Saturday, 14 November 2009

Unprintable: The Gentle Art of Talking Smack

This post was originally written (by me) and published on May 28, 2007 here.

The game is delicately poised, with Mario just managing to edge out Bowser as the racers come into the last straight. Some distance away in third, Yoshi watches helplessly until he suddenly notices a blue shell go flying past. A second or two passes, there's the dull thump of an explosion, nearby two players begin screaming and cursing, and Yoshi crosses the line first. Pop quiz: which of the following is the appropriate response of the player controlling Yoshi?
a) Say nothing, and just enjoy the win
b) Talk to the other players and admit that without the luck of the guy who was coming last getting a blue, he never would have won the race
c) calmly point out that Mario and/or Browser are still winning the overall Grand Prix.
d) Stand up, start doing pelvic thrusts, throwing the horns and shouting "that's what you get! In your face. In. Your. Face"
If you're in my group of gaming friends, the answer is d. Smacktalk is one of the most important parts of multiplayer gaming when everybody is in the same room. Now, obviously it's important that there's no actual malice behind the smacktalking because otherwise you end up with a geekfight, and nobody wants that. Besides that, it's no holds barred. Originally I was only going to talk about the justification for smacktalk, but I've decided to summarize that in a few sentences and then give some useful advice on identifying, creating and responding to smacktalk (sidenote: I normally refer to it a talking **** but in an effort to do my part to alleviate the world asterisk shortage I'm going to use smacktalk instead).

So, justification. What possible reason do you have to call a good friend a retarded monkey who might do better in a poop flinging contest than in a game of Soul Calibur? Well, basically three reasons. Firstly, it's entirely possible that me and my friends are not very nice people, and gaming just exacerbates the problem. Secondly, I like to think that my defeat is something my opponents value, and something they want to celebrate. Don't give me that "gracious in victory" crap, when you beat someone who normally beats you, the first thing you want to do is rub their face in it, admit it. Go on, you'll feel better if you do. See, wasn't that fun? Thirdly, I personally prefer people who jump up and down and continually replay the KO in a game of Fight Night than someone who smirks quietly. It's like they feel bad about feeling good about winning (that sentence could possibly be better constructed I suppose). I bet they play light side characters in Kotor as well.

Core Smacktalk Moves
As with the use of the word smacktalk, I'll be substituting words like crap, rubbish, trash and awful for words that normally get printed in comics using the shift and number keys in combination. Feel free to replace such words with your preferred profanity.

The Judgement Call
The Judgement Call is really the bread and butter of the smacktalk world. When you can't think of anything more amusing or original, a simple "Sweet baby Jesus, I am awesome." or "Wow, you are trash at this game." can go a long way. I especially like to use the Judgment Call when it is completely unjustifiable, say when you've just snapped a ten match losing streak in a given game.
Optional extra: This can always be reframed as a question, hence making it more likely to get a rise from the target by changing it to "Wow, how is possible to be so trash at this game?"

The Feigned Surprise
The key element of this move is to ask a leading question, which you then answer yourself, being shocked that the answer is the best possible outcome for yourself or the worst for the butt of the smacktalk. For example, when playing Unreal Tournament you might say "Who just got that running riot?" Brief pause, "Oh, was that ME?".
Optional extra: You may choose to rub the Feigned Surprise in a little more with a simple Judgement Call like so: "Who ran over that banana skin? Oh, it was you? I guess that's because you're crap."

This is a smacktalk that really has its roots in the world of professional sport, but can be used in almost any context. When someone pulls a Judgement Call or similar when they get one win after you've just beaten them ten times in a row, the time is ripe for a Scoreboard. The traditional execution of this move is to put on your voice that best mimics the sound of fifty thousand drunk football fans and start chanting "Score - Board. Score - Board" Obviously this works best in team based games, but it can still be used effectively by a single person if you really commit. Variations on the scoreboard include the Dismissal ("Oh, were you taking that round seriously? I thought we stopped caring at 25-0") and the ever dependable Diminution ("I never really noticed how much bigger twenty was than three, but when they put it up on the screen like that, it really puts it in perspective").

The Obscenity
I normally reserve this for when I lose in the most unbelievable and frustrating ways: rockets fired ten seconds ago in Halo, ring-outs when I was going to get a perfect in Soul Calibur, that kind of thing. The obscenity is probably the only kind of smacktalk that I normally feel bad about using shortly afterwards, and normally involves various perversions, people's mothers, inappropriate activities involving small mammals, that kind of thing. The less said about it, the better, I think.

Ridiculous Comparison
This is a type of smacktalk that either needs fast thinking or planning. I prefer the fast thinking, because I'm not willing to put in the pre-game effort that planning requires, but if you need to think about it beforehand, feel free to do so. Also be sure to take into account the areas of knowledge and depth of knowledge of the group, otherwise your brilliant "I could have proved the Riemann Hypothesis in less time than it took you to finish that lap" call might go unappreciated. The Ridiculous Comparison is the most likely to result in someone saying "Woah, not cool," but also the most likely to cause genuine laughter. Best left to the experts, but don't be afraid to give it a try. This is different to the Obscenity in that it could potentially be used in polite company and relies on the unexpectedness of the comparison rather than on the shock value of being obscene.

The Cough
Everybody knows this, finds it annoying, but nevertheless occasionally uses it. It's not really a method of smacktalk so much as it is a method in which most types of other smack can be delivered. In it's simplest form the cough consists of raising the fist to the mouth a coughing while saying something quick and derogatory like "cough tool cough".

Curse With The Lot
Best used in a game like Counterstrike or Capture the Flag where there is a long wait between respawns, the Curse With the Lot is normally directed at the world in general rather than a specific person, and requires you to basically use as many socially unacceptable words as possible in a five to ten second period. Bonus points are awarded if you manage to string the words together in some meaningful (if obscene or physiologically unlikely) way.

The Expletive-Noun
This is not really a recognized technique, but rather the kind of thing that gets said in the heat of a fast-paced game when the brain doesn't have sufficient time to come up with something long-winded, witty, or indeed sensible. It works like this: say the first expletive that comes into your head (probably an f or s based word) and follow it immediately with the first noun that you can think of (if you're having trouble coming up with a noun, just glance quickly around the room and say the first thing you see). If you're somewhere it's safe to, practice this technique out loud a few times a day, just to get into the groove. That way you won't find yourself spluttering inarticulately when an opportunity presents itself. This method has spawned the well-known expletives like asshat, but has also created more bizarre phrases like "you are a total s***-carpet." or "damn, I am a total f***-table."

I'm sure I've missed a couple, but there's enough listed above to let you get involved in some proper smacktalking with your friends, and get the neighbours to complain about the noise and foul language at least once. And remember, gaming is always more fun when everybody's shouting at the top of their lungs. If they're swearing, even better.

One final note: I don't behave like this when playing online unless I know everybody on the server. Being a total douchebag around a group of people who regard it as the expected form of behaviour and an integral part of an enjoyable game is entirely different to being a total douchebag to strangers (Live users, I'm looking at you).

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