November 14th, 2010 6:51 PM
In all honesty, this is pretty much irrelevant.
Anyways, I've played this game a total of three times now, and bits of each one have been glorious, glorious I tell you! The entirety of the first game was highly enjoyable, the second as well. But this one felt like a mustache on a Mona Lisa that kept getting bigger and bigger until it was just black sharpie and smelled bad, leaving a lack of Mona Lisa. In fact, I really don't like the Mona Lisa, but at least, I'd assume, it smells better than sharpie.
It started out fine, meeting up with a conglomeration of Søta kids, Kaelan Sherbert, Hazel Mannequin, Young Cain, Madeline Ruth, and Mr. Singh dressed as everything from myself (Sutro Tower, alas no pix, unless 7AU posts something) to Kaelan's Harold and the Purple Paint Marker. We waited around for a while, then a while longer, getting somewhat antsy all the while. When the horn was sounded, the massive exodus from J. Herman Plaza exploded gloriously. My comrades and I moved quick towards checkpoint 1A as I was greeted by familiar faces. The second checkpoint was the same as we traversed, following the Bay Bridge towards it, and, again, we were greeted by (more unlikely) familiar (in multiple senses of the word) faces.
This was about the point that I started trying to introduce some measure of strategy in this most brutal game. I decided that, for maximum protection, one half of the team on each side of the street. Mr. Sherbert decided that one team should be TEAM ALPHA, the other: TEAM HIPPO, and the jargon for this formation should be MOUNT THE HIPPO. Needless to say, my idea was rendered useless by the constant adrenaline of my comrades. Even when I tried to have someone watch the front, someone watch the other side of the street, and anther watch the back, it was met with complete denial of the idea.
And about then was when it got weird. My group, consisting of about six at this point, began to head North, realizing that, out of the safe zone and going along side the convention center we were completely helpless on a bottleneck. The tremendous mindfuck of trying to go down an alleyway proved to be the vanguard of the social dysfunction that constructed the evening. We went on further, and were presented with the dilemma of choosing to take the 14 to the next checkpoint, or going on foot. My cries attempting to get us to go on foot were completely unheard, and our journey to the bus ended with a bunch of chasers camping in the bus stop, awaiting us. These inventive chasers, doing exactly what I would have done, took out a two of the six of us, leaving, myself, Madeline Ruth, and Cain stranded as Kalean and Hazel began to take after Mr. Singh in the fresh bloodlust of chaserhood. The remaining three waited in the bus stop, cold, scared shitless after our peaceful first two checkpoints before sojourning down another alleyway, and another, going into a grid that still felt like a maze no matter how easy it was to navigate.
The three of us continued on, finally paying attention to the set up, Maddie in front, me to the side, Cain to the back. Suddenly, a team of chasers began to move from behind and another to the front, and, o glorious night! Two deus ex alleys arrived in front of us, providing escape for Madeline and I, but not Ariana who was cut down in the line of battle. Maddie escaped unscathed as I hid under a fortuitous monster truck, waiting for the chasers to go away. It felt like an eternity, irrationally afraid for my life as I reveled in the grime and motor oil, thankful that the stains would probably wash out of the Sutro pants.
So, by this point I'd escaped three teams of chasers unscathed, and at that juncture I was pretty damn tired. I was somewhat assured that there would probably not be any more chasers for a bit as Maddie and I boastfully moved out. As it would have it, we found, suddenly, Kaelan and Hazel. They chased us round in circles in the empty streets for a while before I collapsed on a wall, faking an asthma attack. He gently touched my shoulder in concern, transfiguring me into a chaser. I got two kills right away.
The absolute sadistic exhilaration from tagging two runners in close succession was enough to fuel more for a few blocks. The experience, which is definitely a necessary possible destruction for a greater creation, proffered a kind of hate in my brain, a continuous adrenaline rush where I was no longer afraid, but angry, irrationally, as the runners had something that I had lost. I began to feel that the game was more than a game. The players had entered into a trans-real experience, and I just bought into it more than the others.
We traveled on, a reunited conglomeration of killers, chasers ready to fight wearing the ripped blue ribbons of our prey on our arms. Giving up on checkpoint 3, we realized that 4, in the heart of the mission, was our best possibility. However, a number of comrades of ours who weren't there at the beginning of the game arrived, and, unlawfully, placed themselves in the game with blue ribbons from god knows where. One of these people was someone who I very much enjoy, but, still, this was an example of cheating, the first example of something that would infect the rest of the evening.
Again, I had the idea of taking the 14 toward the Mission, even though I realized that the 14 went directly into the safezone, a problem which happened all over the place, marking this nihilistic game as my least favorite of the three I have taken part in. The rest of the team ignored the calls for a mass invasion of Hackerville and moved on to a place nearby checkpoint five. The dysfunction of the team increased with my attempts to rally us in some effective formation. I attempted to station teams at each of the major bus stops surrounding Duboce Park, several at the J and 22 stop at Church and Duboce, and a fewer number at the N stop. We got a few kills from idiot runners, fools who thought that they were fast enough to outrun Kaelan or Maddie, the latter of which took a tumble and fucked up her fingers, eventually smearing the blood on Sherbert's face. But these were few in number.
I lagged back. I had it all planned out. We would wait, hiding in the bus stops or against walls, awaiting the busses. Once the doors closed, we would attack them in the liminality 'tween the bus and the shelter. However, the idiocy of the team prevailed in that everyone assaulted the bus before anyone left is, causing them to get back on the bus. Even the ones who left the bus and moved to the bus shelter completely fabricated a rule about a "five second grace period" between the bus and the shelter, which, as far as I'm concerned, is cheating. This phenomenon of cheating runners who couldn't deal with the idea of being tagged proliferated itself through the evening. Every person other than the first two that I tagged looked to the rules and stated that a dispute meant that they were allowed to go free, even though the rest of the rules stated that I, or one of my band, clearly had killed them and that they needed to finally give up the blue and hunt.
Most of these exhausting disputes was due to the busses. Even players who I had met previously and greatly respected resorted to cheating regarding the busses. The busses went directly into safe zones. The busses came far to often, and as far as I was concerned, the busses ruined my game. I was tagged because of the busses and allowed it to happen, and time after time I created ways to exploit the busses and was rebuked for using them. The safezones were far too big and easily accessed. I remained with my team, using every possible method to get a single kill until I finally realized that this time, the game did not reward strategy, but dumb luck. Rather than the paradoxically elegant and bestial game I loved the first two times, this one was a conglomeration of dishonorable cheaters and broken rules. I tried and tried again around checkpoint five, nearly killing off everyone from Waldo Cheerio to Praximity to some fucker I went to preschool with, and each time they cheated to get away.
Eventually, we emigrated from the checkpoint five area to try and get some points around checkpoint six by seizing all travel points posting people around Haight street and Cole to take out the busses. We realized very quickly, however, that the 71 existed inside the checkpoint causing yet another fiasco, making any slightly bus savvy runner free without any fear. We moved to the edges of the zone to find people planted in bus stops continually, waiting. One of these runners made a break for another bus stop and was clearly tagged by Maddie, only to tell her that she got him, only he wasn't going to give her his ribbon because he was so close to the end. The same line was repeated twice by people who I tagged. One other time I tagged someone I was given the really pleasant remark of "FUCK YOU FAG I'M RUNNIN'!"
If I could edit the game, which I know I probably can't, I'd ask for the absolute elimination of non-foot based transport. I'd ask for safezones to only extend to the block that a checkpoint is on, not across the street. I'd also ask for the symbol for a chaser to be more visible, such as a drawn symbol on their forehead. And, most of all, I'd ask for runners not to verbally abuse me when I tagged them.
What I think this all leads to, however, is the fact that this is a game about fear. I play the game for the fear. I feel value in the fear that the runners experience when moving from danger to safety, and I feel value in the chasers capacity to instigate that fear. Journey to the End of Night is a game somewhat reminiscent of its source material. It's a game that's meant for you to suddenly, for no apparent reason, chase a meaningless goal with all that you have while being chased by someone who wants you to not reach it with all you have. Tense, maddening emotions should be the lifeblood of the game. It's the ultimate Halloween, and when one can just, for no reason, hop on the seventy one and go from checkpoint 5 to 6, the meaning of fear is lost. We were no longer thrown into the hyperreality I lusted after. We were no longer monsters, animals, but idiot hipsters chasing slightly drunk idiot hipsters playing a stupid game that was more frustrating than interesting. Over 10 percent of the runners got to the finish line. (though this fact is unverified) As far as I'm concerned, this should be a game about getting to the finish line, about if you can get to the finish line, not about when you will. Maybe, and only maybe, five percent should get there, or less. I wanted to be a wreck by the end of it physically and psychologically, I wanted to be paranoid for days afterward, aching, but feeling some sense of fulfillment from moving into another place, a new Halloween. Instead, I finished playing that game and saw kids trick or treating the next day and realized that I'd gladly give up Journey for that any day.
Though my other half ran in another group of impractically dressed hipsters, I stayed with this team of competitive oddballs. Bryce's account, full of bitterness, is parallel only in practical terms as far as my first Journey went. A perfect Journey should cater to strategy and bestial strength, speed, and that it did, though I will admit the harmony was disrupted with the involvement of buses. Since the chronological details are all up there, I'll jot down some brief anecdotes of what I was left with.
Let's see. Riled up and irritable from costume difficulties, the late start at the plaza dulled the negative energy I'd pent up. I came as a passable tribble for lack of half my original costume and felt jittery after throwing together said tower outfit with Sir Sutro several hours before.
Lazy art student and otherwise, I was terribly out of shape and felt it, too. Strategy should have been more appealing, but as the night carried on, primitive bloodlust and love for the chase overruled aching hammies.
Half the team was captured by debatable means, but they embraced it and then some by luring in the others. A respectable act: chasing, though less of a Journey and more King of the Hill, was a liberation and felt damn better, being at the top of the chain. Stubborn runners and unclear safezones unfortunately brought the game back to reality, the victor the more dishonest one. ("Look, call me a git all you want, you caught me but I ain't givin' you my ribbin," said one hot-headed brit. And "I HOPE YOU'RE HAPPY YOU RUINED MY NIGHT!"'s abound.)
I am only disappointed we couldn't visit more checkpoints. Or I am sad for hardly playing as a runner, playing for the rush, not the journey or the chase. Though we didn't hit the most populous points as chasers either, running through chain-link forests, perching on bus shelters, riding Safeway buggies down Market, smearing my own blood from a laudable catch on the others, and finally trudging by and through our excuses for a natural world was enough to make for a properly dissociative night. A night more satisfying than sad doughnuts, and what would be the right prelude to a day tramping about a rebar swamp.