MAG and the Art of Grief

I didn’t want to play the game.  Let’s get that straight here and now.  It was a.) an online multiplayer game and b.) a first person shooter involving no monsters, robots, or the like.  Not my cuppa, I said.

North American box art
Image via Wikipedia

But Brother Todd, he loved MAG.  Played it for hours.  He damn near insisted I played.

Which, in time, I did.

It’s been, I dunno, maybe a half a year.  I’m still playing the game.  Todd?  He’s tired of it.  Too much waiting to play matches that end too soon.  It’s like pulling teeth to get him to play.

So now we have a c.) for the next like game he wants me to play.

But that’s not the point.

The point is I play MAG.  Entirely too much.  Especially since I’m not very good at it.

Well, I’m being a wee bit humble here. In comparison to like games, I’d say I was fair to middling. Most everyone in the game with me is better than me, that’s a given, but I do well. Sometimes I’m in the top three in my squad. On very rare occasions, I’m #1.  I can boast about that with very few games.

I’m not telling you all this just to show how sad my life is. No. There’s another purpose.

For those who didn’t click the above link, MAG is a war game, where three future armies struggle against one another. There’s S.V.E.R, who are all but impossible to beat; Raven, who are difficult to best; and then there’s Valor, who run out into the middle of the battlefield and blow their own heads off so that their enemy doesn’t have to.

Guess which army I’m in. On second thought, don’t bother. It’s Valor, okay? I know. The shame doesn’t wash off.

MAG consists of five different modes of play. I’m not going to go through each of them, because that’s not what I’m here for today. However, I will describe one of them: Suppression.

According to the Wikipedia article, Suppression “is a team deathmatch mode that pits 32 players of one faction against 32 players of another.” For me, it’s about twenty minutes or so of deep, deep irritation. All that goes on is running around and shooting people. Yeah, yeah, that’s the game in a nut shell. However, with the other modes there are goals. There are goals to pass or fail. Sometimes these goals are little things. Sometimes they’re pointless. But there are there and I can at least do them. Far easier than just running around and killing people.

As a rule, I avoid Suppression like it’s spreading the bubonic. But today I signed up for it. Don’t ask me why. I think it was because I wished spontaneous human combustion on an opponent.

Oh, you would have too. Several times during the match, he (and it was a he, for reasons we’ll note in a second) sniped me. I’m just running along, mindin’ my business, and BANG! Dead.

Here’s the thing. I don’t care about the sniping. I like sniping myself. I find it very… relaxing.

What I do care about is that some guy calling himself DMAN_UR_NOT was doing the sniping.

Look at that name. Tell me that seeing that name, over and again, in connection with your own “death”, wouldn’t make you a wee bit mad. To the point that maybe, just maybe, a little ironic, Tales From the Crypt type justice might be just what the doctor ordered.

DMAN_UR_NOT. God. He probably spent hours thinking up that name. He probably thinks it’s clever. He probably thinks girls won’t date him because they’re stuck up and not because he has a lousy personality and a bed wetting problem that would embarrass a toddler.


Anyways. Wishing spontaneous human combustion on another human being. Yes. This is one of the twelve signs to move on. To look for another mode. Suppression sounded like a good way to blow off steam. Why not?

Why not? How about because I’m no good at it? Jeez.  But no, no.  In I go.

Let’s leave me entering Suppression for a moment. Call it a load screen, waiting for the server to recognize the player. Okay? There’s one more bit of exposition we need to work our way through.

I have many problems with playing with other humans online. Above and beyond the obvious antisocial misfit aspect, naturally.  There exists this thing called a griefer, and I have no use for them at. All.

You can follow that link to find out what a griefer is, but the bottom line is that a griefer “is a player in a multiplayer video game that deliberately irritates and harasses other players.”  Which is Wikipedia’s definition.

While playing MAG I saw some griefing.  Players on my team shooting other players on my team.  I think I was “killed” by a griefer once.  Or twice.

My usual response?  I try to get them voted out of the server.  It doesn’t work, but at least I tried.  Right?  That’s what counts.

Why look at that, I do believe the loading has finished.  Let’s head over to Suppression.  Don’t worry.  No more digressions.  We’re on the home stretch.

Things were going pretty much as they always did.  I’d send my character running through the battlefield towards the opposing team, someone on the opposing team would shoot me “dead”, my character would “respawn” back at the starting base, repeat.  It wasn’t fun.  It wasn’t satisfying.  I told myself, like the last time I came to the mode, that I would never ever come here again.

Then it happened.

I respawned at base and was just about to run out the door when a shot rang out.  My health (the measure of how long my character can play) dropped by a quarter.

Now, I’m in my base.  The only person who can shoot me in my base is my teammate.  Thus, griefer.  Attacked me.

All of this hit me as I’m running out of the base.  I stopped and turned around.  What should be following me but a team-mate, looking for the world eager to hunt down the enemy.

I sort of stared at him.  It’s more a stand still like a statue when seen on the TV screen, but it’s me, staring at him.  Wanting to see what he does next.

He looked at me for a moment.  Thought about it for a moment.

Then he drew a knife on me.

He drew a knife on me.

He drew a God damn knife on me.

Knives, in MAG terms, are extremely fatal weapons.  They can be one-hit/one-kill.  I know this because I have been know to sneak up on unsuspecting plays and slash them to death.  Hell, at one time Todd made this an art.

But the one thing you can’t do is kill fellow players with it.

Either that or the griefer couldn’t slash worth a damn.

Does.  Not.  Matter.

I’m sitting there.  Watching him.  And he draws a God damn knife on me.

So what did I do?

I took my machine gun and I shot him.


For a moment I stopped.  I don’t know why.  Maybe to give him a chance to run off and actually play the game.

He tried to draw his gun on me.  He ran around me and fiddled with his gun.  Perhaps he believed he still could take me.

If so, he was mistaken.  Another blast with the machine gun and he was dead.

The game docked me 5 points.  It should have given me a hundred, damn it.

Not like I was going to get any points off the mode anyways.  The moment I killed the griefer I logged out of the mode and went to another.

I like to think he stayed on the mode.  Waiting at the base for me to return so he could pay me back.  Waiting the rest of the match for something that would never happen.

See, there’s an art to giving grief.  Some got it.  And some get shot repeatedly while trying to get their knives to work.


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