D0411 T1957 Y2007Secret Society

Gather ‘round the ‘Tied the Leader’ mailbag, ye gamer. This week, we are entreated into a look inside the mind of a gamer named Demagogue. Actually, that’s TTL Demagogue to you. The poor bastard took the plunge this week and donned his gamertag area-code, thus opening himself up to further scorn and ridicule from rabble-rousers in the pre-game lobby.

“Dem” [to me] is a content manager for our clansite. He enables the telling of the story of the Gunslingers – and the brave gamers who challenge them. Throughts have been rolling around in Dem’s head this week – thoughts about the secret lives we lead away from the controller.

Take it away, Dem…

There are others – an underground brotherhood of Spartans. They are rarely seen outside of the corridors of Lockout or the sandy beaches of Zanzibar. It’s rare to see one that’s not suited up in his Mjolnir armor or carrying a battle rife in his hands with a secondary strapped to his back.

Recently, I fell in behind a couple of students as I was walking across campus to my office. What caught my attention and pricked my interest were two words: “battle rifle.” A little discreet eavesdropping revealed that, sure enough, these two were off-duty Spartans who had simply left their gear back in the barracks. In their off time, they were discussing some of the finer points of war. They soon peeled off toward one of the academic buildings, but for that brief moment, though they themselves didn’t know it, we were brothers-at-arms.

Of course, there are still the uninitiated. A gentleman came to my house last night to tune my piano, and while he worked, I set about bringing my new Xbox 360 online. Somewhere during the process, he asked me what games I’d bought. Not immediately understanding, I simply gave him a blank look; so he repeated the question, this time gesturing toward the 360. Still a little confused, I replied that I hadn’t bought any games. His response to that revealed the depth of my obsession – “What are going to do with it, then – just look at it?”

How do you explain the camaraderie of a Halo clan? How do you explain that the enjoyment of a 360 comes primarily from the imminent Halo 3 Beta and the release of Halo 3 in the fall? How do you explain a community of gamers that are linked based on this console? I tried, but his blank look in response demonstrated the uniqueness of those of us whole call ourselves Spartans, who suit up on a regular basis to play at war, who do so, yes, for love of the game, but more importantly, who do so for community with like-minded gamers in search of a Good Game.

Dem! You fool! You broke the first TWO rules of Fight Club. Of course you cannot explain these things. No one can be told what the matrix is. You must experience it for yourself. This gamerblogger has tried on a few occasions to communicate the specter of the clan system for Halo 2 and the endless roleplay if affords us as an added layer of the gaming experience.

My father tried to recant the story in mixed company once, saying: “Hey Deej, tell your brother-in-law about that thing you do when you shoot people in those Internet chat rooms…” Imagine my back peddling, as I tried to deconstruct my newfound perception as a Internet-bound serial-killing predator.

You do pass Spartans on the path. It’s hard not to clap them on the back and ask them for their gamertag. “Me too!” “I play Halo.” “You in a Clan?”

You pass a dude on your block who is wearing a Bungie hoodie. You know his girlfriend doesn’t want gamers coming out of the woodwork on the one occasion in which she was able to wrest him away from the console.

You watch a kid in the lobby of your haircut place shooting fish in a tank with an imagined plasma pistol, his chubby little hand trembling as the mimicked hum reaches a crescendo. You can imagine the glow of green plasma at the tip of his finger, as well as the shock from his parents if you were to engage him in conversation.

You stop at a red light behind the wheel of a rented car in a strange town, and someone pulls up next to blaring some Marty O’Donnell. You can’t run him off the road and collect a splatter medal off his ass. That is frowned upon.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Spartans 6

D0129 T1835 Y2007Open Letter to the Left Behind

Over the course of the past week, your fellow gamers [yourself included, no doubt] set new records for frequency in checking for new e-mail messages. This gamerblogger certainly rolled up his sleeves and trolled the neglected depths of a spam-ridden Inbox filled with more shit-smelling foulness that I can describe. Millions of anxious Cyber-Spartans sat breathless before workstations – dutifully deflecting inconsequential missives from real-life friends and unsolicited advertisements for products that would boost their sexual performance. We all awaited those ten coveted words:

YOU HAVE BEEN SELECTED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE HALO3 BETA!

For the sad and vast majority, despite obsessive refreshes of mail clients every other minute [on the minute], those same words would never arrive. Of the 99 gamers on Tied the Leader’s active roster for Halo2, only 5 were scooped up as a fraction of Phase One. An overly dejected TTL Gunslinger was seen on our MidWorld forum making a comparison between “The Word of God” and Bungie’s announcement.

This bloggergamer must go on record that he does not personally relate to Bungie as any form of Deity; nor does he think that the Halo 3 Beta is Heaven [unless, of course, such a proclamation would earn me a seat]. However, with such rampant devotion among Halo fans, it would be fun to draw out these comparisons.

Disclaimer: The following is a work of gamer satire, and intended only for the sake of entertainment and amusement. If you are easily offended and prone to crusades, please forget that you ever saw this website ever [you are getting very sleepy] and seek out the support of your peers immediately.

Are they gone? Okay!

Let’s have some fun. Shall we?

For the faithful citizens of the Halo Nation, the selection of the first Flock of Beta Testers is very much like the Rapture. For the select few in the ranks of The Chosen, the pearly gates of the Halo 3 Beta test have swung wide. Bungie has selected the true believers that will ascend to a higher plane just prior to the last battle against ultimate evil. For the Saved, a promise has been granted that they will not be forsaken when the time comes to Finish the Fight. Those who have been left behind will be forced to wrestle with mortal demons such as Envy and Rage and Sloth. Anger will fester. Hate will brew. Civilizations will fall in flames.

Okay, maybe that last part was hyperbole – but we can [at least] look forward to a few flame wars on Internet forums.

For those not divine enough to be chosen as part of Phase One, gamers can still earn their Halo [get it?] through strict adherance to the Rule of Three. The name itself seems indicative of the Holy Trinity. If you think that I am referring to that black-latex-clad vixen who walks on walls while dual-wielding machine-guns, you have clearly missed a few days of Sunday School. Keep up, or I will rap your knuckles with a ruler! The Rule of Three will drive gamers to Xbox Live [that grand assembly of followers] to log three hours of gaming at a time designated by the Maker. This begs the question: Can you get into Heaven if you go to church often enough? Or do these empty deeds ring hollow in the ears of our Creator?

If all else fails [and despite what your local Pastor might tell you], it is possible to BUY your way into Heaven! That’s right, devoted Geeks… Purchasing your copy of Crackdown is like dropping ten percent of your worldly income into velvet coffers. You can Tithe at your local Best Buy or EB Games. Lay your sinful bounty on the Altar of Microsoft, and you shall be welcomed into the Kingdom of God with open arms. Grasp the holy hammer [Mjolnir] and get to killin!

If this all reads like the toxic rant of a jaded fanboy, I do cry pardon. I mean only to have a little fun with current events. Once upon a time, this Minister of Propaganda spit nails over his poor prospects for spending a sweaty wad of Christmas cash on an Xbox 360 launch-unit. Since the subsequent debut of the PlayStation 3, we have learned just how good we have it in the First United Church of Xbox Live.

J Allard [my Hiro] is welcome to official retractions for any and all public bellyaching. Say thankya.

What’s more, we should all be eternally grateful that a developer such as Bungie is willing to open the vault prior to the launch of their next title. The past two years of history have provided a mountain of evidence to the fact that they are quite able to build a Killer App without our help or input. Nevertheless, this game is being made for you, fair gamer; and your opinion counts for something.

Well, maybe not your opinion. But the opinion of someone like you will count for something. We can only put our faith in the hands of the testers now.

For those of us who are left behind, there is always the joy of a proper and pure launch-day for Halo3 – a Christmas morning unspoiled by a peek into the attic. It will only take us a matter of hours to catch up to those early-adopters who have already staked out the sweetest perch to camp on Valhalla with a Sniper Rifle. Fear not. Our day will come – without preconceived notions or dilluted awe.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Followers 9

D0123 T2242 Y2007"The Talk"

Greetings from the ‘Tied the Leader’ Gunslingers Institute of Gamer Relations, reminding you to always reload when everything goes quiet.

Remember that statistic about adults being the controlling majority of the gaming consumer base? You can look it up. If you are a dude between the ages of 18 to 40 – and you play video games – there are more dudes just like you that are doing that than anyone else who is also. That’s your jungle in there, Caveman!

That statistic points to a silent war on the real homefront of any Big Team Battle. It’s a secret and subtle war played out in the home that serves as the point of entry into the game for any gamer. According to THESA, that’s a lot of homes. The only alternative to war in these environments is an eternal dialogue of negotiation with the Domestic Partner that holds real-life proximity to The Box.

The role of the Domestic Partner can be filled by any number of demographics: beloved wife, live-in girlfriend, saturday night girl, fishin’ buddy, ‘my fucked-up roommate’, and ‘this chick who won’t leave my fucked up roommate alone’ are common adversaries to a healthy gaming addiction. While many of the people found in these categories do not qualify as Domestic Partners for tax purposes, they do have real-life proximity to The Box. They are, therefore, a direct threat to the game. A fragile peace must be brokered if the game is to flow.

Sound familiar? Here is a case study. Meet Chae Si, newest of the TTL Gunslingers. In his description of the aforementioned threat matrix scenario, many of us can find mention of truths and common obstables.

Chae Si said: One of the more difficult situations I have been faced with as a gamer, is how to be a gamer and a husband of a non-gamer. First off, my wife is an amazing and loving person [XerxdeeJ EDIT: “blah, blah, blah, cut to the chase”] who has without fail supported all of my hobbies and passions. Then there was the xbox.

I started noticing that when I chose to play xbox she would become agitated. It was at that time that we had “The Talk”.

There are three things that bother her.

1. She explained that when I play I am focused in a way that is un-interruptable and that it’s tough to be cut off her partner like that.

2. Gaming seems lacking in value; unlike reading, playing guitar, playing sports, or even watching TV.

3. The third thing that bothers her is the grungy seedy side of gaming that she sees when I am on-line – from the lobby comments to the gamer tags. I mean, try explaining to your wife that it is ok for some 14 year old to call himself “UrMOMonMYwong” or something even fouler. (I made that up, but I HAVE seen worse and so have you)

We’ll sure we have! We been rounding up those ne’erdowells and turning them into the Praetorians for, well, a long time. We don’t talk about ‘em. And we sure and Hell don’t let our wives know about ‘em!

The real problem here is that you are breaking the first two rules of Fight Club. You had the talk? You can’t sell the flavor of the Kool-aid to someone who doesn’t like high-fructose corn syrup.

The confidential details of Chae Si’s case study reveal a successful treaty. In this scenario, the gamer is able to explain the benign nature of the pastime – yet defend the right to not “come and see what the Dog Whisperer is up to” when the flag is in play and a fresh Hog has just spawned. In order to elevate the experience of the role play, he has filled his headset with the chatter of team mates [good boys] instead of the constant wall of sound that erupts from a Rumble Pit.

The floor is open to recommendations for how these treaties are best ratified on your own personal turf.

This gamer employs a predictable routine of sweet-ass date nights interspersed among potential game nights. I am also uniquely allied with a Domestic Partner who gave me both of the Xboxes that have served my campaign. Top that!

This does not mean that she enjoys the sound of me calling out sniper positions at 2:00 in the freaking morning, but I am lucky that Mrs. DeeJ would rather have me roaring at the television than being vomitted upon by Hockey fans.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 7

D1208 T1328 Y2006got pwned?

Every once in a while, a reader of ‘Tied the Leader’ submits an idea for us to speak about on this open forum. Every once in a while, these subsmissions speak for themselves.

The image below comes courtesy of El Burritoh. In the ranks of the TTL Gunslingers, he is a graphic artist, photographer, sniper, and 50% of TTL’s webmastering Nerd Squad. You can find other examples of his work plastered all over our webring.

I felt that this little diddy deserved a place all it’s own.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comment 19

D0803 T1622 Y2006Open Letter From a Grief Stricken Spartan

The TLL Mailbag continues to fill with rants and ideas from the thoughtful gamers who are desperately seeking to deposit lead into your helmet. This week, we are visited by a KillerAngel in search of logic amidst the madness that infects Xbox Live on an almost pandemic level.

KillerAngel writes:
I have recommended, for years now, that my brother partake of the community. He finally has and his emergence has induced me to fling myself right back into Halo 2. For the last week, the community has, once again, been what I recalled. Great sportsmen. Great players (much to my chagrin when they get the upper hand on me). And generally fun to BS with after a game. I’ve encountered a few minor annoyances with play – including ISP woes on my end. But nothing so bizarre as what I witnessed this evening…

I joined a Matchmade Team Slayer session, which placed us on Ascension, one of my favorite maps. Despite how dreadfully I play on it. As we trudged along, doing our best against an incredible team, I began to suspect cheating on their part. You see, we were doing well, but not tremendously so. Unfortunately, our team progress bar wasn’t moving in the least. Two players on my team ended the session with twelve kills each, a third with four kills. The fourth player finished with -29. This individual spent the entire game “committing suicide”. This perplexed me more than I could imagine possible. Why would anyone want to do this?

How could a team place a player in matchmaking to deliberately commit suicide and run down their team’s overall score? It didn’t seem possible, but it was annoying me to no end in the game. Afterwards, in the lobby, this player dropped immediately and several other players explained he was trying to decrease his skill level, so he could play lesser skilled players.

Is this common? If it is, what purpose could it possibly serve?

XerxdeeJ replies:
First of all, good on you for dragging your brother kicking and screaming into the Halo Universe. We need all the n00bs we can pwn. The article immediately following this one details the importance and joy of each gamer fulfilling his or her recruitment quota for replacement soldiers.

Second of all, was this your first encounter with a suicide bomber? Really?

If it is, you have truly led a charmed life as a multiplayer denizen on the battlefields of Halo2. Your assessments of the community are, in general, highly flattering. It would be poor hospitality to mock you for bringing this up, but we have seen people sabotaging their own rank for as long as there was a rank to sabotage. My suspicion would be that this has happened to you before, perhaps when you were not paying such close attention to the scoreboard.

To answer your first question: Yes. It is common. It is rampant, even.

To answer your second question: The practice of committing suicide [intentional suicide, that is – not the suicide penalty you get for firing a rocket too close to a wall] would serve two purposes in the mind of the lonely perpetrator who we find in the corner, dropping grenades at his feet. I am not saying that these are valid purposes, but they are purposes nonetheless. They fall into the categories of “Griefing” and “Deleveling”.

“Deleveling” refers to people who shy away from a “Good Game”. They don’t want to compete. They want to win. And they don’t want to work for it. In Halo2, this can be done by losing enough games to have one’s rank adjusted down. This practice is not, however, isolated to online multiplayer for our favorite game. Smaller heavyweight boxers will lose weight in order to pound on middleweight boxers. Golfers lie about their handicap. High School athletes are intentionally flunked by their schools to give them an edge as they step onto the collegiate field. Imagine Tiger Woods showing off at the local miniature golf course. Picture Babe Ruth hustling a bet at the local batting cages. That’s the guy we are talking about.

“Griefing” refers to a brand of emotional terrorism, in which the offending party derives their satisfactions from ruining something that is widely enjoyed by others. It’s as simple as that. “Griefing” is done for the sake of inflicting grief. This breed of ne’erdowell is found in many different theatres of the human condition. He wields the laser pointer on opening night of that movie for which you have waited three seasons to see. He drops a box of laundry detergent into the public fountain on the day of the parade. He unscrews the cap of the shaker, entreating the next diner to more than their monthly requirement of salt. He is the mailbox baseball player, the pumpkin smasher, and the fire alarm puller.

What can be done? Form up in larger groups, Killer. Matchmaking is fine for driving worthy opponents your way. Don’t expect the best if you rely on Matchmaking to choose your teammates. You can’t choose your Brother, but you can make him play Halo2 if he ends up being cool. On the same token, friends are the family that you choose!

You must choose wisely.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Grief Stricken 17

D0719 T1203 Y2006Open Letter From a Fighting Irishman

Every once in a while, the Constant Readership of ‘Tied the Leader’ shouts back from the black hole that is the blogosphere. It always warms the heart of this gamerblogger to know that someone out there cares. This week, a humble request for some advice of the Ministry of Sportsmanship comes from a young man whom we will call “Fighting Irishman”.

“Fighting Irishman” writes:
I’m a longtime reader of this blog and I love the new look. I’m turning 20 next month and I’m looking forward to next year when I can be a TTL Gunslinger, hopefully right after Halo 3 drops. I won’t waste any more of your time. The question I ask is for advice. You see, I always manage to cap every win or loss with a “Good Game”, but I have that Irish Temper, and if someone starts trash talking to me I can’t help but say something back. I’m worried this will keep me out of the TTL Gunslingers and I need advice on how to stop this behavior so in a year I’ll be ready to rock out with the rest of you. Thanks for your time.

“XerxdeeJ” replies:
No, no, no… Thanks for YOUR time. I am a longtime writer of this blog, and I had nothing to do with the new look; but I will pass on your props to the responsible parties. A discussion like this is the farthest thing from a waste of my time. I am glad that you asked. It’s why we are in business around here, lad!

The consistent practice of good sportsmanship on Xbox Live is like staying sober after a lifetime as a binge drinker. First of all, it is easier to accomplish if you surround yourself with others who hold the same goal. “One Day at a Time”, they say. Second of all, your boiling Irish blood will be your highest risk factor for falling off the high-horse of that wagon. This bloggergamer has forgotten more about the Irish Temper than anyone should ever hope to know. Oh yes, my Celtic Brother! Once upon a time, all it took was two whiskey shots and a sideways glance for me to be anyone’s partner in a shouting match. I feel much better now.

When it comes to Sportsmanship, the most important thing to remember is that you [and you alone] are in control of your game. When you allow your opponents to set the tone of the dialogue that flies across the post-game NeutralZone, you surrender your control to them. Then, they win. When they pull you away from your morals, the Moral Victory is theirs.

No matter how long your career as a gamer, you will never escape the fact that most of your opponents are going to take pleasure from pissing you off. For some, it is psychological warfare. For others, it is poor parentage. Comments about your Mother are always popular in those instances. There is also the paradox in which they will mock YOU for being “gay”, and then boast that THEY “raped” you – sometimes in the same breath. I never really understood that one, but I have better conundrums to ponder. We all do.

I would have to admit that I am not above the occasional toxic retort when our opponents fall short of respectability. If a game is host to an unbearable amount of trashtalking or [God forbid] cheating, I have been known to say something in the post-game lobby like: “This is the moment in which we usually say ‘Good Game’, but I am afraid that does not apply to you.” Then I back us out before things get ugly. Some of our Gunslingers, however, know nothing but the high-road. They speak their lesson true. To them, I say “Thankya”.

What’s more, it is surprising how you really can kill someone with kindness…

US: “Good Game…”
THEM: “Whatever, you guys suck.”
US: “Good Game…”
THEM: “Did you hear me? I said you got owned!”
US: “Good Game…”
THEM: “SHUT THE [blam] UP, YOU [blam]ING N00BS!
US: “Good Game.”
THEM: “Chest, hurts. Left arm, aches. Must get, help…”
US: “Good Game…”
THEM: [labored panting, then silence]

Stick to your guns. Play your game, Irishman. Don’t play theirs. Seek out like-minded allies with whom you can form a unified front against the bullshit chatter that emanates from online multiplayer gaming in all its forms.

While you are correct in your assumption that would-be Gunlingers [of the TTL variety] need be 21 years of age, you need not be that old to play with us, or against us. Get thee to the MidWorld Forum and make some friends in the Guest Book. I even made a new board just for you. We will be expecting you. Door is open.

UPDATE: Our “Fighting Irishman” has given me release to unmask him as DeadHead88. As a further bit of advice: Play more team games. Get out of the Rumble Pit a little more often. When everyone is your enemy, you can’t expect anyone to be your friend.

This is an issue that effects us all. Perhaps some other readers can share their favorite tactics for facing down a trash-talker.

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Favorite Retorts 16

D0124 T1442 Y2006Dead Letter Office

Announcing a new feature: ‘Letters to the Editor’

Actually, such would not be a new feature. This column has answered several letters, or e-Mails, or whatever. The announcement just drags the exchange into the realm of Official Practice. The Editor of ‘Tied the Leader’ is always interested in what members of the gaming community [to be interperated: YOU] are thinking. Most of the posts in this vast wasteland of gaming-related time-killers are designed to jar you out of your corner, to bring you out swinging like a flag-carrier with their back to the wall.

At times, the passion behind these responses can be surprising. The dialogue between the readers takes on a life of its own. Those are the better days in the lifespan of a blog. It can be a challenge to find those issues that warrant more than an unspoken “hmmmm…” Flame wars are easy to start and messy to put out. The communication of an idea that gives flight to complimentary ideas that can be hard.

Your voice is always welcome here, you game-addicted surf-aholic. You know this, don’t you? Even if what you have to say is in stark disagreement with the thoughts and opinions listed on these pages. So long as you are respectful – your voice has a seat at this table. Gamers are a contentious crowd by nature. After all, don’t we constantly agree to disagree over Xbox Live?

“We want the neutral bomb.”
“No, that bomb is ours. We want it.”
“Be that as it may, I am going to detonate it in that filthy dive you call a base.”
“Not if this Rocket Launcher has ANYTHING to say about it, you elitist neat freak.”

“Leave me out of this, fellas. I am over here in the corner deleveling with a grenade. I miss the days when I was a 14…”

This blog has long been operated like a Monarchy. Too long. You are welcome to submit an article of your very own. Apply some careful strokes to that keyboard, fellow gamer. Tell your story. Voice your complaint. Sing your praise. Out a cheater! ‘Tied the Leadeer’ seeks to draft your voice into active service. Use this thread to share your perceptions on gamer culture. Your topic. Your words. Define the world in which you play.

This is for the constant reader who has found themselves thinking:
“I have a rant that deserves to be heard, but I have no interest in starting my own blog…”

Try not to go all manifesto, now. No one wants to scroll through five screens worth of pixelated real estate to reap your gist. Hold your comments to three or four effective paragraphs, if you can. It is hard. I know.

Of course, in submitting a Letter to the Editor, your acceptance of the following agreement is implied:

-I agree to allow my comments to be repurposed for an article on this blog

-I expect no other compensation than that of a writing credit

-I understand that my comments will be answered; perhaps even countered

-I realize that The Editor is an unsufferable smart-ass, and may have a little well-intended fun at my expense

-I have been informed that my comments may not be responded to at all, in which case I will settle for feeling better having gotten them off my chest

Wishing everyone a good game…

Posted by XerxdeeJ

Comments 1