Top Games to Destroy a Friendship
Written by DJ Kinsey - Assistant Editor-in-Chief
Published on Thursday, 22 August 2013 16:19
Ever since the original Pong machines came with two paddles, video games have provided a forum for friends and family to share quality time together and bond. Some of gaming’s greatest experiences are
co-operative ventures such as tackling Donkey Kong Country with a friend or driving a warthog through the exploding Pillar of Autumn with your pal or significant other manning the mounted chain gun in Halo. Even competitive games such as Mortal Kombat, WWE No Mercy or Madden foster a friendly and satisfying shared experience when, win or lose, a good time is had by all.
Unfortunately gaming, much like life, is not all rainbow coloured cats and butterflies. There are those few games that do not elicit a feeling of comradery when played with someone else. In fact they can lead to annoyance, frustration and distain for your gaming partner. Much like how my wife felt when I tried to eat a jar of pickled eggs in one sitting, things may start out fun but it is only a matter of time before you can’t stand the person next to you and they become unbearable. So beware if you are planning on playing any of the following games with a chum, comrade or amigo as these moving pixels may harden your heart and destroy a friendship.
Warlords (Atari 2600; 1980)
I can only imagine that the first salty curses directed amongst my cohort of seven year old pals were due to Warlords on the Atari. Like Breakout on crack, Warlords featured four castles composed of blocks with a king inside. Players controlled a shield with the Atari paddles which protected their real estate from a ball that would destroy their blocks and eventually vanquish the king. The shield was also the gamer’s instrument to shoot the ball at their opponents.
Matches were every man for themself and typically consisted of two AI players and two, soon to be, ex-friends. What caused so much animosity in Warlords was the concept of being kicked when you were down. If you happened to be the first player who lost a few blocks in your protective castle your buddy would inevitably give-up trying to also damage the AI castles and direct all attacks on your more vulnerable position. I felt like the AI combatants would pick-up on this strategy and also barrage my position. Like a bully giving the new kid a wedgie, the punishment gets piled on the one person that can least afford it. With a decimated castle and dead king you were left with nothing to do but watch the remainder of the game played out by your smirking, self-satisfied pal and 1980s artificial intelligence. That’s right, the unnecessary beat-down would be followed by mind numbing spectating and ruminating in thoughts of revenge.
Gauntlet (Various platforms; 1985)
Gauntlet on our Commodore 64 was responsible for more fisticuffs between my brother and I than anything else throughout our entire childhood. Things always started out so innocently. I as the warrior and Scot as the Elf would team up to traverse level after level of ghoul and demon infested dungeons. By level seven or so someone’s health bar would begin to drain and that was the spark that would eventually ignite the powder keg of 10 year old fury.
The levels are sparsely populated with food which replenished health. Somehow my brother would never check which of our characters actually needed the food due to low health before directing his Elf to gorge on the chicken leg. Without fail, my health bar would be infinitesimally small, Scot’s would be full and as soon as food appeared on the map he would be chowing down like a hobo on a ham sandwich. This would inevitably lead to my seeking payback. They say that revenge is a dish best served cold so if Scot needed some food to stay alive later, I would try my best to shoot the food to destroy it before he would gain its life saving sustenance. My acts of spite often led to a noogie or charley horse from my older brother and the Commodore being turned off mid-game.
Pro Wrestling (Nintendo; 1987)
Pro Wrestling on the NES was arguably the greatest wrestling video game until WrestleMania 2000 was released over a decade later. I still occasionally pop my cartridge in so that Starman can drop the elbow on King Slender or Fighter Hayabusa. I have especially always enjoyed playing this game against friends as there is nothing more satisfying than throwing your opponent outside the ring and jumping off the turnbuckle onto them.
So why does this game enter the list if I have such a great time playing it against another human? The answer is that the frolicking good times evaporate when your adversary decides to play as The Amazon, a character similar to the old Swamp Creature from the classic movies. Each character has a couple of special moves. One of these for The Amazon was that he would bite his opponent’s head. This move was so easy to pull off that often this would be the only move The Amazon would perform in a match.
Hypothetical match: You kick the Amazon in the head, he bites your head. You try for a back suplex, he bites you head. You punch him, he bites your head. On and on it goes, rinse and repeat. This is duller than watching the Big Boss Man by the end of his career when the only move in his repertoire seemed to be the punch.
Lemmings (Amiga, PC, SNES; 1991)
The old Lemmings game is cute, addictive and has a simple premise. All you need to do is direct a bunch of mindless strolling creatures to a destination. Sounds simple and harmless enough but when played against someone else the game is simply the most brutal and cut-throat video game experience ever created.
In two player mode you have to not only get your lemmings to their destination, but you must also stop your opponent from getting to theirs. Your group of lemmings can be scrolled out of sight as you prepare stairs for their ascension or dig tunnels for them. This is often the time where your gaming foe would unleash the most devilishly diabolical plans. Often you scroll back to your horde of lemmings only to find that the other player created a chasm which your lemmings have been two stepping off of to their deaths over the past two minutes. These moves typically result in completely one-sided scores at the end of a match. A shrewd Lemmings player can decimate his opponent leaving them with little to do but watch their numbers dwindle at an alarming rate. In no other game have I been so harshly and viciously destroyed no matter what strategy I employed against a more seasoned Lemmings player. The feeling from losing to a better player in the game is surely akin to how Keanu Reeves would feel if asked to perform Hamlet. You are simply out of your league and there is little you can do that won’t embarrass yourself.
NHLPA 93 (Sega Genesis, 1992)
One of the earliest iterations of the Electronic Arts hockey franchise, NHLPA 93 featured injuries that would knock players out of the game. Typically when setting up a match, a more experienced gamer would innocently say; “Your Pittsburgh has more depth than my Chicago, let’s turn line changes off to make the game more fair”. That’s when things got decidedly dirty. Without the benefit of line changes your best player was always on the ice and it was time for your friend to spend more time checking and hitting your star player then chasing the puck.
What was the result of this strategy? Five minutes into a game Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr would be laying on the ice with bloody heads and automatically replaced in the line-up with the likes of Kjell Samuelson and Brian Fogarty. After that it would be a cake walk for your opponent to run up the score and your blood pressure. There are few games that allow you to act like more of a jerk than this game. In fact, this scenario was essentially played out by Vince Vaughan in the cult classic movie Swingers.
Mario Party (N64, 1999)
The many Mario Party games were meant to be played with a group of friends yet they all contained the same fatal flaw that led to resentment amongst the group. Many of the mini-games in each of the game’s versions only required the participants to push a single button in rapid succession as quickly as they could. There was no skill to this and the same person would win 100% of the time. I am fine consistently losing to someone more skilled than myself in a game. I do draw the line when the only reason I cannot be victorious is that someone else in the room has a jittery finger that can hit a button like a jackhammer.
To make matters worse it felt like about 20% of all mini games were solely based on this mechanic. Add to this the fact that button mashing like someone on a Red Bull and espresso bender is not a skill that can be learned nor practised means that from the first roll of the dice, someone in Mario Party always had a large and unearned advantage. I never liked the fleet fingered people when playing Mario Party and always secretly cheered when Bowser would steal their coins or stars.
Hunter: The Reckoning (Xbox, GameCube; 2002)
The isometric four person co-op action in Hunter: The Reckoning required team work and precision. Invariably three of the four pals on the couch would work together like a symbiotic collective reminiscent of the Borg from Star Trek. They would move in unison, cover each other’s backs and act as a unit that was greater than the sum of its parts.
Then there would be the fourth player who just didn’t get it. They would be forever falling behind the rest of the group preventing the screen from scrolling. During tense boss battles this would lead to the group’s escape route becoming inaccessible and their prompt decimation. There was literally a two month period in 2002 when the most common phrase spoken at our house was, “Kristen catch up” or “Kristen go left”. I can think of no other game where one person was responsible for more of the other players' deaths than Hunter: the Reckoning.
Left 4 Dead 2 (Xbox 360, PC; 2009)
I love both Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2. I want to throw on my happy shoes whenever I think about Nick scolding Ellis for another bad story about his buddy Keith or Coach announcing that he found a ninja sword. There are times though where you cannot help but have disdain for the person or people you may be playing with.
The Witch is one of the deadliest foes in the game although she can be easily avoided in any level. Her crying wails are a clear indication that she is in the area and, so long as everyone takes their finger off the trigger and quietly walk by, the Witch will not notice your presence. Fat chance of this happening with certain players. There is always someone in a group that cannot help but shoot everything on screen thus startling the Witch. She will proceed to take her fury out on the closest person who often had nothing to do with the initial attack. As a result, you end up going from 100 to 10% life in 12 seconds while the person who caused the problem has hardly a scratch and will not share their med kit.
This same person is usually the same one who is never any help when you are under attack from any of the other special infected. For instance, Smokers in the game can grab you at a distance and pull you into their clutches. While you are helplessly strung up and yelling to be saved by one of the other three characters there is often that one person who feels that grabbing a pipe bomb is more important that lending a hand to help you from being eviscerated. At the times of your greatest vulnerability it is this co-op partner’s self-interest that leads you to cursing the day they were born and leading to the odd friendly fire incident in a vain attempt to even the score.
My list is far from complete although I have since tried to wash some of the memories from other titles from my brain. While I am sure that future gaming moments will lead to vitriol and disdain for my gaming accomplice I no doubt still believe that there is no more enjoyable gaming experience that sitting down on the couch and playing a few rounds with someone you know. If there is a specific game that led you to question why you were friends with someone in the first place let’s hear about it.
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