Dysfunctional chaos. That is likely how I would describe my friend group when we play games together. We enter a situation with the best of intentions, whether it be to complete the quest, veg out and build a city in Valheim, or just get a few rounds of Warzone in before bed, but more often than not those sessions break down into moments that can oftentimes define the games that I and my group play.
I started thinking about moments in gaming a while back, trying to figure out if there was one singular moment that I think defined my playgroup in a nutshell. While we typically have about five or six of us now, back when myself and the core group were starting to become friends, we would play a lot of The Elder Scrolls Online, or even GTA Online when it first launched.
I remember fondly flying out to Houston one year and just hanging out at my friend's house, drinking beer and seeing if we could jump the gate into the military base to steal a Lazer fighter jet in GTA. That is all we did for hours, but it was incredible.
Our escapades in GTA Online, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, Divinity: Original Sin 2, and more have filled entire playlists on my friend's YouTube channels. There are moments where I and Shank needlessly drowned in PUBG to spur our third friend, Joe (Ralph) on to victory in our first-ever Chicken Dinner. Playing any game with Shank usually means you're set on fire at least once (happened most recently in Warhammer 40,000: Darktide in fact).
But I don't think any clip defines us more than the Backstreet Boys Heist Mayhem in GTA Online. Seven years after it happened I still find myself eagerly showing new friends and acquaintances I feel might get a kick out of our craziness.
To set the stage, this was right after heists were introduced in GTA Online. My crew and I were on the second heist, specifically on the portion of a mission where we need to intercept a prison bus carrying a prisoner we were trying to break free. It's a tense setting in any circumstance, but we have a tendency to make things harder on ourselves than we need to for the most part.
Case in point: while many crews would bring fast vehicles capable of getting in and out of the scene quickly, we used our heist vehicle, the Dubsta (based on the Mercedes Benz GL). It's a terrible car, made even more terrible when you're trying to use it to pull off a pit maneuver against a bus while also dodging the cops on your tail.
Missions in GTA are usually delivered via a phone call from the mission giver, in this case, the guy who hired us for the heist. As we got closer to our objective, our heist giver had started to detail what we needed to do.
Unfortunately for him, and two of my friends, Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way" also happened to start to play on the radio. It was an opportunity to not only rock out, reliving 4th grade Joseph's boy band phase, but also simultaneously annoy my friends. Thankfully Shank saw it the same way.
What evolved was an artistic offering of the song, sung slightly delayed thanks to the Internet, all the while ignoring the mission instructions. It was set up to be a gloriously, chaotic time.
Suffice to say, Pete and Brian did not appreciate this, and when it came time to get the job done we were woefully unprepared for what to do. It ends in a predictable fashion that doesn't fail to make me laugh everytime I see it since.
It's these types of memories I'm talking about. Core memories that help define the games we play for each of us individually. GTA Online will always be one of those titles that I play not simply because Los Santos is one of the most realistically built cities in a video game and I want to explore it, but also because of the memories associated with my time in game.
It's also helped define a friendship group that has stood the test of time, seeing members move from various states, go through divorces, and more. Every time we play GTA or any other co-op game, I brace myself for another episode like our Backstreet Boys Heist Mayhem, because the dysfunctional chaos our group operates under would allow for nothing less. Each game there is a chance for something to go horribly wrong, to the entertainment of the rest.
But please, Shank, stop lighting me on fire.
What about you? Are there any core gaming moments with friends that have defined your playgroup? Are there any moments you simply look back fondly on years later? Let us know in the comments.