rex Society.
- Colin, Kevin’s off campus classmate: Fuel Society
- Zack, Kevin’s hometown friend: Paradox Society.
- Kory, 2009-2010 RA: Cabal Society.
This here is only a handful of players within the vast community that Kevin had founded in the two short years he lived next to Sam and myself at WOU. Since then, it has continued to grow, and I have completely lost count a long time ago, but that’s not what’s important. Every gamer I’ve spoken to has claimed that their competitive gaming skills improved exponentially since they joined The Society. And it wasn’t because they played more games, since a good chunk of them already were hardcore gamers to begin with. There was something about the spirit of camaraderie that Kevin established here that brought out the best in all of them.
As for Sam, well, it was during one of The Society’s evening pwning sessions in The Terminal during 2008’s New Student Week when Sam was discovered by Stephanie, a very sweet and extremely beautiful girl from Hawaii (why anyone would leave such a warm beautiful home to take classes in the rainiest state of the continental US in the first place is beyond me, anyway…) who saw Sam’s deadpan expression, shady demeanor, lanky pasty body, and decided she was totally into that. Yeah I know, things like that are only suppose to happen in like Harem Anime Series or something and this is suppose to be the real world, but it totally happened. I was there, I watched it unfold, it was that effortless, and yes they are still happily together to this day.
So what exactly did I take away from all this? After all, as the lone PS3 owner of Arby Hall, I was merely the spectator, watching on the sidelines every night with Stephanie and Alexz (Kevin’s girlfriend-at-the-time/now wife). I developed strong bonds with these people on my own accord. Unfortunately, it’s only been a few years since, but those days are already long gone. Many of us have moved on, adjusting to new life styles, finding work wherever this crappy economy will give it to us. Even if we all wanted to take a trip to WOU just to meet up again at the usual spot and game it up just for old time’s sake, it’s out of the question. Why, well because the usual spot no longer exists. Arby Hall was torn down literally the year after I graduated.
And yet, life goes on. While I’ve been wallowing in the despair of being so detached from my old companions as of late, thanks to the magic of Xbox Live and Activision’s yearly releases, the bond between Deviante and Sam remains strong to this day. No matter how far apart we all may become some day, the two of them, along with the rest of The Societies, continue to fight side by side at least once every week. If there is anything about online multiplayer that I envy, it is that sense of camaraderie that I was only able to observe those few vital years of my life at WOU. Nowadays, if any new developments occur between my old college buddies, I feel like I’ll be the last one to find out.
Anyway, for those of you gaming challenged out there who took the time to read this and last week’s article, thank you. I would like to recommend a better way to understand your friends and loved ones who spend their time playing games, but apart from saying try to have an open mind, it’s a tough nut to crack. It’s not enough to say “watch what they see instead of watching them,” because you’ll still lose a lot of the context. (Plus if they’re playing an FPS, those are always a pain to watch.) I also hesitate to say “try playing a game or two yourself,” because unless your fellow gamer knows how to properly introduce you to games (might I recommend watching this for some pointers), there’s a likely chance your experience might not be a pleasant one. At this point, the best way to help everyone is for us all to take on our own fair share of tolerance. Love it or hate it, video games are a part of our culture now. Don’t be surprised if sometime, somewhere, when you least expect it, someone steps up to you and says, “I met my wife pwning noobs in Modern Warfare.”
Painting of Sam composed by Alexzandra Talbot. Check out the rest of her work at SpookyPookyCreations.org