Contrary to popular belief...
We don't sit around all day playing games and eating bonbons at the BuzzFeed office. This is a serious business, guys, with serious people making extremely serious cat GIFs all day. So when we got our hands on the new Ghostbusters video game, I invited my fellow BuzzFeeders to take a break from work to play a friendly round on our very friendly couch.
I thought it would inspire bonding. I thought we'd share gentle giggles inspired by amicable banter overshadowed by mutual respect and camaraderie.
Little did I know how quickly our professional atmosphere would turn into a vicious bloodbath.
Our story begins with a motley crew of "people" known as "my co-workers."
I sent out a mass email a few weeks back asking who'd be interested in playing the game. Suffice it to say, just about every BuzzFeed employee who has ever walked this earth replied. So, being the fair dude I am, I chose seven individuals I was 99% sure I could beat, no matter what, hands down, no contest.
I knew I'd be the best player starting out, but I wouldn't know why until well after we finished playing.
We started out choosing characters:
Andy and I played as the Big Beardy Guy.
Kirby and Kirk played as the Mean-Looking Blonde Chick.
Jalyssa and Sara chose the Cool Nerdy Girl.
Jeffrey and Alex were fond of the Smug Blonde Dude.
Honestly, everything began pretty smoothly.
The group was an amalgamation of gamers, Ghostbusters enthusiasts, and randos who jumped at the opportunity to get out of working. Those passions were what brought us together, creating an initial fraternity built on polite banter and appropriate amounts of space on the couch.
This is how the game is played:
There are three main mechanics we mastered: (1) The PKE Meter, a searching tool that allows you to find hidden paths and treasure, (2) the special ghostbusting gun that wards off smaller mob enemies — each character is equipped with their own, and of course (3) the proton pack, used to stifle and capture bosses for extra points.
The points you earn go toward upgrades such as speed boosts or gun cool-downs. Any score you get is meant to be a collaborative grade. The game doesn't incentivize you to compete in any way. I REPEAT, the game is NOT about proving you're the best Ghostbuster!
When we started, there was no competitive atmosphere.
We were playing the game as it was meant to be played. Jalyssa didn't care about getting the most points. Kirk was a good sport about reviving fellow teammates. Kirby didn't seem to mind I was obviously the superior player.
Those first 15 minutes were a very pleasant experience. The eight of us bonded as we giggled at the zombie's clothes. We fought to save Alex from getting puked on by Librarian Ghost. Andy didn't bat an eye when I found all the secret locations and stole all the extra points.
We were a team working together to button-mash our way straight to 5x boss points.
But when we got to the first checkpoint, I sensed something was shifting.
The group dynamic subtly and collectively changed from relaxed to snarky. They broke themselves up into distinct factions before my eyes.
Kirby, Jeffrey, and Alex became the trash-talking crew. They battled it out to see who could taunt me hardest when I died on the battlefield.
Andy, Kirk, and Jalyssa became obsessed with getting the highest score. It didn't matter how many times I told them it didn't matter if I had the most points, they would not listen.
In all honesty, Sara and I were the only two people playing for the benefit of the team. Sara was trying to lead everyone in the right direction, and I was sneaking away to make sure I got the points the team "missed". But what I did was for the betterment of the group!!!
I thought it was lighthearted. I thought it was just a bit of fun.
But when they went after Kirk, I knew we were playing a much dirtier game outside the game.
It happened too fast. I couldn't stop it.
That decision turned out to be my most brilliant move yet.
Only once we all turned against each other could I remember a couch co-op's defining quality: The fun is rarely in being cooperative!
What I learned then was that I wasn't (just) the best player because of my skill. I was the best player because I brought my co-workers together by tearing them apart.
A great man once said, "It is OK to watch your team die if it means you get all the boss points."*
In the end, Jalyssa, Andy, and Kirk each beat my score (by a very small margin and based on technicalities). Alex, Kirby, and Jeffrey ended up needing the most revives (they were more focused on talking smack than saving health). I'm not sure what exactly happened to Sara, although I know she has a PKE upgrade waiting to be popped.
As for me, well, I learned a valuable lesson about gaming and about life.
The fun of this game is getting competitive with your team IRL.
Let's be clear: There is absolutely no PVP in the new Ghostbusters game. Regardless, what makes it fun is playing against people sitting on the same couch.
Games played solely online are great and all, but they don't generate the same excitement as a room of people staring at the same screen. Excitement comes from battling through levels as a team while simultaneously trying to beat each other's scores. It creates a unique bond between you and the players you're trying to screw over. And that bond isn't over when you sign off; it's a physical relationship.
Now, I'm not saying IRL relationships are any better than online ones, but they do have competitive perks — like that glorious moment when you grab someone's controller and throw it across the room.
What can top that?
Images shot by Eileen Connors. Designed by Jake Russell Tapleshay.