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Monday, June 24, 2024

Great moments in PC gaming: Screwing around with physics objects while you wait for a match to start

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Great moments in PC gaming are bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.

You’d think that a group of gunslingers waiting for a barrier to fall so they can throw themselves against the enemy and into almost certain death would be solemn. Somber. Perhaps stoic. But in most multiplayer lobbies it’s the opposite. One thing PC gamers have proven again and again is that if you lock us in a room with a bunch of random junk, we absolutely cannot leave it alone.

Playing cup flip with physics objects or trying to clip out of the level and die before the match starts are not just distractions. They’re a pre-battle ritual.

Team Fortress 2 is one of the first games I remember getting up to this kind of nonsense in. While the dutiful engineers tried to place their sentries perfectly or the cunning spies scoped out the best route to get to the enemy side unseen, the rest of us absolute fools were trying to rocket jump into the ceiling or spraying bad Sonic fanart all over the walls.

That jitteriness that comes with knowing you’ll need to be ready to fight any second fills you with chaotic energy, and it comes out in perhaps predictable ways.

Eventually games like Overwatch played into this by adding random nonsense purpose-built for these kinds of shenanigans, like destructible arcade cabinets or a set of bells that play the Futurama theme song if you shoot them in the right order. I dutifully shot hoops for weeks in the home base of Phasmophobia’s ghost hunting team until I got the counter to 666. Now I’ll never touch it again, and instead make my highly disturbing model dance around with color-changing paint cans with her back bent at a 90-degree angle.

Some of the most fun you can have in games is trying to do things the developers never intended. Speedrunners have taught us there is almost no vertex in any 3D level that can’t be defeated by persistent application of abject stupidity, and some of my favorite warm-up activities are jumping, shimmying, blowing myself up, and trying to use physics objects to clip outside the level.

This doesn’t often confer any competitive advantage. You might get your account banned if it did. More often than not, you’ll just fall into the void and through a kill plane before respawning. But what matters is that you defied the tyranny of level geometry. Only then are you truly free.

I hope multiplayer games continue to foster this kind of nonsense, both intended and unintended. It’s a nice break from the competitive mindset the rest of the match puts you in, since the only objective is to cause chaos and maybe make the other players laugh. And we could all use a bit more of that in our lives. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try to see if I can surf up the wall on this candelabra and dance on the roof until the next round starts.

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