A defector fires wildly into their flanks, pruning the unaware as they turn in surprise. He’s killing his own guys. His handle is 'Ka0s42O', and his teammates are surely cursing his sudden but inevitable betrayal.
I pause, rocket launcher at the ready, reticule lined up. Ka0s42O is blue. I am red. I am fundamentally programmed to exterminate all that is blue. It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure.
Yet I hesitate, letting the team-killer run rampant. The dilemma is simple math: Blue killing blue equals win for red. A traitorous dissenter mowing down his teammates with back-biting bullets, doing my job for me, is a gift. Is the team-killer of my enemy not my friend?
My role is to hold the centre, to watch the red team—my people—stream into the blue base and emerge with a handful of victory (material form: a blue flag). I hold the center because I’m indecisive. I don’t care to commit to the tedium of defense, but I don’t like the suicidal rush into an enemy snake-pit either. So I help out in my own, middling way. If our guys don’t come out with a flag, they’re all dead, and I’ll see them shortly regardless. In the meantime, I amble around and shoot the bumbling blues, keep them locked down in their filthy headquarters hovel.
Ka0s42O confuses me; this blue renegade beating me to the punch, wreaking havoc on his very own. He’s hiding behind sneaky corners and exploding unsuspecting friendlies. He’s blowing them up almost before they even appear. He's taunting their corpses. He’s doing my job for me. He's stealing my kills.
Another flag comes out, carrier scurrying past the self-inflicted carnage. How can blue muster any semblance of defense while plagued by an insider, a turncoat feeding on their certain shrieks of disapproval and flustered attempts at a comeback? It’s a massacre, red vultures plucking away from the fringes. The team-killer hurls a grenade into his own spawn room and quick-ducks outside the door, simulating fellatio and waiting for survivors.
My rocket launcher is aimed, the team-killer of my enemies squarely in the sights. Do I shoot?
To Kill or not to Kill: A Slow-Motion Decision
- The game punishes team-killers. The team-killer is not rewarded in any game-sanctioned way, but the player behind ka0s42O presumably gets some deviant joy from being a real asshole. The teammates getting killed certainly aren’t receiving any reward, psychological or otherwise. For that matter, I’m not getting any points from watching this traitor blow apart his team in a one-man griefing orgasm. This game is a write-off, with scornfully low scores all around.
- On the plus side, we’re capturing a lot of flags. And I’m on a nine game winning streak! All I have to do is let him keep doing his thing ...
- ... But there's not much glory in winning this way, is there? It’s like being Superbowl champions because the other team’s punter went insane and started making hand-offs to the defensive line. It’s like a bear mascot dunking the basketball in overtime to earn his team a technical foul. And in these cases, the narrative is never really about those who won, but about the bestial act of betrayal.
- This is too much thinking. I'm playing on autopilot, here. If I’m not shooting blues, what else am I supposed to do? Jump around in a corner? Run flags? Join my teammates in looting and pillaging? Bad sportsmanship, I know, but what else am I supposed to do? I'm bored. Filing a complaint about the griefer won't solve any immediate problems, and I'll probably get shot while filling out the form.
- My God, man; I'm too bored to help evict this tyrant? Where's the compassion, the human decency? If this guy was on my team, I’d lose it. I hate team-killers, because the only way to fight them is to become a team-killer yourself. I don’t see why they don’t quit, getting slaughtered like that. Why don’t they all just quit the game? They must be having a horrible time.
- Sad realization: This game just isn't much fun. Lopsided contests are speedy and awkward affairs. Sorry that we're murdering you, but rest assured that this counter-cultural jerkwad has robbed all pleasure from the exercise. Let's get this over with, and hope we don't get matched up again right afterwards.
A Temporary Execution
I pull the trigger, and ka0s42O is destroyed in a fiery blood blossom, because, really, this has gone on long enough. But he’ll be back in just a few seconds, merrily team-killing away. People are dropping out of the battle now, disenchanted with the jarring feeling of being largely helpless.
Team-killers will always come back. They wear many disguises. They come in ones and twos, lured by the anarchic jouissance afforded by a simple slip of social architecture. I can’t help but question the one responsible for these server settings; the person who started this unwinnable war. Friendly fire was presumably meant to train mastery, control, awareness of the field and the team—operating under the assumption that reasonable human beings would be somehow involved. But this is the internet, where reason slips away behind anonymity and any loophole in the rulesets will be ripped open for maximum exploit. Nobody wins but the unravellers.