I was adjusting my costume atop a skyscraper in Gotham City when a tour bus soared up into view and hovered there. There was a red diamond on my mini-map, meaning an enemy human player. Had I created Wile E. Coyote here in D.C. Universe Online, I would have cowered under a tiny umbrella, or a sign that said "Yipe!"
Fittingly, the cartoon dizzy swirls circled my head as the guy smashed the bus into me three or four times. I'm proud I lasted that long. It's funny that I saw the bus that hit me, but not the superhero wielding it, so I have no idea what level he was. But you unlock super strength at level 20. I was about level six at this point.
Bus-Man's antics were cute the first time. Not so much the second or third time. Or fourth time. Each time I respawned and returned to the Gotham waterfront to finish out a set of missions against Bane, this shitbag was there, camping on me. And there was nothing I could do.
"When I hit level 10, so help me ..." I seethed. And I felt like someone I haven't been in nearly 20 years: a frat boy.
After reviewing D.C. Universe Online I went back into the game and created three more villains, all on PvP servers. For total initiates, PvP means you're in a game where players can fight each other with no restrictions except for, in this case, heroes may only fight villains, and vice versa.
You're really at the mercy of how social, or antisocial, the big men on campus feel like being. In this case, nearly every level 30 hero on D.C. Universe's Killing Joke server felt like pulling rank and being an asshole to me and all the new guys trying to clear off low-level missions on their first day. I swear these guys even followed us to Metropolis General Hospital, where it got really ugly.
And yet all this didn't force me to quit and move to a PvE server. Not because I'd invested too much in this character; not because I was going to write down everyone's name and pay their asses back. No, I actually began to enjoy this system, because it's one I'm familiar with.
It's hazing, pure and simple. I know how to deal with that. I dealt with that in my fraternity. You bear it up and you fight back as much as you can. In my chapter, the brothers loved it when the pledges got creative, teamed up, created alliances with sympathetic brothers, and extracted their revenge. A popular prank was kidnapping a brother who'd overstepped his bounds, driving him to South of the Border on I-95 in South Carolina, and leaving him there with a quarter to call for a ride. Sucks to be you.
As my fellow level 8 and 9 villains were getting creamed I lit off for the Chinatown hideout to call in the cavalry. Previous cries for help by others had gone unanswered. I knew I had to take my time and make this a winning pitch:
We actually got four 30-level villains and several mid-20s into the fray and by God it was a beautiful thing. They were even letting us finish off the heroes (when a character is knocked out, he drops to a knee as a timer runs. An allied player may revive him; an opposing player can finish the job and force him to respawn elsewhere.) It was one of the more vindicating moments I've had in gaming.
I wish the story ended there, though. It doesn't. As I said, hazing is a system with which I am familiar, and I know how to cope with it and play by its sociopathic rules. And that means that when you hit a certain rank, you get to rain shit on the next class.
When I hit level 10, as I swore, I lit off for Metropolis' waterfront amusement park, scene of the first set of missions for heroes in the game's metahuman continuity. They were just rookies, not a one of them above level 4 - which is what you practically start the game as, after the tutorial level. But those bastards at Metro General made a simple pissant mission take 54 minutes, with more than a dozen respawns, and hell yes I was going to pay that forward to someone else.
The first guy lasted all of three charged-up fist attacks. I electrocuted my next victim and then remembered what I usually did when I took a break as hero down here. I soared to the top of a building in the financial district. Bingo, a level 4 up there, with (AWAY) next to his name. Didn't care. I zapped him off the top, followed him 20 stories down and then bounced his skull off the pavement below. Sucks to be you, pal.
A level 11 guy named "Theovenmitt" wandered by, held strong through a protracted brawl and put a brief halt to my rampage, but I was far from done. You can't see the other side's chat, but I imagined the rookies sending out impotent, profanity-filled cries for help to get me off their backs, just like my own outside the Chinatown hideout. Eventually I picked a fight with the wrong guy, about a level 15 who shrugged off my hand blasters and sent me home for the evening.
Even now I don't find my behavior to be contemptible. This sort of thing will take place whether or not I contribute to it. And unlike fraternity hazing, there is no physical harm done. No chugging beers followed by windsprints, no bites out of an onion. Not even getting whacked with a paddle. If this was harmful to the game I assume its makers would find some way to regulate or limit it. Just as I chose to pledge a fraternity, I made the considerate decision to play on a PvP server. I can start over on PvE if I don't like it.
"I love PvP," I told a friend, a more experienced MMO player. "Pure sadism."
"Welcome to the club," he said.