Making something that is bad on purpose - and not bad inadvertently, which is my usual process - is a whole-body thrill. It goes hard against every natural instinct to write this way. It has the delicious and irresistible texture of sin.
I was accepted into the Quake Live beta earlier this week, and between that and Tribes Next it’s got me pining for brutal rhythms of our old ways. Quake Live (if you are not familiar) is a free, browser-based reboot of Quake 3, which means that it is the polished bones of an ancient predator - fearsome and vast. It’s a dense brick of another era’s congealed prejudices, and indulging in them feels good. No, you don’t get health back just because. Health is a resource, and as such it can be controlled. There’s no reloading, there is only ammunition. You aren’t sent to some purgatorial no-place as punishment when you die. You come back as fast as you can click, the entirety of your life spent in dead sprints from birth to grave.
It felt like QuakeWorld at first, which may have been its intention. To young men, words like “QuakeWorld” are probably just the hooting of an old ent. But when one played the original Quake, you joined the server of your choice by hitting the tilde key and connecting manually to the IP. Gabriel used to keep a notepad in the drawer of his computer desk, with a page titled “Favorite Servers.” My, how times have changed.
QuakeWorld (it is fair to say) created the “online shooter,” a creature native to the Internet and not simply compatible with it or parallel to it. Core to this assertion is the predictive client that gave modem users a genuine stake. The game had a “Browser Plug-In” (as they were called in those days) that allowed you to choose servers live, from dynamic lists. I set this as my homepage, because that’s all my browser was for then. It looked very much as Quake Live does now - that is to say, very much like home.