It was just another day on one of my favourite Counterstrike: Source servers. My objective was to attain that elusive No.1 slot on the server ranking system, so I had been storming around like a sex-crazed bull for the past few hours, sharing my lovingly flung bullets with all who crossed my path. ‘Twas on this fateful day that my gaming perceptions were wrenched askew. And for the first time ever, CSS forced me to make a decision that had moral implications. It all happened on de_chateau.
The map started well, with myself on the Terrorist force, and the teams balanced at 4 apiece. The skill level on the server was quite high overall, with the CT putting up a strong resistance to our varied forays into the bombsites. But as the match progressed, it was apparent that we had a n00b in our presence. By half-time, a CT by the name of Matty had a kill/death ratio of 0/16.
Since allspeak was enabled, I could hear his teammates’ scathing observations on his performance, demanding to know precisely why Matty felt the need to grace them with his presence. After a long pause, the hesitant voice of a nervous 12 year old whispered through the public channel, his apprehension evident. He apologised to his team, and offered to join another server if they wanted. His contrite reparation was completely ignored by his entire team, and they continued their discussion without so much as acknowledging his apology.
I suddenly felt something I had not experienced before; a twinge of sympathy for this poor lad who was trying hard to play a new game, but was being given such short shrift by callous CSS veterans. This intensified as I watched my teammates gleefully claim easy kills at his expense, and as I myself punctured his cerebellum whilst his spray of bullets spattered harmlessly into the brickwork behind me. Kudos to Matty, he persevered, despite no doubt feeling utterly worthless. He even tried joining in conversation with the rest of them, but they paid little heed to his attempts at communication, just using him as the butt of their jokes.
By the final round, T and CT were tied for score, so this would be the decider. My teammates faked a rush on A, and I went alone to B with the bomb. After a distant gunfight at A, my entire team were mown down by a stoic CT defence. As they swarmed back to B, I cut them all down at the business end of my AK, until only one was left – Matty.
There was no sign of the poor, maligned n00b, but the fate of his entire team lay in his hands. I planted the bomb and crept upstairs to guard it from above. Sure enough he furtively shuffled into sight sporting a cheap gun and nervously glanced round trying to see me. He then made a beeline for the bomb, and started defusing. I let my crosshairs linger idly over his head for a second, as I contemplated the sad fact that this would seal his fate as a hopelessly incapable novice.
With a sudden flash of pity, I swung my aim up a few inches and loosed off a couple of shots just above his head. He stopped defusing and started firing blindly in my direction. I sprayed back my fire, making sure to hit him once or twice on the legs and arms, but eventually ensuring that he finally got the better of me. Matty unleashed an elated cry of sheer delight into the speech channel, and carried on defusing the bomb.
I sat back with a feeling of detachment as the map ended in favour of CT. They had finally accepted Matty, and were blessedly praising him in light of his accomplishment. Simultaneously, my team were jibing my own inadequacy, and laughing at my apparent incompetence. I didn’t care. Everyone on the server was happy or laughing, and Matty was in heaven, as his stuttering cries of excitement made evident. It brought a deep feeling of satisfaction to know how much pleasure I had granted him.
The server closed to the sound of excitement and laughter. The realisation struck that, all things told, that is what online gaming should be about. Our goal should be to have fun, not necessarily to win; that is just a bonus. It has changed the way I look at games, and makes playing them a lot more fun, not just for myself, but for others too. The memory of Matty will live on.