Shoot Club: The Curious Incident of the Monkey in the Night-Time
TomChick - Columns - Comments - 10/11/04

By Tom Chick



My friend Trevor has the red flag. We're down one point and there are thirty seconds left. If he can bring it in, we'll tie the score and go into overtime. Since I'm waiting where the red flag spawns, and since everyone on the other team is chasing Trevor, I'll probably be able to follow up with a quick point for our team. We can win if he scores.

He's jinking and hopping, all the while doing contorted body English, twisting his butt out of the chair and leaning into the mouse at odd angles. I do a double take when I notice that his tongue is actually sticking out of the corner of his mouth, like a little kid drawing a picture. I didn't know he did that.

"Don't you fucking die on me, man," I say, cheering him on with our Abyss riff, "You never gave up on anything in your life, you bitch, don't you give up on this." Then I switch to the Last of the Mohicans riff. "Stay alive, whatever occurs! You must stay alive!"

But then Douglas, or one of his buddies, or someone, shoots Trevor. He goes down. The flag is recovered with eight seconds left on the clock and them up by a point.

"Yeah!" they holler, jumping up and giving each other high fives. The little dog starts yipping. Douglas lunges towards Trevor and bellows, "I fucked your mother's cunt, right up the ass!"

Yep. That's what he says. I don't want to type it again, but if you need to doublecheck, just look back up there and read it one more time. Go ahead. I'll wait here.

So we all look at each other, wondering if we heard what we thought we heard, while they pass around a few more high fives. There's that whole issue of what level of trash talking is appropriate. And not just the language. The tone, the setting, the audience.

It's like the infamous ad for Daikatana that read 'John Romero is going to make you his bitch'. That sort of thing is fine if you're taunting your buddy. But Romero wasn't our buddy, us buying his game wasn't really a cause for trash talk, and it doesn't make for very good ad copy. So the ad backfired and everyone laughed even harder when Daikatana tanked. Trash talk is like politics or religion: there's a right time and a right place for it. And even then, you handle it differently with different people.

For instance, we trash talk each other at Shoot Club. All the time. And we cuss, although not so much when Trevor's 14-year-old nephew Donny is around. At least in theory. But the subtext of almost all of our trash talk is, believe it or not, affectionate encouragement. As long as someone's still calling you a name, the point is that he's enjoying the game and your company, and he wants to give you a little heads-up that you've done a good job by trumping him somehow, usually in the form of a frag or a killed hero in Warcraft or an awesome return in Beach Spikers. If we were British, we'd be saying things like 'Right-o, pip pip, bully for you, old chap, splendidly done'. But we're dumb American boys who say meaningless almost poetic things like 'God, you're such a fucking cockwad dick mulcher'. It's only when someone clams up or sulks or just walks away from the computer that he's genuinely pissed.

We even get politically incorrect, but only to a certain degree. We don't call each other niggers or kikes or chinks, not just because some of us are black, Jewish, or Chinese, but because those aren't funny. But we are at that juvenile level where we still think the whole 'fag' thing is funny. Except when Jeremy was around. We were all pretty sure he was gay. We'd long suspected it. It was all but confirmed when someone was looking at a magazine ad with a buxom chick holding a game box under her cleavage. "Boy, I would do that," Jeremy said, loudly enough so that we could all hear. He was enunciating the words far too carefully, as if it was a phrase he'd rehearsed phonetically. While Jeremy studied the ad, we gave each other knowing looks: he was trying to talk hetero.

So there was a tacit understanding that you kept a lid on the 'f' word when Jeremy was at Shoot Club. Sometimes it would slip -- 'God, you're such a fucking cockwad dick mulching fag!' -- and we'd desperately try to look nonchalant afterwards, more worried that Jeremy would see our startled apologetic reaction at having let the word slip than Jeremy actually hearing the word. Of course, once Jeremy moved in with his girlfriend -- we didn't even know he had a girlfriend -- we were back to hollering the word 'fag' at each other every five minutes.

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