Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Top 5 Games That Ruin Friendships

I know that look in Yoshi's eyesI have written recently about the concept of collaborative gaming, and like any good train-0f-thought, it led me to start pondering the opposite end of the spectrum: competitive gaming. In a world where the masses fear the isolating effects of video games -- the loss of family values among them -- fingers are pointed at all sides, and some noble developers strive to produce the perfect “family” game.

There are plenty of fun, feel-good, home-style board games that deserve lots of praise for their creativity, and some video games have been popping up that deliver a surprisingly comparable effect. However, there are some games that, despite their developers intentions (or perhaps as a direct result of them), fan the flames of ire between the players, be they on a physical board or a back-lit screen. I reflected on the worst of such games, and I have composed this [angry] list for your reading pleasure.

#5: The New Super Mario Bros Wii, multiplayer

It was after an extensive debate that I finally placed this game on my list, and it appears at the lowest rank because of my personal bias. I love this game, but it can understandably cause some tension if you have any shreds of pride in your platformer skills. Not only can it be extremely frustrating when players bash into each other in mid-air while trying to escape the shooting death-lava or a sinking foothold, it’s also reasonable to hypothesize that the developers must have had some malicious intentions when they programmed in the ability to pick up other players and throw them around without their consent. I have, on multiple occasions, been hurled off the edge of the screen by my partners, a martyr for the Big Coin cause, without having any say in the matter. While I thought it was hilarious at the time, I can see how others might see it differently.

#4: Halo 1-3

One of the more ubiquitous titles in gamer households, Halo’s multiplayer can be fun and an amusing opportunity to exorcise your inner immaturity, releasing it before it can escape in front of your boss or your girlfriend. Regardless of which version of Halo you prefer, the diversity of game-rules, the detailed maps, and the grounds laden with weapons can add spice to any individual or team battle between your and your buddies.

But while stat-lines such as “Boobz was killed by Mexicans” or “Big cocks was killed by AIDS” can provide hours of entertainment, it’s only so freaking funny when Boobz just can’t catch a break and keeps getting annihilated only seconds after each respawn.  The taunting laugher and the vicious smack-talk begin to haunt Boobz until he or she tosses down the controller and storms out of the room. And there is always that one jerk who is way way better than everyone else. After a few friendly battles, the dominant player or team combination begins leech the fun out of the game, and so the rules have to be altered or exaggerated to add some chaos in the attempt to even the odds.

But this is a risky business too, and it usually precedes the conclusion of play by about fifteen minutes. The unpredictability of chaos combined with the frustration of repeatedly losing (or as in the case of our theoretical Jerk, who we will call Elite Skillz, the frustration of having your game style altered by whiny losers) can lead to boredom, which can lead to a reckless desire to give up winning and focus on ruining the game for others.

# 3: Mario Party 1-358

It’s hard to accept that anything with the word “party” in it can be evil – especially when it’s populated by something as benign and adorable  as the Mario cast. But don’t be fooled, my friends. This four-player video/board game in any of its evil incarnations can destroy the bonds of friendship as strongly as any demon.

The mini-games are a ridiculous combination of goofy luck and button-mashing, and if you’re new to them you have absolutely no hope of ever winning one except by blind luck. The game layout is designed to increase the random distribution of negative events and items, allowing everyone to get their fair share of the frustration. Yet somehow the most negative event always seems to happen to you. You’ll think to yourself, “I’ll get that star as long as I don’t role a one!” And lo, by some miracle, you will always get a one.

It doesn’t matter which version you choose, they’re all the same.  I’ve seen smack talk that would make your mom blush, and tantrums that would embarrass a five year old.

# 2: Diplomacy

This is the stuff of nightmaresI know that the writers and many of the readers at Charge Shot!!! are intimately familiar with the board game Diplomacy, but I haven’t met many other people who are, and that’s probably for the best. The whole point of this terrible game is to make allies out of other players and then subsequently screw them over, ideally in the most diplomatic way possible.

The game shares some similarities with Risk, primarily in that the overriding goal is to conquer territory. Another unfortunate commonality is that eliminated players are rewarded by being allowed to abstain from the twelve hours of play that follow their humiliating defeat. The mechanics of the game are pretty simple: up to seven players fill spots in Eurasia, and then they all attempt to invade one another. There are no dice, there are no cards, there is only purposeful and collaborative movement.

Each round consists of fifteen minutes spent talking and planning, each player writing their exact moves before the turn begins, with the theory that players acts simultaneously, eliminating the advantage of a turn-based game. Since all moves are very simple and involve a single-space movement per turn, successful invasions depend on the strength of numbers, and in most cases, this requires the support of your “allies.” If your allies lie to you, promising support and then failing to give it (attacking, say, you instead) you’re screwed, and a chump to boot.

It’s not hard to see why this game can ruin relationships. Surviving Diplomacy requires thick skin, and the ability to realize that in this game, it is completely reasonable to assume that even your closest friend is lying to your face.

# 1: Monopoly

Screw Monopoly! What a horrible, horrible game. And no, Hasboro, producing a million versions of themed Monopoly does nothing to improve the actual playability of your dark and sinister attempt to teach children that capitalism kills. I hate Catopoly even more than I hate the original, and don’t even get me started on Nintendopoly.

The point of this game is to bankrupt your opponents and become supreme chancellor of of your cyclical square-shaped economy by buying and mortgaging properties, utilities, and transportation systems with reckless abandon – often for hours and hours at a time. When you finally go bankrupt, forced by the die rolls of fate onto the hotel-lined stretch of doom set up by your salivating opponent, you’re simply eliminated from the game entirely because now, as a homeless top hat figurine, your existence is meaningless. You sit and watch as the person who took you out absorbs your hard-earned properties and dominates the rest of the game ruthlessly.

Isn’t it somewhat telling that all the would-be monopolists go to jail so often? When the player in the lead accidentally does to go to jail, he or she can happily remain there, safe from the feeble rent fees of puny small-business opponents, and unflinching at the eventual forced $50 dollar bail. And why does passing Go allow you to collect miscellaneous money from the sky? That doesn’t make sense!

This game is an evil attempt to teach our children that success comes in the form of owning property, amassing money, and exploiting your peers, which is totally unlike real life.

Oh hell. That is totally like real life.

The World Monopoly Champion proudly represents the global economic beast, Norway.