Take some time to consider what your greatest feat or most outstanding accomplishment in a video game has been. I’ll wager it takes all of two seconds to come up with a strong candidate, if not, recall exactly what you consider to be the most fun or most badass thing that’s ever happened to you while gaming.
Any game could provide this for you. It doesn’t need to be an experience unique to you. Maybe it happened to everyone who played a particular game from start to finish, but for you it sticks out as having some meaning. You reached a new level at this moment, whether it’s a level of skill, awareness or just sheer enjoyment. This could happen playing anything from World of Warcraft to Mario Kart to Tetris. You might have survived a wearying 2v1 in PvP, finally beat your big brother, or even in a non-competitive game a switch just flipped and suddenly you were playing with a speed and responsiveness you never knew before.
Personally, mine came in an Assault match in Halo 2. Something to stress about Halo 2 is that it is far from my favorite game of all time. It’s not even close to my favorite shooter. In fact, it’s probably pretty close to the bottom right above Shadowrun. As a freshman in college though, that’s what was being played by almost everyone in my dorm. Thank goodness, because it created this moment.
The game we were playing was a variant of Assault, which involved one team attempting to carry a bomb into the opposing team’s base (and primary spawn area), arming and planting the bomb. Our favored version featured a single bomb that wasn’t owned by either team, and could be used by either to score points by detonating it in the enemy base. This game-type continues to stick out to me as a great objective-based style of play that can cater to a variety of play-styles. We could try to muscle our way in and wipe everyone out to have an open path to the target, or we could try to be stealthy and sneak in where the defense was weakest. The bomb-carrier had no access to his guns without dropping the bomb and marking its location for everyone in the game, so stealth was often my approach.
The map was Containment. This giant of a map was generally ‘S’ shaped and had a large walled-in structure at either end which served as the bases we were trying to bomb. Walking across was not advisable, as it’d take a good 4-5 minutes of your day. There were caves along the sides, ditches through the middle and a couple of side entrances to each base along with a front door that could be manually opened to drive through if desired. You could also run up the front of the wall to the base if you could stand being in the open. It was a break from the usual setting, which was usually capture the flag on Coagulation, the Halo 2 version of Blood Gulch.
There’s really two things you need to know about this match. First, it lasted four hours. This was the match that my girlfriend called me three times (bless her for only three) and each time I told her “I’ll call you back! Halo!” Needless to say that relationship didn’t last both semesters. The other thing you need to know is the ending. The match was tied at 2-2, so the next successful bomb plant would decide the winner. My team had the bomb and was in great position to score. We reached the area that initiated the arming sequence and completed it, all we had to do was walk ten feet to the target spot and the game was ours!
We didn’t survive those ten feet.
Instead we were face-stomped by the hail of bullets from the newly respawned enemy. In hindsight, we may have made a more balanced game by increasing the respawn length. Instead we made something awesome, because this created a very uncommon situation which we hadn’t seen before. The bomb was armed, but not planted. This meant that the next team to get to the bomb sight could skip the five-second arming sequence and directly plant the bomb. Thanks to the in-game announcer this was apparent to everyone. The mad dashes back and forth accounted for the last 30-45 minutes of the game culminating into my greatest finish to a game.
I had the armed bomb in my hands, after heroically stopping the enemy from planting. We had a fresh warthog spawned in our base, and my friend — handle RDAS — was ready to drive. RDAS is a wonderful human being and friend, but a great Halo player, he is not. At this moment, his driving was flawless. Taking the narrow paths and dodging incoming rockets, he drove up to a common breaching point for this enemy base, a small cave on its left side. RDAS stepped out and ran into the cave and started making as much noise as possible to draw the enemies attention. I crouch-walked all the way to the front wall and slowly began my ascent. The four defenders who charged their cave realized too late that the bomb was not there with the martyred corpse of RDAS. I ran the last few steps up the top of their bunker and jumped down amid bullet fire from enemies who were just too far away to get a clean shot at me.
And there was much rejoicing.
I stepped out of my room and ran hollering down the hallway fists in the air, pausing only to hear the lamentations of my foes from their own dorm rooms. The match lasted four hours and we spent the better part of the next hour discussing it. Then I carefully calculated the apology I would soon be giving the girlfriend.
Stories like these are what make gaming great. It wasn’t just mindlessly mashing buttons and staring at a screen, it was like a great tennis match. Assuredly boring to some watching who don’t understand the ebbs and flow, but each moment of the match is a small battle with a lot of meaning to it. It can look dull because each side is evenly matched, so the pushing and shoving often cancels out and appears to be a stalemate. Endurance and determination eventually decide the outcome. Some people will say that games keep players coming back for their addictive elements, sensory overstimulation, or their mindless laziness. The truth of the matter is, we’re just like anyone who engages in a physical sport like tennis, basketball or football. You may watch a full season of basketball just for the thrill of that buzzer-beating three to send it into overtime. As gamers, we play often and live for the epic wins.