Helldivers 2 Is Committed To The Bit And So Are We

Helldivers 2 Is Committed To The Bit And So Are We

I haven’t had the chance to play much of Helldivers 2. At first, server issues due to the game’s swell in popularity kept me from playing, but as the situation’s improved, I’ve also found myself too busy or tired to play. Last night, I opted to watch my friends play it and commentate over their largely successful runs because I could barely pick up my controller by the time game night rolled around. Other times, life has just pulled me in another direction entirely, and yet I don’t feel like I’ve actually missed out on the collective experience of the game.

That’s because everywhere I look these days, there’s Helldivers 2. When I check on my Discord servers, folks are often playing it. Several of my group chats have broken off as friends drop into the game’s inane brand of messy action. Clips of players ramping up the difficulty and fighting endless onslaughts of automaton enemies are everywhere I look on Twitter and Tiktok. And across the vast majority of Helldivers 2’s appearances, players are fully in-character, shouting about democracy, the “glory” of Super Earth, the camaraderie between themselves and their squad, or about the rancid bugs often overwhelming them. It’s gotten to the point where one of the locations has been simply dubbed “robot vietnam” for its sheer intensity. Something about Helldivers 2 has bewitched everyone who plays it into this large-scale bit where they act like they’re actually in the game and it’s already become one of my favorite community in-jokes.

You know those jokes about how men coordinate game nights in one-word texts or simplistic emojis? Well, first of all, it’s true. Often enough, my best friends and I simply drop the phrase “war?” into the chat if we want to get games going that night. If we’re really feeling spicy, we’ll send a GIF of someone blowing a horn as a signal. Reader, we’re dumbasses, but what I’m trying to get at is how Helldivers 2 has upended that ritual for the last week or so. Instead of the usual straightforward communications, the more eccentric of the three of us has taken to parroting barks heard in the game and parodying propagandic calls to action. Hell, I logged onto work the other day and greeted my colleagues as “fellow citizens of Super Earth” just because I’d overheard conversations about the game in the office the day before.

The result of this bit is astounding and tangible. I’m convinced that the countless viral jokes motivated a number of sales, which translated to players who slammed the servers so hard that Helldivers 2 has spent most of its time as a publicly available game in a state of disrepair (which the devs have been working very hard to fix). In turn, the players who managed to get into the game seemed to make the most of it, roleplaying like the characters in the clips they first saw and perpetuating the mythology of the life and times of a helldiver. Due to the proliferation of these clips on social media, the game keeps trending, and people keep associating it with this brand of humour and irreverent, non-stop action that helps sell what a good time it can be (if you can make it through the queues). A unifying language couched in Helldivers 2’s “patriotic” humour and tone—which is already lifted from Starship Troopers, a beloved satire film that some folks still don’t seem to understand—has sprung up organically around the game. We’re witnessing the birth and blossoming of a community, and, importantly, you don’t need to be a part of it to get or celebrate it.

Even if Helldivers 2 isn’t your kind of game, it’s hard to deny the effect it seems to be having on everyone for whom it is resonating. People are playing the Star-Spangled Banner as they finish a round, taking on laughably “impossible” missions, calling for “reinforcements,” and reenacting comedic skits about wartime tragedies for our wider viewing pleasure. Even if I knew nothing about the game, I’d be impressed at how quickly and widely Helldivers 2 has been adopted by the masses, and I think that’s owed to how easily the game allows its players to be in on the joke and act a fool in service of it.

If it were honestly patriotic, we’d be having an entirely different conversation about Helldivers 2, but the fact that it’s a farce and signals this from the opening cinematic lets everyone in on the joke. Just like no helldiver ought to be left behind, no person who comes into the orbit of Helldivers 2 is left out in the cold, and so we all get to collectively laugh at this game and revel in the way it’s brought us together, and I think that’s beautiful.

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