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Suck It Down...

While I can't say with absolute certainty, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to know that as long as man has competed against one another, there has been taunting going on. Some more subtle than others; some downright bold and obnoxious.

I could write volumes on the subject without even scratching the surface...we see taunts in everything from organized sports to modern warfare.


For the purposes of this blog, I'll tone it down to a finer resolution and focus on taunting in the video game world. Something I just happen to know a little bit about.

taunt Pronunciation [tawnt, tahnt]
–verb
1. to reproach in a sarcastic, insulting, or jeering manner; mock.
–noun
1. an insulting gibe or sarcasm; scornful reproach or challenge.

Video games taunts are not a new phenomenon but have certainly evolved into an advanced socially fundamental component of the games we play today. Winning isn't enough. We want to bask in the glory of the win. Dominating our opponent on the score board isn't enough. We want them to know it. And when we get our revenge or pull off an amazing upset, well, we certainly want everyone to know that too.

Obviously, taunting involves 2 or more real players. You can't taunt a bot or NPC (the computer controlled players). Well, you can I suppose, but it’s not quite the same, not nearly as exciting and borderline institutional.

I can recall taunting in my earliest days of gaming long before the Internet came along and changed everything. When multiplayer meant 2 people on the same machine. In my case, the historic Commodore 64. My brother and I would huddle around a little 12" black and white TV playing One on One: Larry Bird vs Dr. J. We had some very tense games. I can recall some spectacular shots, but on more than one occasion, it would come down to the next basket wins. I can remember charging the basket, making an amazing dunk and shattering the backboard. For the Win.


I would jump up yelling "in your face" while imitating the 360 degree dunk I just pulled off for my triumphant victory. This would usually illicit a punch from said brother. I didn't care though. I won. (For the record, I lost far more than I ever won, so when I did win, it was something to celebrate, no matter how many punches it involved.)

As you well know, games eventually evolved. Technology advanced. And with it, the gaming industry expanded. One of the most historic and significant developments was modem to modem play. Still just two players (at first) but at least you were all cozy in your home and your opponent was all cozy in theirs (or perhaps, at the public library...not that I ever loaded unauthorized software on a public or government computer system, mind you). The first real game I played modem to modem was Doom II. Perhaps you've heard of it. Ironically, Doom II started out more as a single player game that morphed into this massive multiplayer game with a cult-like following. It would eventually go on to revolutionize the whole First Person Shooter (FPS) genre.

This was an awkward period in the history of video game taunting. At least for those branching out and playing head-to-head games.

There wasn't really a "method" to conduct a taunt. No voice. No body movements. Nothing flashy or fancy. The games back then often had the ability to send simple text messages back and forth, but while you were busy trying to type an insult to your opponent, they were on the hunt, restocking ammo and health and moving to a preferred location from which to attack you. You normally didn't waste a lot of time trying to send chats back and forth.

It's not to say taunts didn't exist during this time. In fact, one of the most notorious taunt filled games of all time was released during this period (on a console no less). A game that marched right up to the line of socially accepted behavior, picked up the line, broke it over its knee, and marched on down the road. This game, largely made popular by its finishing move taunts, is of course none other than Mortal Kombat. Nothing is quite as demoralizing to an opponent as ripping his skull and spine out of their body or freezing them into a block of ice and shattering them into tiny little pieces.


Time goes on. Technology improves. Games mature. The PC world starts to catch up.

The brilliant yet often dark and twisted minds of the game developers apparently liked the aspect of taunting because it has certainly witnessed its share of innovation. Especially in the realm of First Person Shooters (FPS). If you're a non-gamer and wondering why taunting seems prevalent in FPS style games (yeah, right...why would a non-gamer wonder that? Hello?!? Anyways...) it’s because other games, like Real Time Strategy (RTS) for example, don't really require the exceptional timing reflex or mouse control finesse to be really good. Just point and click. FPS games require skill. And skill often leads to ego. And ego leads to...yep...taunting.

Anyway...PC games developed a voice capability where you could actually talk while playing the game. While it's easy to justify that a voice capability allowed players to configure games and coordinate strategies, we all know that the real purpose behind a voice capability is trash talking. Taunting, if you will.
One of the most famous (or infamous) issuer of taunts the gaming industry has ever witnessed was John Romero, co-creator of id and a co-designer of great games like Doom and Quake. Mr. Romero is an interesting fellow indeed and an iconic figure in the world of gaming. Yet, his decision to run an advertisement promoting his newest game that was supposed to turn the industry on its heels didn't bode well for the man credited with coining the term "deathmatch". The advert claimed he was going to make "you his b####" and to "suck it down." Sadly, his game flopped and his words would come back to haunt him. But that's a whole separate blog.

It was also during this time, when character models and movements became more lifelike. Instead of just moving up down left and right, players could now jump and crouch. Did you say, crouch? The ability to crouch lead to one of the most prevalent (and offensive) taunts ever witnessed. The Tea Bag. I'm not a big fan of The Tea Bag. Perhaps it's because...well, let's just say I'm a submariner...and leave it at that. LOL. Tea bagging or the art of...is where you kill an opponent and while they are lying there dead and waiting to respawn, you run over their body to crouch and stand several times in a row. They can witness the insult and how you are rubbing it in their face. Literally. If you know what I mean.


Moving on...heh heh. For the sake of brevity (although I think that went out the window a while ago), let's fast forward to the present.

Taunting. I was there when it started and I've witnessed the evolution of it. Today. Present day. There is no game that has mastered taunting as clever, cunning and colorful as Team Fortress 2. The creators of this wonderful game have included every aspect of taunting. Sure, there is typed chat, voice and even the ability to (cringe) do The Tea Bag...but there is so much more available.


TF2 offers the ability to tag (yes, tag...as in spray paint) a small image to pretty much any surface in the game. Of course you're going to get those players who abuse this feature with offensive material, but for the most part, when used the way it was intended, you can leave your mark behind in the enemy's base. Sweet.

TF2 offers pre-recorded messages. Press a button and your character will issue orders, respond to team mates or let out a battle cry (or jeer). There are several options available. A nice little touch.

But, the best feature TF2 has...

TF2 offers good ole fashioned taunts. Each of the 9 classes has its own array of taunts depending on the item being held, some of which can render instant kills while adding further insult to injury. Most are just humorous little routines. When you press the taunt button, your character will do (and say) something witty, clever and otherwise insulting to your fallen opponent and those around you close enough to see/hear the taunt. Nothing quite as rewarding as playing scout on 2Fort and sneaking up behind a sniper and using your baseball bat taunt to finish him off.


I'm not sure how the taunting will continue in games of the future, but one thing is for certain... As long as there are gamers, there will be taunting.

 

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