Scarily observant readers who are eerily fleet of memory might remember me being excited about winning a copy of Halo 3 in an online competition at the end of September. After the first copy arrived at my local post office and promptly disappeared on October 5th, its replacement arrived on Thursday, November 1st.
After five weeks of waiting, on Friday night I put the disc in, plugged in my headphones and sat down to start playing online multiplayer Halo 3. I'd had a whale of a time playing with Jason and a friend from the office a few weeks before - online co-operative play through the game's mission levels - and I couldn't wait to play competitively. I was due to play with Stan a little later, but first I would have an opportunity to cut my teeth on some solo play and have a good warm up so as not to embarrass myself with people I actually knew.
Slayer on Snowbound
Slayer is Halo's version of every man for himself. It's you versus everyone else.
Through the wonders of the internet I can show you the playing environment - Snowbound.
It's a pretty map.
So the game started with four players and one guy dropped out instantly and then BAM! I was dead.
I restarted behind some barrels, started off in the direction of a tunnel and BAM! I was dead.
I restarte-BAM! I was dead.
I restarted, turned around, was blinded by the sun on the snow and BAM! I was dead.
Calm down, I thought. The game was free.
Then, as my character's gaze faded, I saw something wrong. The other two players were standing over my corpse together, looking around, waiting to see where I would come from next.
After briefly consulting the manual I opened the voice chat and said, "HEY! This isn't TEAMS!"
The fact that I was pissed off was due to five weeks of impatience, four humiliating deaths in as many tens of seconds, and the fact that I had only ever seen the other players when they were dancing over my corpse.
NOT FAIR! screamed my inner six year old.
The other players didn't respond immediately, but when they did, the high-pitched, juvenile voices were almost painfully inevitable.
BAM! I was dead.
"Stop it! This isn't teams!"
"Oh, yeah, you f**kwit! You can't f**king touch us! How old are you? How old are you, huh?"
BAM! I was dead. And pissed off.
I was attempting to machinegun, snipe and by any means annihilate two children under the age of ten. Halo 3, I would like to casually mention, is rated M for Mature by the ESRB, meaning 17+ only. Way to go, parents.
But then the voicechannel was open and I could hear everything they said, and they were both in the same room.
"Where is he? Where is he? THERE HE IS!"
BAM! I was dead.
"How old are you? Huh, huh, f**ker?"
I could hear older male voices laughing in the background. I stopped responding. Partly because I am a mature adult, and partly because when I start shouting into the headset on the Xbox Krissa has a piece of paper that she holds up that says "You. Are. A. Dork."
"How old are you? F**ker! You're not SAYING anything!"
Of course I was thinking, "You're old enough to have thumbs, you little shits, what else is important?" but I didn't say anything.
Whenever I managed to get one of them (which was rare) I am ashamed to say that it was enormously satisfying. But it didn't change the fact that I played the entire match being sworn at by people whose age was in the single digits and being killed exceptionally regularly.
Bungie.net shows that I died 29 times and returned the favour a meagre 9 times.
The children signed off with a joint "You're a sucker, f**ker".
I meekly opened the 'Player Review' section and asked to avoid them in future.
It's a sad fact that Xbox Live, much like the internet, is a brilliant vessel - one for information and services, the other for playing games - but the contents of the vessel vary from the excellent at one end of the spectrum to the utter, utter shite at the other.
The next game I played was one of the most enjoyable video gaming experiences of my life. Four new starters like me, all on their first evening, all strangers, but laughing at the comical defeats and praising each other's victories and racing around a different map like nobody's business. It was, frankly, exactly what I'd been hoping for.
Oh, and part of the enjoyment was probably due to the fact that I won.
Stan totally schooled me later, mind.