YOU DON’T GNOME ME!
I already hated gnomes with a burning passion being that I play Horde and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been ganked by some goddamn Ally gnome rogue fuckhead while I was AFK trying to wrest my cell phone away from my dogs. So when I saw one of the Left4Dead 2 achievements was to carry a gnome through an entire zombie-infested carnival, my first response was “HAHAHAHAHAHA no.”
When I found out his name was “Gnome Chompsky”, my second response was “HAHAHAHAHAHA no and now I need to go reread Failed States again.” And after a few minutes more (plus a google search to make sure I was right), my third response was “Its spelled Chomsky, goddamnit.” It took about an hour for my fourth response – “Oh. CHOMP-sky. I get it.” Some days, I’m slow.
When I found out I got a 30 point achievement for it, I barely batted an eyelash. Who needs points? Its just a number, right? Gamer score be damned!
But when I found out that I would get a Depeche Mode shirt for my Avatar, I rushed for my XBox like it was the finishline in an Olympic sprint. Like any self-respecting goth kid, I love Depeche Mode in a way that borders on creepy. If I was allowed to clone any one person, I’d clone myself because I want to live forever. But if I was allowed to clone two people, I’d clone myself and Dave Gahan and then I would force my Dave Gahan-clone to follow me around and sing about every single thing that I did in a day. It would be awesome. Come on! “Enjoy your shower”? “Policy of laundry”? “Its only when I lose myself (because the GPS isn’t working)”? It would be so great!
Where was I? Oh yes, I love Depeche Mode. And the lure of a hideous pink shirt that only exists in the digital world was more than enough to make me try for this achievement. I begged my best friend, Lester, to help me run the little bastard from start to finish. It would take us an hour. Tops. Easiest achievement ever. The longest part of this game would be the fight at the start as to who was going to play Ellis. (I have elucidated my love for Ellis previously in my Game Awards and, rest assured, I won the scuffle and played him.)
It did not take us an hour.
We tried it twice and both times I lost the goddamn gnome on the roller coaster. The thing with this gnome is when you pick it up, it takes up both your hands and disables your gun. You can still left trigger (push) with it but that isn’t the most effective thing when you’re in the middle of a swarm of slavering zombies hungry for your sweet, sweet flesh. It doesn’t even work as a melee weapon, although if you do push one zombie enough it will eventually get a really bad charlie horse and fall over dead… er, again. You can always drop the gnome and fire, which becomes a necessity fairly frequently as those pesky zombies just won’t quit. But it quickly becomes an exercise in frustration and paranoia because, inevitably, you’ll put it down somewhere and somehow will not be able to return to pick it back up again.
This is precisely what happened to me – not once, not twice but thrice! After getting 750 points in the shooting gallery right at the start of stage two of the Dark Carnival map… and if you are looking for a guide on how to get this achievement, you can watch some video I randomly pulled of YouTube to get a clearer visual of how you can go through this hell yourself.
Like I was saying… After getting 750 points in the shooting gallery right at the start of stage two (Fairgrounds) of the Dark Carnival map, I was awarded with this ugly little gnome from a box to the left of the gallery.
I picked him up, with Lester at my six (that’s FPS for “back”) to keep my brains nicely uneaten, and cradled him lovingly to my bosom… or rather, to Ellis’s lack of one. Then I ran at full tilt into a pack of zombies and panicked, hitting right-trigger and sending my gnome flying. Yes, just like a gas can, the right trigger sends the gnome sailing through the air while you whip out your weapon of choice. But being that I’d just gotten my little ceramic-or-possibly-plastic nightmare, I hastily ran after him as I emptied my double pistols into the mushy heads of the undead. I was convinced that if I even let the little bastard out of my sight, he’d disappear.
While he doesn’t vanish if you dawdle off and leave him unattended, he has a terrible habit of getting lost. He can be knocked around by other players and by the zombies so every time I dropped him in a horde, he inevitably got kicked under a garbage can and I had to spend 20 minutes searching for him in various stages of total panic. It led me to clutch him in abject terror no matter what came at us.
After refusing to put him down for more than twenty seconds for two stages in a row, we finally emerged blinking from the Tunnel of Love to watch our idiot AI partners run full tilt into a witch. I ran like a chicken, gnome in tow, leaving Lester to blast at her with a shotgun while she savaged our supposed help. This, ladies and gentlemen, is why we frequently just shoot our teammates/support characters and steal their health packs. Because there is fuck all else useful they do, aside from being cannon fodder. And if the zombie apocalypse is ever real, know that I will run like a chicken from danger and shoot you for supplies when I need them. This is what the L4D franchise has taught me. Viva Valve!
However, letting the zombies eat your backup does leave you at a “human shield” disadvantage during swarms. Being that we were down to just the two of us and we were swiftly approaching the Coaster alert point, I knew my plan of “hug the gnome and let Lester deal with everything” might not work out so well. We hit the point and I started running my fool legs off. But, as the zombies in L4D2 are all reanimated marathon runners, they swiftly overwhelmed me. Plus, the stupid gnome’s head is so damn big and takes up so damn much of the screen, it was nearly impossible to see where I was supposed to be going and I kept falling off the tiny coaster track.
“Fuck it,” I thought. “I’ve dropped this molded plastic asshole before and he’s been fine.” So I dumped him in a nice walled-in curve of the track where I figured he’d be safe from rolling off into the bushes and making me look for him for a goddamn hour. “SAY HELLO TO MAH LEETLE FRIEND!” I yelled in glee, whipping out my now-dusty AK-47 and using it to paint the night red with zombie bits. I hit the button to disable the alarm and waited out the tail end of the zombie swarm, hitting A excitedly in the universal gamer greeting when Lester hobbled up to me. We were almost to the safehouse and the end of this chapter! All I had to do was get the gnome, walk twenty zombie-free feet, and close up the convenient, reality-altering door.
I hastily ran back for the turn of the track where I’d left the red-hat wearing douchebag, only to find I couldn’t get to him. My screams of frustration shook the house as I discovered that there was an unscalable drop in the coaster that prevented me from going back far enough to get my gnome. Truly, my rage was limitless and unfathomable by mortal man. Here is an artist depiction:
After getting himself a calming mug of tea and me a not-so-calming-but-all-I’ll-drink bottle of Diet Cherry Coke, Lester restarted the mission. I would have done it myself but my fingers were still curled around my controller in a gnome-hating death grip and were unable to reach the start button. Again, we got the stupid ugly gnome from its stupid ugly box. It ended up taking a couple of tries because my hands were this awesome mixture of sweaty and cramped up that only comes from taking something labeled a “game” way too seriously.
This time, I was taking no chances… that is, until we got to the coaster again. I figured out that the uncrossable drop is marked by an ammo pile to the left of the track directly after you jump down. It was easy to get back to after turning off the alarm, plus it was a convenient marker so I wouldn’t have to spend two hours trying to figure out where I dropped the fucking gnome. Bursting with pride at my cleverness, I charged the track. I left-triggered zombies out of my way like we were in the final scene of a football movie and I was going for the touchdown so our team could win enough money for Little Jimmy’s kidney dialysis machine or however those godawful, cliched sports movies go. I made the drop and had a moment of indecision. It wasn’t that much farther to the alarm point and there I could drop the gnome where I could keep an eye on him at all times. Terror at leaving my gnome alone gripped me and I froze in indecision. A fresh wave of zombies hit me, causing me to panic and hit right trigger again. The gnome went sailing over the ammo pile and I was on the run again, my decision made. I dashed up to the alarm, firing at everything that moved (sorry, Lester! Friendly fire!) and hunkered down in a corner until the flesh-eating undead stopped running at us like we were the last big screen tv on Black Friday.
Bleeding and out of ammo, I limped back to the ammo pile. And to my abject HORROR, the little BASTARD WASN’T THERE!
Apparently, when I panicked and hit right trigger, I slingshotted the sneaky little fucker into a giant blackhole. I spent literally an hour and a half tramping over every single solitary part of the coaster I could reach, searching for the goddamn gnome. I tried a methodical search. I tried haphazardly running around. I tried letting my controller fall in frustration, giving up only to find that with that last delicate touch of the D-Pad, I turned just so and saw… that he still was nowhere to be found.
Lester gave up on me and my gnome after all of this and abandoned me to face the zombie apocalypse with three brain-deficient computer-controlled idiots instead of two. But I am not one to quit when an imaginary Depeche Mode tshirt is on the line! I could do this! I knew the gnomes tricksy ways! This time, I was only putting the gnome down very calmly with the Y button. I would not release him anywhere where he could roll, fall, tip, trip, dip, dive, drop, teeter, totter, tumble, slip, spill, slump, or otherwise take a header anywhere where I couldn’t immediately retrieve him again. I would hover over him like an Emperor Penguin with his baby, enduring the long, cold, bitter winter (or, in this case humid, zombie-ridden, make-believe summer) in order to make sure that we were both riding that helicopter to a blessed, zombie-free paradise!
And I did. And it took fucking FOREVER! I found out that the gnome’s penchant for getting kicked around a lot during a horde is at its very height of annoying during the finale. I decided to set up on stage, which is my usual bastion for that finale. I placed the gnome gingerly on the drum riser where I could nestle him against some flight cases and ring his stupid ass with as many explosives and gas cans as possible. This ugly dickweed was not going anywhere until it was escape time!
Of course, the accursed gnome (I haven’t had cause to call something ‘accursed’ since playing D&D) had other ideas. It seemed the zombie marathon runners had been joined by some zombie soccer players because they kicked my poor gnome halfway across the stage with each (zerg) rush. The time I should have spent reloading and resetting gas cans was spent picking up my still-idiotically-smiling plastic pal and gently tucking him back into his spot where I could pat him on his ridiculous hat and tell him it would be okay in a minute. This happened during both swarms, plus the first tank helpfully booted him halfway across the stadium so I had to scramble to recover him. The AI director, it seemed, was not fucking around.
Thankfully, the second tank took pity on me and didn’t knock my gnome farther than stage right, in front of a guitar amp. I scooped him up as the dying tank sank to his knees with a piteous howl. Together, my gnome and I made a mad dash for the helicopter, left-triggering skinny zombies and sending them flying like particularly gruesome bowling pins. I scampered up the stairs towards the helicopter, my heart as light as a song. But as I made a frantic leap towards the rails, a smoker grabbed me and dragged me backwards in a move I like to call the “Scorpion from Mortal Combat does Tentical Hentai”. My idiot computer-controlled teammates were too busy getting pedicures and kibitzing with each other to help me in a timely fashion so my already depleted health bar dipped into the red before Nick got off his ass long enough to unload that machine gun I so nicely found for him and get me freed. But before I could even pop a pain pill or grab my abandoned gnome, a tank appeared out of nowhere and smashed my brains all over seats 8, 9, and 10 in seating section J and that was the end. I died, watching the blue outline of the gnome mock me.
I have never ragequit a game so hard in my life. I threw my controller into the wall with enough force that there is now a hole clear through to the plaster in the other room. I almost kicked in my television but fate somehow intervened and I only accidentally kicked about two inches to the left, causing me to intercept nothing but air, fall over, and sprain my ankle. Once I’d gotten an ice pack and a valium, I decided it was high time for me to say goodbye to Mr Gnome Punny-Name and have a nap.
But I was back the next day, bright and early, with my leg elevated and my wall newly plastered. And you know what? I got my goddamn Depeche Mode shirt.