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Replay: Diary of an Online Noob - Round 1: Fight!
by Joey Núñez

I’ve been playing videogames for about 20 years now, and in that amount of time I like to think that I’ve become a pretty darn talented player..

I finish all my games, hunt down secrets and power-ups, and generally wipe the floor with would-be opponents. Admittedly, most of my opponents over the years haven’t been true gamers; for some unfathomable reason, most of my friends just haven’t been into videogames. So - as you can imagine - when one of the poor bastards picked up a controller and challenged me to a round or two, the results were pretty much invariable: Joey would reign supreme.

Although it’s arguable how fun these challenges truly were, one thing is certain: they led me to believe that I was some kind of gaming legend, unlike other gamers, unlike other men. Whispers were heard of my prowess the world over. I was great and I knew it.

Hell yeah, bitches.

Now, you should know I’ve never really been into online gaming. As a huge fighting game fan, most of my early online experiences were focussed on these types of games, which are utterly ruined by lag. With a bad internet connection at the time, I abandoned my online adventures. I have since upgraded my internet, but with the unpleasant taste that was left in my mouth by a laggy Soul Calibur IV, I was hesitant to try out the online arena again. Until recently that is.

It was a regular Tuesday night at home, nothing particularly out of the ordinary. I got home from work, made myself a ham sandwich and sat down to enjoy some quality gaming time. As I flicked through my collection, and deliberated what my game of choice for the evening would be, I found the whimsical sideway looks of Ryu and Ironman to have a particularly charming glow, and popped Marvel vs. Capcom 3 into my PS3.

My love for comics and fighters is well known here on GGTL, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that I’m still playing the hell out of Marvel vs. Capcom 3. However, I hadn’t really jumped into the online experience of the game. I'd tried a fight or two, but normally signed out quickly, as soon as a hint of lag reared its ugly head. That Tuesday night, however, things were different. The internet and I were getting along brilliantly, and I was ready to take some noob kids to school. My first challenger - we’ll call him 'ScoobyNoob23' - did wonders to rouse my spirits. I stepped into the ring with She-Hulk, Trish and Captain America, and as I realised that 'Scooby' had chosen Sentinel, Iron-Man and Ryu, I simultaneously felt intense feelings of both relief and dread. Relief because the cheap Sentinel–Iron-Man combo is oh-so-popular amongst noobs, and dread because with his cheap characters, this noob might just beat my legendary skill down with some dumb luck.

'Scooby' never knew what hit him. I walked out of that fight with my three characters intact, and Scooby declined a rematch. 'Who’s next?' I thought, feeling like Daniel-san, post Mr Miyagi training. My next challenger popped up soon enough.

We’ll call him 'SoulCrushingRealityCheck85', or just 'EgoKiller' for short.

'EgoKiller' walked into the ring with Dante, Akuma and Zero, against my She-Hulk, Trish, and Captain America trio. She-Hulk is my heavy hitter; I start off most fights with her, and then leave her in reserve to deal out some heavy punishment if my other characters are taking too much heat. I blinked twice and she was down. As I felt the cold sweat travel down the back of my neck, I paired my Trish against his Dante, and after some grueling fighting, just as I was about to take that cocky, white-haired douchebag out, 'EgoKiller' switched him and came down on me with fury as Akuma. Poor Trish never stood a chance. Captain America was my last hope. A few charging stars and shield throws later, Cap’s lifeless body lay on the ground, looking up at me. I had failed my fighters, and I was pissed.

'I’ll get him on this rematch', I thought. Five rematches later, I had managed to take down one or two of his characters, but hadn't won a single match. At the end of my fifth utter defeat, a message pops on my screen: "Your utter incompetence is no longer amusing. You are no legend. Thou art nought but a noob".

Okay, what he actually said was "Good fights" as he signed out, but I knew what he really meant. I now had a personal vendetta. An arch-nemesis.

I watched YouTube videos of MvC3 during my lunch break at work. I stayed up until 2am, polishing my skills in the challenge and practice modes. And, three gruelling days later, I was ready. I had added 'EgoKiller' as a friend, waited for him to show up and challenged him to a game. As he accepted, my hands were shaking, but I walked into that fight feeling like Bruce Lee; this was a wild jungle but I was Stallone. Sure, this guy was my own personal terminator, but I was Sarah freaking Connor, and I was ready.

I cannot even begin to describe the utterly humiliating asskicking that followed. Nothing I tried worked. Those perfectly timed combos I had mastered? I couldn't even manage to set them up. As the fight ended, I pondered for a moment whether or not I should even attempt a rematch, but only for a moment. I was seeing red, and as our second fight started I attacked this guy with a fury. I used every cheap move I could think of, recalled every combo I ever learned, switched characters in and out quicker than I ever had. It came down to Zero and She-Hulk, and as that beautiful green lady delivered that final punch, the sheer elation of victory that filled my body was overwhelming. I jumped up and down like a two year old, and not even the soul-destroying pain I felt when I stubbed my little toe on my bedpost was enough to bring me down. I had won. I was legendary once more. This was what gaming was all about.

EgoKiller beat me to a bloody pulp in all of the next three fights.

I’ll keep fighting online, though. I’m craving that feeling of elation like a junkie. I’ve discovered online gaming and there’s no going back.

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- Joey Núñez

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