There’s a long tradition of writing these stories down in game journals, or, as they are sometimes called, “Let’s Plays.” These journals occupy a space somewhere between fanfiction and sports reporting — telling the truth of what happened in the course of the game while adding enough creative spark to make it worth reading. Anyone can enjoy reading about Boatmurdered, or Ben Abraham’s permadeath playthrough of Far Cry 2, or Brendan Keogh’s long eastwards trek in Minecraft. These journals provide another way of looking at the games that inspire them, and we can learn something about both the games and the people playing them by reading them.
So when Matt told me he wanted to write a journal detailing his Ironman Classic playthrough of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, I asked him to let me display it here. It’s not the sort of thing we usually do, but Matt’s good at making this sort of thing interesting, and if this playthrough is half as bloody as XCOM games usually are, it ought to be worth at least a few chuckles.
For those who don’t know, “Ironman Classic” means that he is playing this notoriously hard game on its most notoriously difficult setting, which includes a feature making it impossible to go back and fix mistakes, even by reloading earlier saves. There is no Ctrl‑Z for Matt — dead soldiers stay dead. And for further excitement, he’s named all of these very-mortal soldiers after friends of ours from college.
So go ahead and take bets on who will survive in the comments, and enjoy reading! If you like this sort of thing, we may well do more of it. –Bill Coberly, Editor-In-Chief
April 2nd, 2015
I have long existed in a world of burner cells, whispered conversations and ubiquitous electronic surveillance. There, each word had to be weighed and calculated before release. Things have obviously changed. The same women and men that would have killed me for speaking an errant word now encourage a full confession. “The world needs a record of what happens here,” they said. I concur. Hopefully you’ll forgive me if my skills of honest communication have atrophied. I’ll do my best to make this readable.
Aliens have arrived on Earth. There were no attempts at communication; only casualties. It is clear that they’ve been watching us from the dark of the void for some time now. Initial reports indicate that previous experiences with alien lifeforms bore some fruit. The old gray stories popularized in our fictions have clear roots in what my advisers are calling the “sectoid.” So far, their focus appears to be small-scale abductions, but they are happening with such frequency and simultaneity across the globe that the nations, all of them, united to fund this project. They toy with us, prod at us. So far, we haven’t been able to keep them from taking our people. That ends today.
I have been provided with unusual recruits for this project. Apparently, the group of them were at the site of a preliminary abduction about a year ago, just as we began to understand the outline of what was coming, if not the scale. At a remote cabin in Minnesota, a group of Americans between the ages of 23 and 30 (whom had gathered together for Dungeons & Dragons, according to the dossier) were beset by an alien force and, somehow, repelled them. Upon the death of its pilots, the alien vessel exploded; this had odd effects on the physiology of this group. Since then, most of them have been wards of the government. We’ve been training most of them. A few of them fled, but news of the attack leaked, so most runners were snapped up by other government organizations. Those we kept have been allocated to certain bases depending on their strengths and training, but most importantly all of them have proven resistant to suggestion and, in the most extreme cases, any form of hypnotism and mind control. That trait makes them the soldiers that the XCOM project needs.
Already on hand were Joedd Biggs, Bill Coberly and Erin McNeil-Coberly, who, due to issues with paperwork character limits, will heretofore be referred to as “Erin McCoberly.” Their initial foray against the aliens went well enough that I felt comfortable making them full members of the squad. I intend to put Recruit Biggs’ large frame to work with an assault loadout. Recruit Coberly has been assigned a heavy machine gun and an RPG. Recruit McCoberly has graduated from our sniper program, having shown an aptitude for focus and precision. We’ll need it. To round out the initial squad, Recruit Matthew Schanuel just arrived this afternoon, though we haven’t had time to ascertain his strengths. They’ve taken to referring themselves as the “Nerd Corps.” There seems to be some history behind the name.
As I greeted the new recruit, klaxons blared. News of abductions poured in across the globe, and I had to cut the meeting short. As Schanuel ran to get outfitted, I gestured for Coberly to come and stand next to me. I’ve found a friend in the insightful soldier, and I wanted his input. Egypt, France and South Africa lit up across the ostentatious holo-globe that dominates the center of Command — all targets, all in need of our help. Moments later, offers appeared. A pitiful game played out, each gambling resources, hoping to be the nation spared. A French Nobel-prize winning scientist, along with her team. Four industrial engineers at the top of their field from South Africa. A breathtaking sum of Egyptian pounds. My confidence faltered, my conscience caught between our needs and the lives on the ground — I am unused to command on this scale. Coberly noticed. “You know, ever since I saw District 9, I’ve wanted to go to South Africa. Seems like a wholly appropriate time to do so.” He smiled, staring at the globe. We could use the engineers. Bloemfontein it is.
As I write this, the Skyranger is en route with our four soldiers on board. Somebody has taken to calling this “Operation Severed Mother.” Somebody needs a lesson in preservation of morale…
OPERATION SEVERED MOTHER — April 2nd, 2015, 9:12pm — 9:20pm SAST
None of us were prepared. Not one of us.The “Nerd Corps” landed in a construction site and moved in quietly. Coberly was the first to make contact; he stumbled upon a pair of the sectoids, sent them scurrying into the empty husk of a nearby half-constructed building. I think he panicked. He threw a grenade in, blowing through some of the brick and plaster deeper in, behind a dumpster on the outside. They didn’t watch the hole.
A sectoid slipped through. It moved right behind Coberly; he didn’t have a chance. The plasma melted much of his face. I saw the body.
To the squad’s credit, they survived the flanking maneuver and turned the tables. Six sectoids dead, and it wasn’t worth it. After a starting run like this… I worry about the future of the project. And I mourn, not just for Bill, but for those that will follow.
Included with this log are transcribed records of the audio captured from the mission.
Schanuel: Figure of speech. It has been really cool, though. I’ve missed you guys.
Coberly: It’s good to have you back, mate. What did you think of the project?
Schanuel: I’m impressed! It’s going to take a bit to settle in, I think; the base is massive.
Biggs: We’re legitimate black ops. This is so insane.
Coberly: Yep. I still feel absolutely absurd in this armor. Have you heard any news about the others?
Schanuel: Only bits and pieces. BDS was with me near the beginning, but they sent him elsewhere after the first month. Remember how Hastey ran? I heard one of my handlers talking one night; the Russians have him.
McCoberly: Oh, that must be terrible for him. [sarcasm]
Biggs: Ha! I bet he talks non-stop about their foreign policy.
[Skyranger comes in, ramp descends]
Coberly: Seriously, it’s good to see you, man. We have a lot of catching up to do after this.
Schanuel: Absolutely. Let’s just hope there isn’t a shit-ton of them, eh?
Coberly: So long as our bird doesn’t get shellacked, I think we’ll be okay.
McCoberly: I don’t see anything. Looks abandoned.
McCoberly: Yes! Got him!
Schanuel: Got the other one. That was clean! Good work.
Biggs: Booya! Critical hit! Guys, I think that building is on fire-
Gray: That’s all targets accounted for. What is your status, Nerd Corps?