Sunday, May 30, 2010

Fusion Core Kills

One day during an online Halo 3 match, I thought of an interesting and kind of funny challenge: to stand upon a fusion core (these are highly explosive and one shot sets them off) and kill another competitor.  My first successful core kill (shown above) was a very close call, but I lived and he didn't.  My heart was pounding (I know that's stupid and funny, but it really was).  It amazed me just how passionate I became about achieving this kind of challenge in many different forms.  I'm not all that great a player, compared to some of the amazing gamers out there, but I really worked hard at these stunt kills.  A lot of unexpected comedy, social strangeness and spectacle arose from this endeavor. 

From there I was obsessed with collecting these self imposed achievements on every core (that was possible to reach) in all the Halo 3 maps.  I did get them all, and as new maps were released to the public, I was always eager to see what new core kill opportunities were forthcoming.

In later posts, I'll later talk more on ethics, and history of challenges which led to this (starting with the Atari 2600) and deeper psychological insights (yes, kind of funny that it can get deep), but for now I'll merely introduce the fusion core kill concept.

Many rules and variations emerged as to how cool or high ranking the stunt would be considered.  Here are some variables that improved the status of the stunt:

The weaker the weapon used.
The more exposed the fusion core (and you).
The greater the battle traffic in the area of the core.
The more cores (or other explosive types) combined or next to each other.
The rarer the armor/outfit/accessories worn during the event (by killer and/or victim).

The more difficult the kill type (single head shot kill, sticking with an alien grenade).
Special status of victim (Flag CarriersVIP, Juggernaught etc.)
Any medals earned during the kill (double, triple kill etc., bull true kills, beat downs, killing sprees ended or fully achieved, and so on).
Multiple medals earned during the kill.
Victim is not moving due to using the bathroom during match (known as a Potty Kill - low points for difficulty, but made up for by high points for opportunity seizing and comedic magnitude).
The more elaborate or precarious the set up. 
The funnier the situation in any way.
The stranger the situation.

Any flukes that luckily caused an unusual spectacle (killing someone on accident or who wasn't the target, chain reactions... all kinds of other effects and sights.)
Greater difficulty landing on a core (in Halo: Reach Beta test, hovering down onto one using a jet pack... which I didn't think possible until after tons of practice).
The core being moved to a specific area or type of terrain (into water, extending over a ledge, or over transparent surfaces etc).
The destruction of a vehicle, or better yet, an air craft.
The stunt happening in a rare map or match type (such as during the 2 week Halo: Reach beta test, or custom maps, which only appear a few days in a month etc.)
The more dramatic and artistic the screen shot or video made of the event. 

and so on...

There were also rules established for stunt to be considered valid:

It had to be in a real, randomly set up, online match. 
You couldn't tell anyone from any team what you were doing, or explain in any way.
No modding or hacking.
The victim can't be on your team. 
You had to survive the encounter with the one you killed (though it's okay when they, often would angrily return and get revenge with a simple, distant shot to the fusion core).
You had to stay on the mine and maintain stability for at least some moments after the kill (so naturally the core couldn't explode from the victim's last thrown grenade or anything they did).
And, generally, it was best to capture at least one screen shot showing the kill labeled in text format by the game system.   "GrooveHunter killed PastryDestroyer85!" etc.

It was odd just how addictive it became to achieve these, as well as other kinds of stunt kills that evolved or presented themselves.  I even ended up going back to Halo 2 to do some of these, but that was even far trickier to get, film and validate (as we'll see in a later post).

Reactions of others in battle to core kills can be really interesting.  They say all kinds of things into their headsets to me and each other trying to figure out just what my motives or subtle strategies are.  Sometimes, the confusion and/or proximity to the explosives gets them to hesitate just enough for me to take them out.  Occasionally, others will even get on fusion cores as well to try to see what the deal is (like the guy in the foreground of this next picture).

I've even had a few enemies approach me without firing to take a look (and I hold my fire when they do... until they finally shoot).  I also get the core shot out from under me by my own team mates quite frequently (I deserve it and it is really just another element of the challenge).

Standing your ground is so hard to do on these stunts;  I just try to stay calm and focused for the shot, and it can really test your patience as you wait for an opportunity in a match.  It is just a really fascinating and fun thing to do, but it's of course controversial as it is usually done at the expense of your team mates (which is never my goal, but a side effect).  That being said... I welcome any of you to try this, and tell me how you liked it, and send some images and vids.  They would be fun to put up here.

Originally, I wanted to create images for the various medals earned for different types, and may still do so.  "Double Core Kill over Water",  "Pterodactyl Hunter - Core Kill" (shooting down an aircraft on a core), etc.  It would be fun to do that, but for now, the general challenge is out there.  If you want to be on the site, send me at least one artistic image of the stunt kill, one verifying image and someway to link the game so I can see it's not a staged/custom match, but an online, random match with strangers.  Feel free to send a video as well.  The good email address will be for now.  

There are some ridiculously talented players out there and I'd love to see the legit stunt kills you could come up with.  It would be cool to feature your images and videos on this site.

While my blog will go into other directions very different than this type of event, it is a very central and solid starting point for many of the more unusual psychological experiments and phenomena that will be discussed.

Below is a small collection of Fusion Core Kill videos.  I really like the 2nd one.  Can't believe that all the explosives went off except the ones I was standing on.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Counting Coup, Stunt Kills and Inexplicable War Zone Behavior

The Plains Indians of North America held a tradition of counting coup on one’s enemy, by touching them in battle with a hand or a coup stick.  There were many other variations of this act, with sets of rules as to how much honor one gained in the execution.  The greater the display of bravery and the more unusual the steps to show up one’s enemy, the more honors visited upon the warrior… and the more scorn brought down on the victim.  Being injured while counting coup brought even greater honor to the warrior and qualified him to paint his hand red, or place a red hand on the hide of his horse. 

It is said there was one brave who took this too far.  Others were greatly disturbed when he perpetrated many bizarre countings, thefts and unusual killings in his obsession to fully cover a second horse in red hands (his first horse, now redder than its original buff color, had been vandalized by a jealous peer by adding turkey beaks, eyes and legs to each red hand).

The obsessed brave routinely blindfolded himself in battle to achieve “sightless kills”, snuck into enemy camps leaving charcoal mustaches and spectacles on the faces of tribal leaders (symbols to mockingly portray them as pale-face-friendly) and would occasionally impose severe tickling upon a sleeping enemy, whose laughter upon awakening brought them life long shame and dishonor within their own tribe.

His second horse was never fully covered in red hands, for the brave was killed in an attempt to perform a controversial T’Chail Taek  (roughly translates “stunt kill” or “risk kill”).  He called out his enemy while standing upon a gun powder keg stolen from Fort Atkinson.  After emerging from his dwelling and a short exchange of words, the confused enemy was pierced by an arrow, some reports say in the belly, some say the right thigh.  This victim, it is said, was so enraged with dishonor that he, with his bare hands, grabbed hot embers from his camp fire and threw them at the power keg, injuring himself further and sending his offender high into the air. 

Both tribes officially pronounced the act a failed T’Chail Taek attempt since the victim died weeks later than the attacker (from infection in the wound). 

Though most historians discount the existence of this warrior, it is quite telling that children across North America still routinely stamp their paint-dipped hands onto paper and proceed to draw turkey beaks, eyes and legs upon the image.

Stunt Kill Video - Head Shot Standing on Explosives