It was a crime of passion and opportunity.
I was outside the cathedral in the European Dead Zone. I had just finished another mission with my squadmate Kyle, who was finishing off a few Dregs before cashing in with Devrim Kay. And there it was. A shiny brand new Pike, riderless and fancy free. With no Guardian astride, I had a very sudden and wicked thought: the Pike was now mine.
I don’t ride vehicles a lot in open world games. For longer distance, sure, I’ll hop in a car or use a fast travel system, but generally, I prefer to go on foot. It gives me time to warm up a bit before the next level while enjoying the pretty environments. The scenic route is just more my style.
But this Pike was different. There was something so tempting about its open, empty seat. It was almost daring me to take it. “There’s a Guardian nearby, he’s probably the one who parked it here,” said the angel sitting on my left shoulder. “Yes, but it’s just sitting there, and wouldn’t it be so funny if you just stole it?” said the demon on the right. The shoulder demon had a point. It would be hilarious. I hopped on without a plan or a clear exit path, consequences be damned.
There’s something cathartic about breaking the rules in a cooperative game setting. Usually, I’m a peacekeeper. When I play the rare multiplayer game, I follow the rules, mind my own business, and keep a low profile. But there have been a lot of times when I’ve had to navigate around other people’s bad behavior anyway, and I get frustrated at the lack of mutual courtesy. Is that why this felt so freeing? To act out and be the troll, for once?
The exhilaration of my newfound life of crime lasted only a few seconds; with nowhere to flee, I rode the Pike into the cathedral, and was stopped by debris and waves of angry rounds of ammunition being pumped into my back by a furious Guardian. I was laughing too hard to navigate my way out, and Kyle, having witnessed my brazen Pike theft, was using his best judge-y dad voice to make me give it back.
But it was fine. I was done anyway. I hopped back off, satisfied with the knowledge that at least now, I know why they call it a joyride.
Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.