When I was 18 I opened a small game store in my home town and I was fortunate to run it for about eight years. I have many great memories that have developed into great conversation and stories with the gamers in the boardgaming community. Below is a true story, with the names changed:
Back before the internet fully took over, I had 4 computers in my store, networked together. It was kinda initiative…. at the time. Soon LAN parties would explode onto the scene, having hundreds of computers set up dwarfing the little mini-LAN party we enjoyed. We would play Diablo, Descent, and Half-Life with and against each other over and over. With 4 people playing it always drew a small crowd of people watching and pointing, playing vicariously through the people at the machines; “Get that… pick that up… he’s behind you!… click over there….. etc.”
But the game that always drew the most onlookers, and held them in complete silence, was Command & Conquer.
I say silence because we played teams, 2 on 2, and the computers were right next to each other. We had a rule that noone could say anything to any of the players because onlookers could see the whole game unfold in front of them. Even the players said nothing because although they had a teammate, telling that person anything about strategy or what to do would alert the other 2 opponents that were sitting feet from them. But the computers each had their own speakers and they were on, so sometimes the players would get audible clues as to what was going on if they listened closely. We even had a spot that multiple onlookers were supposed to stand in to block the 2 teams from screenlooking. The whole store would be enthralled in how these games would progress, each game taking around half an hour.
We had two customers that were great friends and would play many games together, and Command & Conquer was no exception. Aaron was a larger gentleman that was around 20 and worked as a plumber. He was a very nice guy and had a reputation for not really caring about winning or losing, just wanting to have a good time. In other words, a perfect friendly gamer. Oscar was a young kid, probably around 13 years old, he had divorced parents and spent a ton of time at the store. Oscar was kind of the store mascot, great kid with a big heart that just wanted to be in on the gaming action. (Another great customer to have as a staple in my store.)
In this particular game, Oscar and Aaron were on the same team. About 20 minutes into the game, Oscar was completely wiped out by a massive attack from the other team. Except he had squirreled away a lone Barracks in an area that the other team didn’t see, and was able to build a bunch of foot soldiers from it, hiding them in a different area close to Aaron’s base. Everyone but the enemy team saw it. People whispered and guessed at the effectiveness of Oscar’s battalion, suggesting that it’s not going to be enough against a bunch of tanks, but at least he is still in the game. Oscar was constantly silently pointing to Aaron to look at his screen to see what he had amassed, and Oscar was proud to show off his selection of hidden troops. Aaron looked unimpressed.
Then all of a sudden, All four computers simultaneously alerted, “NUCLEAR LAUNCH DETECTED!” Oscar and Aaron’s opponents immediately freaked out, scattering their troops and getting ready to assess damage. We’ve all played and watched the game enough to know that after that alert, that nuke should drop with maximum force in about five seconds. At six seconds both of the other players reported loudly to each other that nothing they owned was hit, confusion on their faces. Even the crowd was confused, as everyone’s heads swiveled around looking at all four screens trying to figure out what just happened.
Then Oscar yells, “WHAT THE HELL DUDE??!” And everyone looks at his screen. We are all now looking at about 45 foot soldiers that are on fire in the corner of the map. The barracks are also in flames, completely destroyed. Aaron leans back in his chair and starts laughing really hard like Sonny Landham from Predator.
At this point the place explodes into laughter (everyone but Oscar who is still astounded at the betrayal) and people are still looking at Oscar’s screen. I just happened to be standing behind Aaron and I was looking at him laughing. I was the only person that noticed…. as he kept laughing, harder and harder…. eventually his body goes limp, and he slumps into his chair. Before I could react, he ‘wakes up’ and looks around like he has no idea where he is. I put my hand on his shoulder and with shock in my voice I ask, “Dude…..what the hell was that?” And he sheepishly answers, “I think…I think I blacked out from laughing….”
Now that punchline right there is about where a story like this would normally end…..but see…. let me inform you on how dudes think when they hang out too much together; It became a thing, to make this dude laugh so hard he would pass out. In retrospect this was probably not the best idea….. We have many stories of getting Aaron to black out while eating, or in the middle of a game of Magic: the Gathering, or times where we would act like the store was on fire when he came out of his blackout. We were horrible.
A few months after the first ‘incident’ both Aaron and Oscar came in together looking like they’d seen a ghost. When asked, Aaron told this story:
“So Oscar and I were going to check out that game store that just opened down the highway and we took my van. We were going about 60mph. Oscar stood up in the back of the van and put his arms out like he was catching a wave in Maui and started talking in a stoner voice, “heyyyy duuude….. look at me….I’m suurrfing!” So I thought I’d teach him a lesson to sit down and I tapped the brakes enough to send him into the console next to my knee. I started laughing so hard……The next thing I remember is Oscar holding onto the wheel, driving, and screaming, “WAKE UP DUDE!!! OH MY GOD WAKE UP!!!!!”
Yeah….. that put an end to that. We didn’t make fun of his exuberant laughter again.
David Gerrard – @dagerr