The First Rule of Shoot Club Is...
TomChick - Columns - Comments - 12/01/00

By Tom Chick

December 1, 2000

People are always asking me if I know Trevor. "Do you know that guy?" they'll ask quietly, "He's really weird." I explain that without Trevor, there would be no Shoot Club.

Shoot Club began as nickel poker night at my house. One night, Trevor lost all his money in the first fifteen minutes by bluffing with a pair of eights. He went into the back room and spent the evening sulking and playing Quake II. "What are you doing?" someone asked, wandering back to check on him during a beer run. "It's a skill-based game, unlike poker, which is all about luck," said Trevor, who was five dollars poorer. Some of the other guys had never seen Quake II. Not being game geeks like me and Trevor, they were fascinated. "It's kind of like that game Doom," said the guy who took all of Trevor's money. "Can I be next?" he asked.

When I added a second computer built of odd old parts, Trevor showed me how to connect them with a serial cable. From that point on, there were always a couple of guys who quickly lost interest in poker and ended up in the back room playing Quake II. When I got my tax return that year, I added a third computer. Trevor put Ethernet cards in them and hooked them up on a LAN. Three is an odd number and computer parts got cheap, so it wasn't long before a fourth computer was added.

We have long since stopped playing poker. Now we play Unreal Tournament, Rogue Spear, Age of Empires, Diablo II, Half Life mods. It's probably what the guys had been wanting to do all along, since I had the computers sitting out and game boxes stacked on the shelves. It was right in front of everyone's face. Trevor and I just made it visible. It was on the tip of everyone's tongue. Trevor and I just gave it a name. Shoot Club.

"It's time to take Shoot Club up a notch," Trevor told me a few weeks ago, "We're going to have rules. I'm going to read them out loud every night before we start. I'm going to wear a red jacket. I was thinking about having a cigarette, too. Is it okay if I smoke in your house?" I talked Trevor out of smoking the cigarette, which was pretty easy to do since he has bad allergies. But he insisted on the jacket.

That evening, before the computers were turned on, Trevor gathered everyone in the front room where we used to play poker.

"Gentlemen," he began, pacing around the room and making eye contact with everyone, "Welcome to Shoot Club".

"Why are you wearing a Santa Claus jacket?" Eric asked. Eric was the guy who won five bucks off Trevor's pair of eights. He routinely calls Trevor "Eighty Eight".

"It's not a Santa Claus jacket," said Trevor.

"Yes it is. You ripped the fur trim off the sleeves and the collar. You should have taken those big buttons off the front."

"Can we start playing?" Bobby said, "I forgot to set my VCR. I have to leave at ten to tape X-Files."

"Gentlemen," Trevor said again, raising his voice, "Welcome to Shoot Club." I shot Bobby and Eric a look to tell them to let Trevor continue.

"The first rule of Shoot Club is we do not play Diablo II if there are more than four people at Shoot Club." He let it sink in a moment. It made sense. There are only four computers and there are usually more than four guys. You can't pry someone away from Diablo II, so it effectively locks everyone else out for the night. Games played in quick rounds are best for Shoot Club. It moves quicker that way and everyone gets a turn.

"The second rule of Shoot Club is, we do not play Diablo II if there are more than four people at Shoot Club. No, wait, hold on...that's the first rule of Shoot Club...I accidentally read it again." Trevor found his place again on the list.

"The second rule of Shoot Club is, four men to a game, fellows." He didn't pronounce it 'fellas'. He said 'fellows', hitting the 'ow' at the end as you would if you said the word 'fallow'. Trevor also prominently pronounces the 'l' in 'folks'.

Four men to a game basically meant you couldn't drop out and play a single player game. Every now and then, someone would start a single player game while Trevor was fiddling with the network or installing a game or updating a driver. Depending on the game -- if, say, it was Half Life or No One Lives Forever -- it was hard to get them back into a multiplayer session.

"The third rule of Shoot Club is, you must bring something to eat or drink."

Everyone brings something. Chips. Beer. Frozen pizza. A two-liter Dr. Pepper. One night, Eric went through a Taco Bell drivethrough and got some sort of "Fifty Bean Burritos for Five Dollars" deal. He showed up with a warm soft bag of Taco Bell stuff dangling from either arm and we all thought it was a great idea. But then the farting started. At first, it was a source of amusement. It soon became a weapon. Someone escalated from the Intentional Proximity Fart to the Full Contact Attack Fart. Suddenly I was back in junior high. Not that I haven't been there all my life.

"The fourth rule of Shoot Club is, if this is your first night at Shoot Club, you must play." It's a good rule. Sometimes a new guy will show up and he's intimidated by the whole thing. 'No, you guys go ahead,' he'll say when someone offers him a place at one of the computers. But then we'll cite the fourth rule of Shoot Club and sit him down and he's hooked. This kid from work, Ricky, couldn't remember whether you ordered pens with blue ink or black. But Ricky was a god for ten minutes while he fragged the network admin of a small office, an actor who lives in Encino, and the assistant to a casting director at Paramount.

Trevor reached up above him and grabbed the top of the doorway, hanging from it like a cool guy. His belly stuck out from under his T-shirt and extended over the top half of the belt buckle with his name on it that he got from Knott's Berry Farm. He looked very satisfied with himself, but I could tell he was wishing he had the cigarette to complete the image.

"All right, gentlemen, let the games begin."

And that's how Shoot Club begins every week. We sometimes go until morning and the guys who leave are leaving because they have to be at work in twenty minutes. But Shoot Club only exists in the hours between when Shoot Club starts and Shoot Club ends. Who you are in Shoot Club is not who you are in the rest of the world. You don't talk about Shoot Club in front of chicks or people at your job who don't play computer games.

So what's Shoot Club to you? Come back next week and find out. We'll be running games through their paces, testing the multiplayer stuff, trying out new mods and maps, flexing them under the influence of beer and long late hours and Trevor's watchful eye. And I'll be here every Thursday night with the results.

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