Tuesday, November 08, 2011

User, Why?

If the internal workings of a computer are anything like in Reboot, my Xbox is developing a lasting hatred of me right now.

Gears of War 3 has a plethora of unlockables that you earn for completing set tasks, such as being awarded X number of one particular ribbon, getting X number of kills with a weapon, or playing X number of matches in each multiplayer game mode.

It's this last one that has caused me to start leaving my Xbox turned on for hours while I did other things. In order to unlock a particular character skin you need to play 300 matches of each of the six modes in competitive multiplayer. As I have no interest in actually doing any such thing, I have taken to setting up the game to play match after match after match against bots while my chosen character simply stands there and dies, hopefully as quickly as possible so that I can get through another match. This has been a slow process, but as I'm not actually playing, it doesn't effect me, apart from destroying my Win/Loss Ratio.

However, there is one game mode where this system has an unfortunate outcome for someone else. Wingman is all about teamwork. There are four teams of two, and the objective is to be the last man or team standing while scoring ten kills before another team does. Because of this, I have a fully active bot teammate with me during my attempt to clock up those 300 matches.

A fully active bot teammate who hates me.

Most of the time I'm not even paying attention to the screen while it runs through the matches. However, now and then, I do catch a glimpse of what's going on. Let me give you just two examples from the 300 matches that he helped me through.

In one game our team spawned in a nice open area with lots of nearby cover. My teammate, whom I lovingly nicknamed Private Bottington The 3rd, took cover at a nearby low wall, and watched as I was taken down by some dastardly villain. Bottington raced over, providing covering fire, picked me up and dashed back into cover. No sooner had he done so when I was dropped again. Like the true hero that he is, Bottington came to my rescue once again, and once again made it safely back into cover. From the safety behind the wall he turned to look at me. He silently implored me to move, to run, to hide behind something, anything. He watched in dismay as the bullets ripped through my armour one last time, dropping me, ragdoll-like to the ground. This time, there was no reviving me. In a fit of rage, Bottington went on to hunt down and execute my assailant, his teammate and two other bots, single-handedly scoring the highest point total that round.

Just a short few matches later, Bottington and I spawned in a nice, sunny area. Bottington ran about looking for the other teams, but always stayed relatively close by. A firefight broke out around me, and Bottington valiantly attempted to defend me. He raced across in front of me and had just left my field of vision when I saw his indicator change to the Down By Not Out circle. A moment later Bottington crawled back in from right of screen, a trail of blood smearing the dusty ground behind him. He dragged himself over to my feet, pleading to be picked up. I stood there, my only movements the involuntary flinches caused by stray bullet impacts. Bottington begged for help. I did not give it. An enemy rolled into view behind my teammate and stomped his head into the ground, before turning on me and blowing me into several gooey little pieces.

Long after I get my unlock, long after I have given up grinding out match after match for something that means so little, I will remember Bottington and his heroic actions.

And every time I play on a match where the opposing team has one bot to fill out their numbers, and that bot hunts me down and kills me, a little tear will well up in the corner of my eye, and I'll think to myself "Well played, Bottington, well played..."

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