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I sound like a nerd.

Or so I've been told by many, many faceless people. See, every now and again I enjoy a few matches of Halo 2 on Xbox Live, which shouldn't surprise you. But I probably wouldn't play nearly as much if it wasn't for my partner in crime across the state, Troy, who makes playing games a bit less random and a lot more fun.

But for the uninitiated, the Xbox Live community is a vast cesspool of gamers spanning all ages and demographics. It can result in some pretty fun, competitive matchups. It can also reveal the dark side of human nature that exists when the anonymity of Internet voice chat is combined with the comfort of one's living room.

It's like an odd social experiment, if you think about it. Give people free reign to say and do whatever they choose in an online world with no repercussions for their actions whatsoever. The results just might make you lose faith in mankind.

The worst kind of player is the 12 year old boy whose parents shouldn't have bought him a copy of a mature-rated game, and should probably move the Xbox to the living room where they can keep an eye on their kid. Honestly, I don't claim to have virgin ears (or the cleanest mouth in the world, for that matter). So, when something that I hear from a small child even manages to shock my numb conscience, you know it ain't pretty.

But forget that. Let's talk about my favorite kind of Halo player: the guy who pays $50 a year to berate everyone he can. Don't be fooled: this guy usually isn't a kid. He usually sounds like he's in his late teens or early 20's, and he's probably got a few friends on which he can't take out his aggressions, so he's found an outlet for it through Halo.

Halo is kind enough to provide you with a ten second "lobby" with your randomly chosen teammates and opponents while the game loads. Some take this opportunity to introduce themselves, some talk strategy, and then some like to get people riled up.

Troy and I are usually in the midst of conversation as the lobby loads up, and these types of people typically take the opportunity to let us know what kind of gamer they are.

"Hey, you!" they usually say, followed by mispronouncing our easy-to-say gamertags. "Shut the fuck up! I'm gonna kick your ass you little bitch!"

Of course, it usually goes beyond that. But the real fun happens when the game starts, especially if the guy sucks. Seriously, ain't nothing stupider than shit-talking and then getting your ass kicked.

To add to the fun, Halo also provides you with a post-match lobby. This is a room where all the players can chat as they view their statistics for the previous matchup. Players can leave this room pretty much immediately if they don't want to talk, or, if you like, you can stay as long as you want.

And the "guy" who's all about spewing insults, he's always there. He stays after the match to yell at you. And he won't leave until you leave first. It's a macho thing, you see. If I leave first, then I've lost the battle of the wits. My own personal global pissing contest, right in my living room.

Of course, you can always ignore this guy, as most people certainly do. It would probably be more effective.

But I have a problem. Like sick gluttons for pain (or entertainment), Troy and I will stay and listen to every little bit of insight this person has to offer. We'll even play along. We'll insult ourselves, we'll laugh hysterically, we'll insult them - anything we can do to keep them in the chatroom and keep them angry at us. It's way too much fun.

Sure, most of the shit you hear is the typical "your mom" jokes, but we all know those can only so far. If you bait a good person, they run out of mom jokes really quick, and they have to start digging deeper for more insults. As you can probably imagine, these aren't the smartest folks, so the insults can get pretty out there, and that's where the fun starts.

Forever burned into my mind is some guy with a thick New York accent who tried his best to get me riled up, but only succeeded in flaring up his own temper.

"Yo man," he said to me after a series of mom jokes. "You sound like a nerd. You do realize that, right?"

"Well damn," I said back. "I guess my dream job in phone sex isn't going to work out."

"Hey, fuck you man!" he said. At this point he was out of mom jokes and had to stretch for some material.

"Yeah, make sure you put in your retainer at night before you go to bed."

"Actually, I wear spacers at night," I said. "That's different from a retainer."

"Do you have a cold?" he asked. "Why don't you go get your mom to buy you some Vicks Vapor Rub and put it on your chest?"

Troy and I lost it. Vicks Vapor Rub? What? Where the hell did that come from? We wanted more. We begged him, keep going.

"Fuck you, man," he says, resetting his train of thought. "I bet you like that Vicks up your ass, right?"

I do! How did you know? At this point, all you could hear over the headset was the unstoppable laughter of Troy and I. Our New York friend got frustrated and left the room.

But tonight was a real classic. Troy, Brian, Fraser and I were all playing together as a team against random opponents. We joined the lobby for a new game and were instantly being harassed. Some guy who tried his hardest to sound like a gangster had the name SyndicateOC, and (no surprise here) started telling us stuff about our moms.

"Syndicate? Like a crime syndicate?" I asked. "Hey," I said to my teammates, "do you guys listen to the rap group 'Crime Mob'? I wonder if this guy likes them."

"Yeah, the Orange County Crime Syndicate, sounds like a good rap name," Troy said. "Hey man," he asked the kid, "do you watch 'The OC' on Fox?"

"No, no, no, we've got it wrong," Brian said. "He wants Fox to syndicate the show 'The OC'!"

And so we all started laughing and talking about the syndication of 'The OC.' Our real-life Syndicate Gangster, meanwhile, got pissed and decided to tell us we were pronouncing his name wrong, and threw in something about our mothers.

The match ended and Gangster Boogie and his buddies got beat pretty harsh, but decided they'd stay and try to insult us.

"Hey man," he said to me. "You sound like a fucking nerd."

Haven't heard that one before.

"I bet you're a huge fan of the film '8 Mile', aren't you?" I asked him. "I hope you are," I said. "That movie really makes me want to go out and try to participate in rap battles."

And now he's fuming. Doesn't take much to get these guys going. They do it to themselves.

"Are you from San Francisco?" he asked.

"Yeah," I said. "I'm from the Bay area."

"Oh, I knew you were a fucking fag!" he said.

"You're right," I said. "Actually, I live in a bath house." I think that one went over his head. "To tell you the truth, AIDS is destroying my way of life."

"I bet you're a fucking gay prostitute, aren't you?" he asked.

"Yeah," I said. "I'm a giggalo."

"Giggalo?" he said. "More like gigga-HO!"

We all lost it. The hysterical laughter of four nerds instantaneously flooded the Internet.

"Hey man," I said. "That's pretty good. Did you write that, or is that a Missy Elliot song?"

Troy jumped in with one of his favorite stock lines: "I make way too much money for way too little work. I am better than you."

"Bitch, fuck you," he said. "I've got more money than you can ever imagine!"

"Oh," said Brian, "I didn't realize we were playing Halo with Ted DiBiase."

And as we all laughed, OC Syndication apparently decided he had enough and left. Somehow, I doubt he realizes how much he left us with in what little time we spent together. SyndicateOC, we hardly knew ye.

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2003 - 2005
Reverend Hughes