One of my favorite games right now is Left 4 Dead. You can’t possibly go wrong with zombies, guns, and cooperative multiplayer action.
Or so I thought, until this past weekend.
Up until now, I’ve been pretty fortunate in my online play. Sure, I’ve been teamed up with some real dopes from time to time, but mostly I’ve had the good luck to play with fairly intelligent adults. But the past two nights have, with rare exception, been a different experience.
Along with the undead and the near-dead, I’ve now played with the brain-dead: individuals apparently devoid of the gray matter that zombies crave so much. Individuals with unimaginitive, all-lowercase names like will and thomas, who find shooting their teammates or clogging the voice chat with anemic attempts at humorous banter to be far easier than actually fighting off the legions of Hell. Many more remain nameless, since I seldom saw them — they were too busy racing through the level to offer their teammates any kind of support.
I realize that my experience is not unique. Ever since I started playing Quake online in 1996, I have run into horrible players. I read about foul-mouthed 13-year-olds on Xbox Live all the time. An environment that allows for anonymity and easy communication at the same time is bound to cultivate that kind of activity. The studies into the phenomenon are legendary.
Maybe it was the fact that it involved zombies, or that I had waaaaay too much caffeine in my system, or that I was suffering from some sort of bug that prevented me from sleeping soundly the night before, but when reflecting upon this sad state of affairs last night I had a revelation. Not an uplifting spiritual revelation or a world-improving scientific revelation, but rather a “oh crap, we’re screwed” firefly-flash of insight. It is this:
Left 4 Dead is not simply a brilliantly-conceived and executed first-person shooter, it is a hyperaccurate simulation of a zombie apocalypse.
When the zombie apocalypse comes, who will survive? The Ted Nugents, the Heidi Grimms, the Les Strouds? Nope. They’ll either be killed off by the mutated supervirus or by tragic accidents in the midst of riots and civil disorder as the citizenry panics.
Instead, the survivors will be the aforementioned wills and thomases, the Octomoms, the ShamWow guys, the Ward Churchills. They’ll be the hapless Taco Bell crewmembers who can never get a drive-through order right (I’m looking at you, Powers and Palmer Park store). They’ll be head shop employees, minor politicians and the shrillest members of your homeowner’s association.
Cooperation between armed survivors won’t be the norm…because you’ll want to shoot them in the head within minutes. You’re not going to be marooned with the Professor, you’re going to be teamed with Gilligan. And Lucy, and Urkel and Bobcat Goldthwait. Everybody on MTV, the E! Channel, and Bravo.
Yep, the truly dead will be the lucky ones.