I’m standing in front of a TV wearing a headset with a microphone mouthpiece and holding a video game controller with about 12 buttons in my hands.
It’s hard to tell what’s on the screen anymore because it keeps going red – which means I’ve been killed. Again. For like the 20th time.
The Kill Cam shows my character, a nice-looking soldier, being shot from different angles, blood oozing onto the cement, as my new teammates and enemies, who are playing live with me, start shouting again.
“You just got poned, noob head,” they keep saying. Their names are KillMaster, SplitYoFace, LordStrikeYouDead, TangoDown, and BaptismbyFire.
We’re playing the war video game “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare2″ – rated M, meaning “Mature, 17+” – which the Entertainment Software Rating Board describes in a cute little summary:
“Players can shoot a wounded civilian that is crawling on the ground, or walk by and observe without opening fire. In either case, civilians scream and emit pools of blood as they are shot to death.”
So far, I haven’t killed anyone, but they most certainly have killed me.
But let me back up.
The plan was simple enough – figure out what in the world my grown-men guy friends were so obsessed with lately as they huddle around each other, pizza boxes and beer cans everywhere, high-fiving, yammering on about using the
“Glock 18″ – while we girls are outside on the terrace wondering when it became more fun to be an imaginary soldier or wizard than to flirt.
These are the same guys who, if they were really being honest with themselves, would add “moonlighting as a master warlock” to their resumes.
You know that image of a bunch of women getting their nails done and some guy looks in the window utterly confused, thinking, “What the heck are they doing in there all the time?”
Well, this is the same sentiment – what is the freakin’ point?
But what I didn’t realize as I began this anthropological journey is that what’s happening out there in the land of video games, populated by bazillions of people all over the world, is something much more elaborate than I had imagined.
These days, people are playing “massive multiplayer online role-playing games” (MMORPGs) – real-time situations connected to the Internet so you can literally be calling someone 10,000 miles away a “total loser dirt bag” in the privacy of your living room.
Eighty-five percent of these gamers are male, average age is 26, according to Nick Yee, an American researcher who has catalogued the game culture since 1999 on his website called The Daedalus Project.
Your perspective is first-person instead of omniscient and things are eerily life-like – you can pick your hair color, your favorite gun.
Gone are the days of guys named Mario who wear overalls and ride dragons that lay eggs, of flowers that spit fireballs, of saccharine carnival-sounding video game music.
Big, one-dimensional, gorilla-saving princess, this ain’t.
After about two hours of being called a noob and having stun grenade after stun grenade chucked at me in “Call of Duty,” I decided to switch games, needing some fresh air.
I popped in “Red Dead Redemption,” starring an outlaw cowboy named John Marston, whose gait is filled with such swagger, Clint Eastwood would tip his hat. (He’s easy on the eyes, too.)
Things were looking up. I was alone, away from those mean bullies. I had my horse and the open skies of the Wild West all around me.
I was finally relaxing – taking in Old America – when all of a sudden, I’m surrounded by scary thugs in some kind of a spaghetti Western-style Mexican standoff.
It’s like a whole posse of SplitYoFaces all over again.
They’re shouting things like “bloody you up” at me and when they try to make me skin a cow “or else,” I turn off the TV for good.
Forget it. I am exhausted. I need a shower. You win.
But for those of you still enticed by this playground of smack talk, I have compiled a list of words SplitYoFace, the town bully, yelled at me the most:
Noob (noun): Someone new to a game who sucks, who takes virtual mulligans and holds up the game, i.e., me. Origin: In a 14-year-old’s bedroom, after four slices of pizza, in 2002.
PWN, pron. “pone” (verb): Like, to own someone who you have never met and will never meet as you play a wizard on a television screen. “I just totally PWNed you.”
Murk (verb): Kill with style. It’s horrible, I agree.
Beast mode (adverbial phrase) Possibly murk and PWN. Use only if you are capable of proving said beast mode.
Every dirty curse word out there you’ve ever heard, and some you haven’t. Best used one after another in rapid-fire style.
Game on, noob.
Originally published in the Pasadena Star News on October 4, 2010