On Risk, Pt. 2

You can't hear it--because this is a picture--but there's the sound of a hammer striking an anvil in this.

As I talked about before, Risk is something that’s… well, not important to me, but one of those things that I… well, not “couldn’t do without,” but…

I enjoy Risk a good deal. Bending the world to my will (depending on the age, my “will” would include owning an X-Wing, the Millennium Falcon, and, now, just paying off the student loan debt) has been at the heart of every decision I make. This blog? I foresee it becoming the pinnacle for online non-sequitur entertainment–so much so that I earn millions off of pageviews alone, and, from there, construct an X-Wing.

So, Risk, the board game that simulates such a fantasy, is one of my favorite things. But it didn’t always start with me slowly, patiently, taking over the world, starting from Australia. No, that would be assuming a great deal. For instance: You would have to assume that I am an intelligent person.

When I first started playing the game, it was at Brad’s family’s camping trips. As I mentioned, we’d split up at night into groups to play board games. Now, one of the people who came on the trips was (and is, I suppose) a big redneck named Jay.

As it may not surprise you, I don’t get along with rednecks. They’re too blustery in their joviality, and don’t share my inherent liberal guilt for profiting off of the collective suffering of everyone in India, Southeast Asia, Dubai, and the Middle East by virtue of living in a post-industrial nation. (Seriously, bring up the topic of sweatshops to a redneck. They’ll scoff and say something like, “Fuck, least they got a job. Sides, I like me some Nikes.”)

Aside from the serious contradiction in terms of worldviews, I find that rednecks like evil sports teams. The Atlanta Braves are evil by virtue of knocking the relatively harmless Houston Astros out of the playoffs just about every time the two meet. The [insert football team] are evil because [they’re American football and not proper football]. The list goes on, and I could bore you with it, but, really, they also like NASCAR. And fuck that noise.

I even hate parodies of NASCAR.

Jay loves Georgia football. (I’m led to believe that there’s a University of Georgia, but until I see something about it that’s not related to football, I refuse to believe it exists.) And, more egregious, he also loved the Atlanta Braves. Thus, I hated Jay. It was a visceral hatred, added to when he’d say something awful and not think twice about it.  But, even more importantly, Jay would continuously stymie me in Risk.

I’d try to expand from Europe (I always started in Europe or the Middle East, back in those halcyon days) and there’d be Jay, sitting in Africa, stopping me as I harmlessly rolled 1s and 2s on the attack. Or I’d finally earn a continent, when, BAM! there came Jay from out of nowhere to knock it out of my hands.

After a couple hours of this, and my forces reduced to a few scattered armies in North America or Asia or something, I’d snap. Some thin thread that held my sanity together would break and I’d see red. I’d mutter obscenities and go for the first Jay-held territory I saw. Eventually, I would come to regard this tactic as a jihad. I would calmly state, “Welp, I’m declaring jihad against Jay.”

“Why?” he’d ask, his multiple jowls flailing in confusion.

“Because you took Europe from me,” I’d say in the most die-hard serious way I could.

Then the rolls would begin. I never took him out–that was never the goal of jihad. The goal of jihad was to cripple him. To take him from his lofty heights of I-just-took-down-Aaron to my level: clutching a few ramshackle territories and hoping the heavy-hitters knocked each other out of contention so I could have a chance. And, sure enough, the jihad would work. Now, instead of Jay being something of a powerhouse, he’d be relegated to two or three territories, and I’d have a bunch–but I’d be spread out.

Looking back, that might not seem like a good–or, indeed, any–reason to want to play Risk, but that thought ignores the catharsis that comes from seeing a rival/hated person knocked down a peg.

It was shortly after one of those trips that I remembered there was a version of Risk for PC, and, shortly after remembering that, it was only a quick trip down to Best Buy to blow ten bucks on a game in the bargain bin: Risk II.

Nearly immediately, I forced Brad and Barton to install it on their computers so we could wreak havoc across the intertubes as one unstated alliance. We’d already been doing this with WarCraft III‘s custom map called World War 3, and had accrued something of a blackball when it came to custom maps. The goal, in my mind, was to duplicate this renown on Hasbro’s network.

We didn’t get to nearly the same status, but we did find a mini-hack that allowed a player to add reinforcements whenever F12 was pressed. The people we played against, most of the time, didn’t catch that we’d placed about 16 troops when we were allocated 13, but sometimes they did. They were the first to be knocked out.

Eventually, though, the good times came to an end. Microsoft patched XP with a software update that caused a logic fault with Risk. There was only one way to fix it, and I wasn’t a big enough computer geek at the time to figure it out myself. (I’m still not. Getting a Mac will drop your computer IQ by thirty points.) So Brad, Barton, and I went to a Starbucks, hopped on their WiFi and went to the chat rooms.

Case in point, I logged in to the chat room in the Starbucks, asked for help, was ignored and decided, “Fuck it.” I didn’t need to bow to societal conventions: This was the Internet! Anonymity was a comfortable blanket in this time before facebook logged you into every social website you visited. If these bastards were going to ignore me, it was going to be because I was an annoying prick, not because I was politely asking for their help.

I slipped into what would today be called “trolling,” but in those days, I thought of it as “giving these stuck-up so and sos their comeuppance.” It essentially entailed me spending an hour and a half insulting them, their mothers, their ability to play an online game, and, when all else failed, their sexual virility. In the end, I didn’t find out how to fix the problem, but I had a fun time messing with people.

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