Zen Koans of Modern Warfare 2

March 3rd, 2010 by Christian

(or: Not the Wind, Not the Flag)

[Thanks to the emails generated by my previous Modern Warfare 2 rant, I’ll revisit the game.  Here are five Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer koans vaguely in the style of The Gateless Gate.  Mumon is a Chinese Zen master (1183-1260).  I did not write verses because I am lazy.]

1. The infinite chain of FFA

While playing free-for-all (FFA) on a small map, stop stalking someone and turn around suddenly.  You will see that someone has been stalking you, and unknown to him, behind his back you see someone stalking him in turn.  But maybe it doesn’t stop there?   FFA on a small map is a chain of soldiers arranged in a circle.  Everyone stalks the person in front of them who is facing the other way.  They spawn, stalk, shoot and are killed from behind … then it repeats until the round ends at the score limit.  This is what you make possible as you jab at “X” to respawn as fast as you can.  You are shooting yourself in the back and the other players are your instrument.

Mumon’s comment: It is a repetitive ritual: spawn, stalk, shoot, die.  But it is no more compulsive than Farmville.

2. The exclamation

When something unusual happens while you are playing with strangers (mercenary or FFA) an exceptional kill will cause your enemy to exclaim out loud–they have forgotten that their headset is on.  Just as you press the trigger you hear an “aawwww!” or, if it is something weird, more of a surprised “oh!”   It’s a sound that you forced out of them.  Maybe if the XBox headsets were more sensitive you would hear this more often.  Maybe you could hear the sharp intakes of breath that you cause.

Mumon’s comment:  That is the sound of a stranger breathing for you.  Mostly it is swearing.

3. The dance of equals

In multiplayer you will discover your perfect match.  You will come upon each other in an open courtyard.  Each of you will empty your clip, firing at short range, while you strafe and dodge this way and that.  As the last rounds are fired and you both start to reload, no one has been hit!  You both switch to knives and leap backward and forward.  As the sweep of the knives finishes this strange little dance, no one has been hit!  This might even produce a momentary pause. Or even peace. Or was it lag?

Mumon’s comment: Then you will both be killed by a Predator missile from the sky.  The sky is always the victor.

4. The opposite of lag

You will see the crosshairs perfectly centered over your opponent.  You will fire.  You see the report and feel the recoil, but you are the one who has died, even though you know in your heart that you fired first.  When it happens you will blame the lag and cry out at this injustice.

Yet there will be other times.  Other times when you achieve an uncanny fluency.  You can do no wrong as you score point after point.  Every bullet of yours finds its target.  This, you think to yourself, is skill.  I am unstoppable.

Mumon’s comment: Skill is the opposite of lag.  Is skill the opposite of lag?

5. The Care Package of Enlightenment

Capt. John “Soap” McTavish asked: “When I call down a care package, am I enlightened?”

Capt. John “Soap” McTavish asked: “When I call down an emergency airdrop, am I enlightened further?”

Mumon’s comment: When you defend and retrieve every one of the crates from an emergency airdrop–even on a busy map filled with enemies–you are still 108,000 miles from a good killstreak reward.  At least that’s usually my luck.

Capt. John “Soap” McTavish said: “Tango down.”

Appendix: Mumon’s Zen Warnings:

The Model 1887 is the false Zen.  It is overpowered and there is no honor in it.  To rely on the Claymore is to tie yourself without a rope. If you camp in the back of the plane on Terminal you go astray from the essence.  If you camp in the front, you oppose the principle.  If you neither camp in the back nor the front, you are a dead man breathing.  Tell me now, what will you do?

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