Top 10 Daily Victims
[UPDATE: No sooner do I write this list than, just this weekend, a New Victim entered the top 10! It goes to show you how this feature continually evolves...]
For nearly a year GameSpy has run a feature that we lovingly call "The Daily Victim." A combined comedic effort from yours truly and Gabriel from Penny-Arcade, it's a unique feature -- part comic, part story, part editorial, partly my fault. It's a daily tribute to the Internet gaming culture and the characters who inhabit it.
One of the highlights of the feature, though, is the audience participation. Each day when a new victim is posted, YOU -- our invincible readers -- rank that victim on a scale of one to ten. The votes are tabulated and averaged out, giving each victim a score (this may represent the only time many of them will ever score.) At the end of the week the highest ranked victims are drawn in full color and are featured in a special story of some sort. Frequently the victims will run across one another -- characters you like will have a habit of appearing and reappearing.
As a result, GameSpy can look at those rankings and compile a "definitive" Top 10. I say "definitive" inside of "quotes" and make the "gestures" with my "fingers" because sometimes I just can't understand WHAT you people were THINKING! Sometimes I'll write what I believe to be a comedic masterpiece and it'll score an average of six, while a toilet jokes busts out with a score of 8.5. What is going on inside your heads!? Nonetheless, these rankings aren't fudged. It's literally a reader's choice of the best of the best.
The Daily Victim feature just got a New Look and we've just started offering the first ever Daily Victim Tee-Shirt, a limited-edition run that will not be available after August 6th. In honor of both progress and rampant, unchecked capitalism we present: The Top Ten Victims of All Time! As voted by our readers. With my own comments included. Plus trivia. On with the list!
[Click on the pics to go to that Victim!]
This Victim immediately scored high on the richter scale because it contains the infamous Gaming Gigabuys Guy, one of the most hardcore of victims ever. He's mean, foul-mouthed, usually dressed as a fluffy animal, and hates his life. As a result he's a blast to torture (someday this dude has to get his own Tee-shirt). In this case he was the victim of an unfortunate incident involving the retail release of Tribes 2 and a Monkey. I always love when Victims can run across one another, so making the poor guy hand out easter eggs seemed like the perfect excuse to bring back dudes like The Unix Admin Wizard, another personal favorite. The unexpected Matrix-twist ending really brings this puppy home -- I'm glad this made the top ten. I think if I hadn't gone on Vacation he woulda been on the Top 5 ... you creeps tend to start ranking victims lower and lower if they're online for more than a day or so!
The Gaming Gigabuys guy also had a cameo during the Daily Victim E3 Week that was pretty funny.
I was surprised that the color version of this victim did better than the black and white version -- in that one, I introduced "Stewie the Frosh," a hardcore deathmatcher who was willing to break his own arm in order to even the odds with the victim pictured above. It had that kinda Quentin Tarantino-esque "savor the moment before the violence so your audience is cringing" kinda thing. When it came time to do a color version of him, I thought, how was I gonna top that?
The result was this guy, number 9 on our list. It's the most morbid and gruesome Daily Victim EVER. But the black comedy somehow seems to work, especially when the guy flatlines in the hospital. The one-upsmanship is totally unrealistic -- or is it? I mean, come on, I know super-competitive people like that, so the story is ridiculous but it's still based around human traits. I think that's why people liked this victim. Alternatively, maybe you're just a bunch of SICK BASTARDS. Either way.
Sometimes I have a lot of trouble coming up with a color version of a victim that I felt was a "one-shot." But, people loved this guy, who after running the most reliable server on the net for a couple years, decides to tweak all his server settings in order to mess with peoples' heads.
For the color version, I stared at his picture for a long time before I decided that the only way to take him to the next level was to show people reacting to the havoc he creates. I brought out the all-stars: The Overclocker, the Unix Wizard, and even The Guy Who Hates His ISP. Maybe people just love to vote high when the characters they like appear. Regardless, I managed to squeeze a lot more laughs out of this guy than I thought I could.
Trivia: Madame Rochquet, the fortune teller who can read gibs, foretold this whole storyline. Creeeepy...
People seem to respond better when I trigger in on games they know and love, so I've written a lot of Tribes 2 victims. Mind you, I like Tribes 2 but I don't play it that often. In fact ... I suck. I'd rather fire up Codename Eagle, where I am a small well-dressed God. But occasionally I'll fire up the game and dream about what it would be like if I was the Mastah. The Tribes 2 Suicide Pilot was just such a character.
I always think it's funny to mix real-life with game-conventions in order to show why the game conventions are ludicrous. For instance, in a real war, you don't respawn. So making a "suicide run" has a lot of heavy connotations -- like the infamous Kamakazi pilots of World War II. But in the game-world, being a suicider can be a career decision.
Take that same character to the extreme and you get victim number 7 here. The best line is "I was gonna kill that bastard even if I lived trying!" Another thing I love to do is mix dumb-ass jokes with highbrow humor, like they used to do with Mystery Science Theatre 3000. "I realized that I was just the Salieri of suicide ... and I had just met my Mozart." How many people are actually gonna get that!? Who cares? Anyways, this is the most recent victim to enter the top 10, which made me happy, since readers have had a lot more discriminating tastes recently.
This Victim generated a lot of email from us, including a bunch from girls. That's good advice, folks: You want to get chicks? Write about kids and puppies. Anyways, occasionally I write a Victim that's a funny (or even serious) story instead of just "a gag." This victim wasn't laugh-out-loud funny but it was a cool story. I channeled every childhood Christmas I ever had along with fond memories of our family dog, Charlie Brown, into this story and I think people could relate. This Victim stayed in the top five for quite a while.
Puppy-kid has a sequel that's kinda cute, but didn't quite have the same oomph.
Now we're busting into the top five with the air conditioning guy. It's based off the idea that someone in his office would crank up the air conditioning in order to freeze his deathmatch opponents. (I came up with the idea trying to play Half-Life while freezing my butt off.) Now, in real life, the joke would end there: he'd be found out. But in the world of the Victims, nothing ends until it ends funny. So our victim tries to turn the tables using (I love this phrase) "a complex network of hamster-tubing."
What really makes this victim stand out is that he's one of the many to feature one of the best cameo characters of the bunch: Crenshaw. We've never actually seen Crenshaw. We know he's the type of guy to use other peoples' computers for gaming when they're out of the office, or to tell his son that the gaze of a piggy-bank could turn a man to stone. He's a troublemaker, Crenshaw. And along with The Hippie Gamer Ed he's one of those characters who's totally fleshed out even though he never appears.
Trivia: My absolute favorite Crenshaw cameo was the Salmon Jerky Episode. He appears near the end in a brief scene that, even today, makes me laugh out loud when I get to it. I wish the Salmon Jerky guy had scored higher.
I couldn't figure out why this Victim scored so high. I thought the original Superhero Victim was pretty funny, but after I wrote this color version I thought, "This is gonna be a dud." But people loved it! Maybe it was the cheesy comic-book-parody plot. Maybe it was that it was so ridiculously over the top it just deserved praise. Maybe people just loved seeing The Overclocking Kid return.
Trivia: I think the overclocking kid has made more cameos in other victims than any other character. He's just so easy to work into any plot. While he's no longer in the Top 10, he will forever be immortalized by his inaugural appearance when he declared, "I'm capable of over 360 separate erections a minute. WHO'S LAUGHING NOW, University of Iowa?"
I'm totally thrilled that this guy is in the top 3. I used to do a little Unix programming back in college, and I soon discovered that, with Unix, the more you know ... the more you realize there is to know. Running a Unix server is a lot like keeping a car running with parts that you've built and/or selected yourself by hand. Unix people will argue for hours about the best way to run their "cars." If you ever overhear them, it's crazy. It's a lot like listening to a wizard speak about arcane powers in a foreign language ... hence: The Unix Admin Was Born in This Victim.
Of course, the original character was a one-off gag, and not a lot of people "got" it. Fortunately (I think 'cuz the Slashdot people boosted him up) he scored good enough to get a special weekend edition. This time he really came to life, busting almost into the number one position. He found himself locked in a battle of wits with an abusive chess player, then had to argue with his RPG gaming boss who's business plan is, in my opinion, the model of a modern company. Never mind that it's clear from the pictures that the Chess guy is going to kick his ass; The Unix Wizard, like the Gaming Gigabuys Guy, is constantly being tortured by circumstance. Long live da wiz!
For most of the year, this victim was in the number one slot. The first time I ever combined several victims into one big story was for the Daily Victim Thanksgiving Special, and it went over really well. But it was here that I really figured out the form. All the color victims to date combined into one totally twisted, completely unpredictable story. The way they all end up interacting is totally surreal. It's like the antithesis of a holiday special, with exploding toilets, Santas with dynamite, guys with swords, you name it. This was a tough victim to write (you shoulda seen my notes!) but it really came together. The only problem is, how can I top it this year?
Trivia: The Flag Defending Chick, who has a great part in the Christmas Special, was one of the most popular early victims. She generated a lot of emails and appeared in a lot of reader submissions ("and then the dude should meet the chick with the penguin...") As a result, she's featured on The First Ever Daily Victim Limited-Edition Shirt. WHY does she have a penguin? I always thought it was more funny if it simply wasn't explained. Gabe (the illustrator) throws me curveballs like that. Somehow it's endearing that she's always screaming whatever she has to say at this poor (possibly frightened) bird.
And the number one Victim of all time is....
Certainly the best Daily Victim to date, this is also one of the best pieces of fiction I've ever written. read this one in a darkened room, friends! It's not really the humor so much as the horror that marks this one, which was good enough to be linked to from several big news sites. After this victim scored a whopping 9.23 in the voting, the ranks for the rest of the victims were never the same. People started getting REALLY stingy with the "10" votes because every other victim was compared to this guy, and I started to see a lot more "8s" and "9s."
Believe it or not, this Victim is almost based on a true story. GameSpy came across an old Pole Position II arcade machine once and snapped it up, so it sits in our lobby. I was among the best players in the office (nobody could bust on the Suzuka track like ME.) One night I was working late -- alone in the office -- when I heard a screeching noise coming from the machine. I padded softly over to it and saw it displaying garbledegook and making weird noises. Let's be frank: It scared the crap out of me. But I went back to my desk and emailed a rough outline of this story to Gabriel so he could illustrate it right away. It's really the masterpiece of the Daily Victim series; I'm glad readers like you liked it as much as I did.
I decided not to make a color version of this guy, breaking the rules. What's funny is, a lot of people at GameSpy and several readers wrote in to say "Leave this one alone!" It was so good as it was, a sequel would just sorta take away from the original. I totally agree. Someday, he might come back ... we'll just have to see, won't we?
Trivia: There really is a Palace Park Amusements in Irvine, California. It's appeared in several victims so far and remains one of the only video arcades I still visit with any regularity.
UPDATE! Yeah, a few days after I finished writing this, the Grand Turismo Grand Finale victim entered into the top ten! Sitting for two days at number one it's edged its way down to the number 2 slot. Ruining my whole top 10 list! Oh well.
My Personal Favorites
I couldn't resist the opportunity to list my personal favorites here. Sometimes I write up a victim and I think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread -- when I come in the next morning I find that my readers torched the poor guy. (Of course, the reverse is when I write something I don't really like but it turns out to strike a chord.) So here's a few of my favs that you won't find on the top 20:
- The Coin Operated Servers: Another great Crenshaw cameo! Start with the premise of coin-operated web servers and take it to a ridiculous extreme. I wish this one could've been an animated cartoon.
- "Only the Innocents Remain!": Mostly it's just the headline of this victim that cracks me up.
- Becoming Young Again: This is the most surreal victim ever. A whacked story about two guys desperate to get their Atari 2600 working. This one's better if you went to gradeschool in the 80s.
- Eating a Hot Dog During the Loading Screen: This one just builds and builds and builds until the climax is way better than the setup would lead you to believe. Still a personal favorite.
- The Guy Who Can't Quite Trash Talk: This dude is hysterical. It's like he wants to lay down the SmaQ, but can't quite ... do it right.
- Pimp Game Developer Speaks Out: I thought this was a masterpiece of a story with a really cool ending. But maybe most people couldn't get past the way the main character talked. I thought it was one of the best Victims ever, probably in my personal top ten.
- The Guy and the Koala: I think this one's a riot. It's one of the very first. I think it's mostly the look on the guy's face ... and the way the copy reads, how he's so CLEARLY pissed but he's restraining himself and trying to be civil. Yet the animosity creeps out between the lines. Man, this one's great. I had high hopes for him.
That should do 'er. As always, check out The Daily Victim every day! This week happens to be Gran Turismo 3 week. If you like the feature, support it by snagging a Tee-shirt. Every so often a new one will be available, and the old designs will never be sold ever again. Enjoy!
[GameSpy Top Tens are posted every Monday. Like clockwork. Want more goodness? Read the Archives! Have an idea for a Top Ten topic? Mail us! We'd love to hear what your favorite victims are. Alternatively, you can go with the flow and inadvertently send us an email virus instead. Grr.]