ISIS-Simulator popped up on Whatsonsteam a week ago. I rarely look at games I wouldn’t want to play but the combination of an inflammatory name with 1994 level graphics made me curious. Who buys this trash I wondered. It had over 20 reviews and a “mixed” rating. I had to see why anyone recommended something that looked so terrible. The first positive review I saw had a bit of arabic and a single line stating:
“Only downside to this is you’re fighting against ISIS and not actually playing as them. :(“
Well that’s an odd thing to say I thought, especially from someone named “Intelligence”.
Checking the review’s comments it had about what I expected – Americans obviously angry while a few people were either legitimately pro-ISIS or just trolling. What surprised me was the reviewer’s responses – they were funny. Did someone just pay $3 to satirize a handful of people?
Clicking on his profile I was greeted by a pleasant looking polar bear in comfy robes. Over 8400 games (for reference, I’ve been a steam member for 9 years, buy a lot of games and have 465). He liked weed and rap and had 177 reviews, 16 guides, 1877 screen shots and 420 friends.
I wanted to friend him so I can ask some questions when I noticed the warning at the top of the profile:
Notice: Read all my information. Don’t try and randomly add me, contact my secretary or you’ll be instantly blocked.
I couldn’t tell if it was a joke or not but there was a link. It lead to a hard working office lady dog appropriately named Insecretarigence. Following the instructions I posted a message to her front page saying I had a pitch for Intelligence and sent a friend request.
A day later Intelligence added me as a friend, assuming I want to trade steam stuff. When I told him I actually wanted to ask questions for an article because I’m curious what the fuck he’s doing with his Steam account he lol’d and agreed. We chatted over the next few days and I learned a few interesting things.
Intelligence collects games. Several steam users posted congratulations on Intelligence’s page when he reached 8000. I spent some time looking at their profiles and there’s obviously a huge community of collectors I knew nothing about. It’s large and diligent enough to have created an entire genre of games that exist to be purchased.
The games also come with achievements and steam cards which in turn can give discount coupons for other games, badges and emoticons and XP. Abstractly speaking it’s a far more responsive and instantly rewarding collection loop than most.
Steam holds massive sales and Intelligence assured me he pays a small fraction of a game’s listed price. Most are under $5.00 at full retail, inexpensive as far as collector’s items go. In order to maintain their hobby collectors seem disciplined in seeking out the best deals. It’s an obvious game onto itself.
Discipline can slip when he sees a game like ISIS Simulator – a game that is likely to be reported and banned from Steam at some point in the future. If that happens the cards and badges remain while the game disappears, making their supply finite and rare – two magic words that trigger the reptilian part of every collector.
From my extended conversation with Intelligence all indicators are that he’s a funny, intelligent, normal guy. It felt like his “habit” was perfectly sustainable in the same way that my buying “super giant mega mixed lots” of comic books from ebay doesn’t really affect my lifestyle. Like any collecting, there are unfortunate extremes but after looking at the profiles of some of Inteligence’s collecting friends they just seemed to be having a good time.
Virtual Steam cards drive an entire trading culture, community and marketplace. The most expensive card I found sold for an average of US$333. They also give XP and XP lets you level up. I imagine anyone reading this site is already pre-wired to just seek out XP when we see it. Pavloving our way through decades of RPG’s has an effect.
Levels have practical benefits other than bragging rights and badges to display on your profile. I had no idea there were limits to your friends list in Steam; 250 + 5 per level. Intelligence has 420 friends. Steam is obviously a social network for him the way twitter or facebook is for others. I would have to level up 20 additional levels to maintain the friends list he has.
While no one who knows me would describe me as a “people” person I absolutely love the talents hidden in almost everyone. Poking around Intelligence’s profile I saw a link to a SoundCloud page. I followed it an found a treasure trove of tracks he remixed. There’s some happy coincidence that Intelligence seems to like the exact same style of lyrically dense, flowy rap that I do. But I’m not easy to please and the last thing I expected when following a random link was to find so much music I like.
There was also a link to a video labeled CS:GO Trolling Compilation #1. Now, it’s debatable whether quality trolling is a talent. But comedy is and the startling variety of accents Intelligence pulls off is impressive. Sure it’s racially insensitive but he spreads it around pretty thickly and picks on cultures that are safe to mock. Regardless, it’s not mean and I laughed out loud which in my mind immediately excuses any comedy from being offensive.
The bit where he tries to invite a german player to a german tea party using a Dieter accent is genuinely LOL worthy. His relentless Japanese ads for a questionable restaurant get funnier the longer he goes (he doesn’t stop) and even make his frustrated teammates laugh. Even his friend’s voiceover footy style announcing is spot on.
Finding out you’re wrong is more interesting than being right. I clicked on a review expecting to find a total asshole (because who really cheers for ISIS?). Then I thought I stumbled onto some sort of obsessive Steam hoarder.
A few conversations later I learned about a whole world and meta game existing withing the distribution platform I’ve been using for 9 years. I found a SoundCloud page full of exactly the kind of music I love and have been too lazy to find on my own. And I genuinely laughed out loud while watching the 20 minute compilation of Intelligence and his friends messing around in CounterStrike.
All that aside, I liked him. Whatever misconceptions I had when I saw his post and profile were quickly dispelled by his humor and charm, as they usually are when we bother talking to people. It’s a lesson worth learning over and over. For whatever reason humans are judgmental creatures and as I age I realize even a clever, insightful human like me is often wrong when I bother to actually check the validity of my presumptions.
So why did he post that baffling line in his review? It’s a South Park reference. And quoting South Park is literally quoting freedom.