I Am A “Smacktard”. Who Knew?

So. With the recent release of version 2.0 of the online shooter America’s Army, I decided to dive in and give the game a whirl. I had played the 1.0 version before, but that was a long time ago and I was out of practice, so I decided to create a new profile, play through the training missions, and start from scratch, rather than dive into one of the live-fire missions and get instantly vaporized in a hail of OpFor bullets.

I make it through basic infantry training quickly enough, pass the MOUT McKenna group training exercise, and so I’m qualified to join any of the standard-level online games — you need to pass special training to join Airborne or Special Forces games, which I don’t have — and I choose a scenario that seems simple enough: a raid to destroy three trucks with explosive charges. The trucks are guarded by the other team (the opposing force, or “OpFor”), and my team of 16 or so players has to get past them and blow up the trucks.

Well, the game kicks off and things go downhill quickly. The trucks aren’t all together, you see; they’re spread out in three locations across the map, and there’s a timer running, so you pretty much have to divide your team to hit all three in time. We split up, and before any of our squads can reach the trucks we all stumble across OpFor positions. Firefights break out and the result is that our side is reduced to a smoking hole in the ground… except for me and a couple of other guys, who manage to pull away before we get turned into mulch. Shaken, we regroup and head out to try and reach the trucks again, but this time we’re all on our own.

Amazingly, this time two of us make it. One teammate gets tagged by the enemy right away; another quickly finds a truck, sets the charge, but then has to run and hide as enemy patrols start to chase him down. Since I’m new at this, it takes me a little while to find a truck, but I do it, and miraculously manage to do it without running into any more OpFor patrols. I run up to the truck and hit the “E” key, which is the key that sets the charge…

… and nothing happens.

Now, as you can imagine, this is somewhat confusing, since as I mentioned I’m re-learning the game. Am I pressing the right key? Do I have to be facing a certain part of the truck? I check my control settings and try different locations on the target, but nothing works. The timer, meanwhile, keeps counting down. If I can set a charge here and move out, there’s still time for me to get to the third and final truck and set a charge there, too, so time is of the essence. But I can’t get the ()$&@(&*$ thing to set! Frustrated, I radio my only remaining colleague and ask for help. Am I pressing the right key? Yes. Am I facing the right part of the truck? Shouldn’t matter. I keep trying things, minutes keep passing. Tick, tick, tick…

Finally, with thirty seconds left on the timer, I notice a part of the display I hadn’t seen before, for some reason — an indicator that tells you what objective you are currently closest to. According to that indicator, I’m currently standing next to truck “C” — which is the same truck that my other teammate had already planted charges on earlier. So in other words, the reason I couldn’t plant charges on this truck wasn’t because I was doing it wrong, it was because I was standing next to the wrong truck. And I’d have known that if I had bothered to notice the indicator which was right there on the screen for the five-plus minutes I was futzing around trying to figure out if there was some magic way to press the “E” key that I didn’t know about.

Thirty seconds, I discovered, is just enough time to smack yourself on the forehead and say “Dammit!” before time runs out.

So anyway, for my valor in “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory”, my teammates christened me with the sobriquet that no online gamer wants to have associated with their name — “smacktard“. I suppose I had it coming to me…