I started reading Tom Bissell's EXTRA LIVES, in which the talented scribe writes about a particularly riveting LEFT 4 DEAD Versus match he played which exemplifies the exceptional gameplay design of Valve's game. It put me in the mood to reinstall L4D2 and try to get into the multiplayer. I'd played some online matches before, but my mic-happy teammates would usually show less self-preservation instincts than the AI bots.
Granted, on the first Versus match I joined today, a teammate would insist on taking point. I would look and see a blue silhouette more or less a mile away from the rest of us with a hunchbacked red silhouette riding his shoulders and pounding his head.
On a mood to experiment, I decided to try the Survival mode for the first time. I joined a game and we were gathering supplies when one of my teammates insisted on switching to another map to exploit a glitch I'd never heard of. A vote was called and, not wanting to be a spoilsport, I went with it.
The map is The Passing - Underground, where the zombie hordes attack the survivors once a radio is started. Before doing that, my teammates instructed me to go up the fire escape and, when we got to the top, one of my teammates jumped on the railing and from there jumped toward the roof. Surprisingly, he hung from the supposedly-inacessible roof and when we helped him up, he was on the roof. Another teammate did the same. I was encouraged to try.
My first attempt had me hanging from the fire escape. My teammate patiently helped me up and encouraged me to try again. My second attempt ended with me on the ground, dead. They defibbed my bones back together as I admitted I wasn't very good at this.
A few botched attempts later, I was starting to accuse Valve of sexism for not letting my female character model get on that fucking roof like everyone else.
"Get on the railing and jump at the corner!" said a teammate through the mic.
"I am doing that," I defended myself.
"No, quite obviously you are not."
We were at this for about ten zombieless minutes. Different directions were given: "Face the WALL, jump to the RIGHT!" "Aim at the corner and jump!" "Just jump!" "Don't jump, just fall off". All of these ended with me either hanging from the railing or staining the ground below.
"Impressive, Andre. Impressive," said the mic guy.
"Don't worry, I failed on my first twenty times too," said another teammate, which I and my ruined self-esteem appreciated.
"Look, I'll just go start the radio and fight from below, okay?" I said, to which they begrudgingly agreed. About a minute later we were all dead. You'd think they'd have fared better than me on top of their precious fucking roof.
From one match to the next, some of my teammates had been replaced by other online players; the ones who weren't replaced were vacated by their human players, reduced to bot-status and nametagged "Ellis", "Coach", etc. But soon, more human players jumped in. We managed to play one match properly before one of the new teammates said:
"Let's do the glitch!"
Up I went, anticipating my humiliation, explaining my story to them and asking for a step-by-step guide. Not fully comprehending the scope of my ineptitude, they were somewhat vague. Two teammates got on the roof and jumped all the way to a lower fire escape on another building. A third teammate got on the roof and got ready to jump too, forgetting he was supposed to help me up. I didn't notice this right away.
So as I jumped toward the roof he jumped toward the fire escape. We both missed.
"Wow," said one of my teammates, contemplating the dead guy on the ground and the desperate girl hanging from the fire escape.
After restarting the match, they offered a more thorough explanation. I got on the railing and, like a little scared child, said, "What do I do now?"
"Get on the railing, jump at the corner and press D."
I tried that and I WAS UP.
I AM NOT A MORON.
I HAD TO PRESS D.
THE OTHER BASTARDS NEVER SAID THAT.
As I victory danced all over the rooftop -- in what may be the most pathetic pride I ever felt --, one of our teammates had gone all the way to the other side of the map and wouldn't stop hopping.
"Why are you hopping repeatedly?" I asked.
"A GLITCH" he replied.
"Another one? How many goddamn glitches does this map have?"
"INVISIBLE LADDER" he replied happily.
We went over to where he was and found him jumping at a wall on which there was nothing but bricks and traces of vegetation. My other teammate did the same thing. I watched them both hop repeatedly like bunnies on ecstasy.
"THEY TOOK IT OUT", one of them concluded in, I imagine, tears. He proceeded to shoot the wall many times, presumably to carve a ladder with bullets.
Meanwhile, in the distance, a fourth teammate stood, patiently waiting for us to start the radio, not slightly interested in glitches and apparently eager to kill some zombies. I verified the nametag on top of this magnificent person's head: