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February 12, 2012 / jwaxo

Counter-Strike (The Game)

No, not that The Game. Although you did just lose.

One lonely summer my brother grew an intense interest in craftworking. He got his own toolbox, my dad cleared a section of his workbench off for my brother’s projects, and many an afternoon you would hear the buzz of a sawblade down there, or a drill, and go down to see my elder sibling emerge from a cloud of sawdust with his latest creation in his hands.

The first time I can remember us even doing anything down there was for the annual Invention Convention in my town. Kids from all over the city would gather with their silly little creations, tri-folded presentation boards at the ready, to try to win the grand prize of a marketing deal and maybe a few thousand dollars. Pretty much an entire mint would lie at their feet, if they could come up with a useful idea and then implement it. My brother’s famous idea was the “Sog-No-More”, a special board that you could place your frozen bread on, stick into the microwave, and remove a few seconds later with a dry, warm piece of bread. This was a problem in our house, but apparently not in anyone else’s, as my brother’s invention didn’t get a second look.

Of course, my attempt at a toothbrush that only required minimal thumb movement brush your teeth was quickly shot down by everyone, and did not move beyond the half-finished prototype stage.

I swear that this seemed efficient when I was 8.

The Sog-No-More failed, but my brother’s inventing spirit did not. He became pretty skilled at woodcutting and carving, and soon had a few product rolling out of that basement. A few that interested every kid in my neighborhood.

Fake guns, that is.

Mostly pistols modeled after favorite video game characters’ guns, or ones used by one of the many James Bond incarnations, the guns littered my brother’s dresser, stacked up under his bed, and soon were being carted out into the hands of willing kids via garage sales and other backdoor sales. I held on to my custom SOCOM, with attached laser and silencer and satisfyingly removable clip, for a good many years. Popping that clip in and out was a great way to pass the time while waiting for games to load.

So these detailed, black matte, wooden guns were spread out among my friends and cohorts. And what did we do with them? Why, we pretended to shoot them at each other.

Eventually this formed into its own little nameless game, one that had a number of very detailed rules, opposing sides, and even an unspoken agreement that giving it a name would ruin it.

And thus we just called it “The Game”. And its rules were:

  • There are two sides of equally-numbered players.
  • Taking turns, each side defends first the backyard and then the front yard, with the opposing side attacking from the opposite yard.
  • Use your gun as realistically as possible. (“Bang!” “Bang bang bang!”)
  • If someone calls out that you’ve been shot, you’ve been shot. No questions asked.
  • No going inside.
  • No cheating.
  • The winning team has the last man standing.

And thus The Game was played.

The crazy thing was, The Game worked. We played it for many a late summer and autumn afternoon, switching up the teams to try to keep them fair, enjoying the difference that our different guns handled, playing in different yards and with different object configurations.

The rules never had a dispute. Nobody ever had hurt feelings. And all of us knew why: there were maybe a maximum of eight different kids who ever played The Game. If we had started playing with more people, the rules wouldn’t have worked. And so we kept it to us, and we all had tons of fun.

How does this tie to Counter-Strike? You might notice that the rules are somewhat similar to smaller, realistic video games. In particular, that original huge Half-Life mod, Counter-Strike. Two opposing, small teams. One gun (and sidearm) per person, each with their own advantages. One offensive and one defensive. And rules that are generally easy enough to bypass–namely, by hacking. And Counter-Strike is one of the most famously hackable games. And tons and tons of people hack.

When I first found this out, it blew my mind. Do those people have fun? I mean, I was no stranger to cheating, even between people. But that had never happened with games like this before: games that I had, just a few years prior, played without even the cage of programmable rules.

The problem is, with that many people (millions at last check of the statistics), it’s impossible to enforce even those built-in rules.

The Game, by the way, died when we started taking it a little too seriously. Much like Counter-Strike stopped being fun for me after I realized how seriously some people took it.

Seriously, we almost made business cards. I guess that takes the fun out of things.

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