Live from TF2!

Spy from TF2 making a shocked face.

I have been spending a lot of time setting up the website and various social media for Gonzo Gamers and have not had a lot of time to do any performances. I feel like I have just been talking to people about the idea behind the moment and I was itching to get out and do some field work.

For my first experiment, I wanted to try out a performance that my partner, Alex Dahm, came up with. Her idea for this performance was to go out and play games as the announcer of the game, like a sports commentator. The performer would then just follow players around as this character and announce over the voice chat everything that is happening. They might interview players, make up stories about rivalries and previous seasons, or just keep everyone updated on how the game was going. Helvetica came up with this idea after remembering how she used to play games with her younger sister growing up. In order to convince her younger sister to sit and watch her play video games for hours, she told her sister that her role was to announce what was happening in the game. After remembering how much fun she had playing this game when she was young, Helvetica thought other gamers would enjoy it now. I could not help but test it out.

Watch the recording of this performance on Twitch.tv

At first it was hard to find the right server. I kept running into a lot of servers where either no one responded, did not speak English, or though I was strange. After a few failures, I found a group of people who started to warm up to the idea of me following them around commentating on what they were doing. Players began interacting with me. We discussed current game meta mechanics and theory. I even interview players and asked them to comment on why they are choosing different characters or strategies.

As new players joined the server, they were confused at first. Maybe even put off by what I was doing. However as soon as they saw everyone participating it became normal for them. I almost felt a sense of popularity on the server as players talked to me and tried to get me to comment on their play.

I feel like my experience was similar to JustJorge’s when he played through War of the Roses as a bard. The team that I was commentating on almost always won the match. I am not sure if it was because I was helping give them a wider view of the game or just making them relax more, but it was working incredibly well. Players wanted to be on my team. Some even went as far as change teams to be on mine.

On player, Levitika, added me as a friend after a few matched. He was really enjoying himself. He told me that “Anyone who can do absolutely nothing and still contribute to the game, is alright in my book. I mean this in the best possible way.” Levitika became kind of my Gonzo wing man. He made sure what I was doing was accepted by the other players. After we were done playing, we made plans to meetup another time and have me announce some more.

My new found friend is, to me, what Gonzo Gamers is all about. I joined a server full of strangers who just wanted to shoot at me and had this great experience that ended up making me some real connections with other players.

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Bringing a Poke to a Punch Fight

For this Gonzo Gaming session I decided to go back to my roots and alter the playing field of a 2D Fighting Game. I wanted to take the normal fast-paced environment of a 2D fighter and make it more slow-paced and awkward. This was acted out by only allowing myself to use “jab” moves (the weakest move in the game).

I decided to try playing Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 with this style, using the excuse that I spilled beer in my fight stick and only my jab button worked. I was only able to join one lobby, where upon hearing my fight stick dilemma I was greeted with an explanation of how the other player had a certain male-manufactured substance clogging his joystick so he couldn’t play well either. I played it off as a way for us to have an even match, but because there were so many people in the lobby I wasn’t able to get a fight in. This caused me to switch to a different game I was familiar with: Blazblue Continuum Shift Extend. I played 4 fights total (1 fight consists of a best 2 out of 3 rounds).  I also customized my controls so I literally could only press the jab button. Before each match I announced my dilemma.

I started off with using the slowest character in the game: Iron Tager. My first opponent didn’t have a mic and kept responding with short text chats like “no mic :(” and “lol.” They played along for a bit- allowing me to get a few jabs while he blocked with ease followed by a massive combo that left me destroyed.

The second game I played I performed much better than the first. There were times where he’d only jab and try to counter, but whenever I left myself open he went all out. Needless to say I still lost, but I was getting closer!

The third game I decided to use a more agile character, Bang Shishigami. I was able to move around much better and throw my opponent off guard. I actually won the first round! Because of this the other player finally got on the mic and said “Impressive Jabs.” I was so pumped. I ended up losing the next two rounds, but I didn’t go down without a few more jabs!

The last game I got railed. The other player was somewhat jabby at first, but ended up just playing full-force. I got wrecked pretty hard, only landing enough jabs to take out about a third of their health or so.

Overall I’d say my experiment was successful. People found the idea really humorous and kind of poked and prodded at committing to the fight under the same set of rules as me. It seemed like whenever I started to pull ahead they would back out of the deal and play hardball until they were back in their comfort zone. Do players really feel like the need to prove themselves to an anonymous online community? Who knows, but it’s something to think about.

*I have recorded playbacks of all matches. I’ll upload them and edit this post once I have time*

When all else fails…sleep on it??

My roommate and I decided to jump into the world of COD for out first GG session. We started off with the idea of trying to get the other players to work towards a more peaceful end to a Search and Destroy match. During the first match, we sent messages to our team mate with the bomb asking him to not plant the bomb. This player didn’t read past the subject line of “hey..”. He did bring it up in voice chat and another player retorted with a joke about what the subject line was alluding to. This match ended quickly as we had come in late.

During our next attempt, we utilized a mic we had been charging up to communicate peaceful terms better. Throughout missions we asked our team mates not to plant the bomb and told them there was a better way to handle this situation. We asked them to help pursue a better solution. None of the players in this match responded to our pleas through messages or voice chat.

We played one last match, this time abandoning the attempt to solve mission goals peacefully and instead staged a sleep-in. Both me and my roommate would attempt to grab the bomb at the beginning of the round and (successful or not) proceed to the nearest bed and crash there side by side prone on the bed. Although again we were unable to solicit any response during the game play, I did receive a friend request at the end of the match. The video attached is the “highlights” of this final match.

Probing Strangers, Getting Probed Back

In my first Gonzo Gamers experience I decided to try out a few experiments in Startcraft II, a real-time strategy game that has become one of the largest RTS-style tournament games around the world. In a game focused on colonization, expansion, and military dominance, I thought to myself what would happen if all of these elements were taken away. What if the game were stripped down to its basic elements and players were only allowed to use worker units, rather than trying to create an elite force of both ground and aerial units? Below are the results from three games that I played, in which I attempted to get players to join me in an all out battle of laborers.

Attempt #1 

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In my first attempt I decided to join a free-for-all game, which in the Startcraft community is an unranked game where all players are on their own. My initial tactic was to try to lie to players and tell them how I had played this amazing game in the past where players can only use workers to battle. My lines seemed cheesy and deceptive, and only resulted in backlash from opposing players. Once one player said no, the others joined in and rallied behind him, accusing me of trying to trick them. I figured that players would be more receptive of my proposal, especially in a game type where players have nothing to lose. I continued to play using only workers, but it was only a matter of time before two of the players quit. The last player steam rolled me with his military force and ended the game fairly quickly.

Attempt #2

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In my second attempt I decided to use what I learned from the previous try and apply it towards a better result. Rather than lying to the player I simply told them what I planned to do, and then politely sent them an invitation to join me. The player first thought the idea was quite silly, but he seemed rather receptive and I decided to continue with the invitation. Play continued as planned and we both agreed to build only workers. Interestingly even though the player agreed to these terms, I discovered that he still decided to make military units regardless, almost out of a sense of insecurity. The player did not place his units in plain sight, but rather hid them towards the back of the base to keep them out of my view. I built defensive turrets with my worker probes, but soon realized that it gave me an unfair advantage, as the player was using a class that did not allow defensive turrets. It became apparent that the best case scenario would be to find a player with the same class, so that we would both players would be on even playing fields. This led to the third and final attempt.

Attempt #3

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In my third and final attempt I decided to take what I had learned from my past two experiences and use them to try to obtain a successful outcome. After several game searches I finally came across a player who used the same class as me. I began the game much as I had done in the previous attempt, asking how the other player was doing, and then blatantly stating that I planned on solely using workers, while inviting him to join me. He too stated that the idea seemed quite silly. I agreed with him and asked if he had ever tried it before. After a short conversation we were both on our way to creating a daunting force or workers. Interestingly when players simply need to focus on one task (that of creating worker probes), a window is opened for new opportunity. With the unfamiliar downtime, the player and I were able to have a normal conversation and actually got to know each other over the course of the game. I found out that I was playing against a 2nd-year college student from British Columbia, Canada who was aspiring to become a gas pipe welder. He enjoys playing DOTA 2 and has been to Oregon a few times in his life. Once our forces were amassed, we agreed to meet in the middle for an epic battle. The mass of probes on screen was something I have never experienced before, and created an interesting flow of repetition, flashes of light, and beautiful patterns of dynamically changing shapes.

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Overall this experiment was a successful attempt to play a game in a way that rarely occurs. Through the iteration of my attempts, conversations were created, small relationships were formed, and a new and wonderful experience came about that I never would have expected.

-Peter

Valour’s sons fear not to die.

For my first Gonzo experiment, I played War of the Roses, which is a PvP, medieval conquest game.  To aide in the lore of the era I decided to act as a Bard, boosting the moral of the troop with songs of the old.

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After four games on separate servers, not a single response was made to the strangely spelled, rhymes that were appearing on their screen.  This made me sad.  No one appreciated the sanctity of the bard.  All four games were won, due to insanely high moral within the ranks.  This would not have been possible without tunes flowing with my dying breath.

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With most people naturally inclined to ignore random text and the small size of said text, lead to a mostly uneventful experiment.  In the future I aim to test this experiment with different games in and out of medieval lore, and with a microphone.  This would be preferable if a trained vocalist conducted this experiment, or if I had someone planted in the ranks to go along with my moral boost.

 

Proof that high moral leads to victory:
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Bringing Honor to the War of the Roses

For my next Gonzo experiment I thought I would try a little roleplay to spice things up a bit.  The game I chose to play in was Fatshark and Paradox Interactive’s War of the Roses, a medieval pvp game where large teams play to capture objectives or to get the most kills in a simple deathmatch.  This seemed like an obvious choice for roleplay because of the game’s setting.  My Gonzo session consisted of me going into servers and pretending to be a character from the actual era, with the goal of getting other players to join in with me in the roleplay experience.  I mostly spouted stock phrases with a good amount of “verily”s  and “forsooth”s thrown in, and called people “knaves” more than was probably appropriate.

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I tried this over several servers and games and had various levels of success.  In most cases I was ignored because, presumably, the other players were to busy actually playing the game to type responses to my jests and rousing statements.  I wasn’t able to get other players to roleplay alongside with me, but did manage to amuse some.  In one instance I died and in my last breaths I muttered “I go to meet my Lord at the Gates of Paradise.”  This was met by a response of how “shitty” it would be to still have to serve your lord in heaven.  This started a debate on whether I meant my feudal lord or the Lord God.

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This Gonzo experiment was mostly an exercise in patience.  Simply being ignored while you churn out line upon line of speech in medieval dialect is tiring on the soul.  I’d rather people would have told me to shut up or something along those lines.  Occasionally I would get an “lol” which is about as far from joining in medieval roleplay as you can get, but I appreciated it nonetheless.  What’s particularly disappointing here is that I thought the player base of WotR was one that would be into this kind of thing.  It’s a game where you get to be knights and lance other knights off of their horses, for God’s sake!  Who wouldn’t want to roleplay in this space?  I shall not get disheartened though.  My Gonzo spirit is still strong!

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Explosions, Death, and Parkour

For my first foray into Gonzo Gaming I thought I would start small, with a situation where my actions wouldn’t have too disruptive of an effect on the game.  Taking some inspiration from Velvet Strike and their “Recipe for Friendship” I started up Team Fortress 2 and joined an empty server with the hopes that someone else would join soon.

After a few minutes another player joined on the opposite team.  We soon ran into each other on the map.  Not wanting to fight I gave him a friendly “Hello” over the mic.  He responded by performing a hearty taunt which I gladly reciprocated.  I had similar encounters with the next few players that joined.  These early joiners, in a way, became my in-game “friends.”  Although I was talking over the mic, describing how I was just sticky-jump practicing and doing parkour, no one ever responded with voice… but my small group of “friends” honored an unspoken pact of nonviolence against me.  Even later when more players joined and actually tried to win the game, whenever I came across my friends they let me be.  Sometimes teammates would get slaughtered around me, but I would be allowed to live.  This was kind of eerie but also cool in a way.  I wish some of them had actually responded to get more of an idea of why they let me be.

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Of course, there were some players who didn’t buy into my presence as a nonviolent entity.  There was one player in particular who would repeatedly murder me despite my pleas with him to stop and let me parkour in peace.  I like to think he was jealous of the sweet tricks and jumps I was doing.

My attempts to get others to join me in parkouring around the map were mostly futile as well.  I tried asking people for advice or tips on sticky-jumping.  At one point I declared the server “Parkour only”, which was ignored.  I even started complimenting other players on their parkour.  This was met largely with confusion.  I think it eventually came to a point where I was just thought of as some kind of troll who only talked about free-running.

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My first Gonzo Gaming experience was frustrating at points, but I feel like it was a success in a lot of ways.  You need to remember that the other players are so exposed to trolls and other awful kinds of internet gamers, that it’s hard for them to take someone sincere about playing in a game (instead of playing the game) seriously.  I hope to get back out there again soon and maybe have some cool experiences which I can share with others.