We’ve all played games in weird ways. Surely everyone has tried to be a law-abiding citizen in Grand Theft Auto, obeying traffic signs as they drive around its crime-ridden cities. Perhaps you used the mod in The Witcher 3 that turns every fight into a game of Gwent. (That one’s not for me - I had no time for Gwent, though I did play it like a well-armed tourist.) Or maybe you’ve tried to force yourself to play an RPG like Skyrim without stealing other people’s stuff - a task that’s actually harder than Dark Souls dipped in adamantium.
For another example, here’s Yeoman’s Sky - an account of how one man went on a quest to never leave his home planet in No Man’s Sky.
My point is that we all try to bend the rules from time to time. We all push against how videogame designers intend their creations to be played. I mean, look at the speedrunning community - they’re living proof that humans just won’t conform. With that in mind, I searched the internet and reached out to community managers about some of the strangest ways games are played. Here are ten of the best.
The Sims 4 - 100 baby challenge
Loads of people play The Sims 4 in bizarre ways. We’ve all bricked up every door and window and let our Sims burn to death inside, right? Right? Anyone? Ok then.
Some players have set themselves a challenge that’s not about ending life, but rather, creating it. The 100 baby challenge in The Sims 4 is a hot new trend in which players challenge themselves to fire out 100 sprogs.
Not only do they have to progenate that many infants, they also have to follow a set of strict rules: each baby must have a different father; the matriarch can’t have a job; ageing must be on; and you’re not allowed to kill off your kids to make room for more. There’s a massive Google Doc laying out the full rules if you fancy woohooing your sims to death.
GTA Online - stunt scene
There’s only one law some players are concerned with breaking in GTA: the law of gravity. For many, GTA Online is an extreme stunts sandbox, an urban motocross arena, or a base jumper's paradise.
For me, a multi-storey car park in Los Santos is a vantage point for my sniper rifle. But for the GTA Online stunt community, it’s just another opportunity to thread the needle in freefall, pulling their parachutes at the last second before setting down on the road. I’ll probably run them over when they land, but they made it.
Some people even play GTA - a game where you can trip over your own feet - as parkour athletes, legging it across Los Santos and darting across rooftops. Inevitably, they will tumble and fall, but that just makes it all the funnier. A cursory search on YouTube will reveal scores of freerunning videos and parkour fail compilations. To be fair, who didn’t spend the first hour of GTA 5 hurling their character at a wall? That splat.
Dark Souls - Onebros
At the start of Dark Souls you get the chance to choose a class. Do you want to be a gleaming knight with a sword and shield? Perhaps you’d rather try your hand at a bow (don’t). For some, the choice is clear: they want to complete the game using the Pyromancer, because he’s the only class that starts at Soul Level One.
These masochists then play through the entire game this way, never levelling up. Dedicated Onebros don’t summon in help from other online players, either. The only way they can get stronger is by reinforcing their weapon - which itself is restricted by their stats - and by using their pyromancy glove to harness fire and set their enemies alight. This trick isn’t quite as effective against Quelaag, however, because of the whole ‘she’s fireproof’ thing.
To complete a Onebro run you need to master the parry. A well-timed one will send enemies reeling, letting you perform a critical hit in the gap. Because of your low health, mistiming a parry will mean death. Git gud (as the kids say) and you’ll be able to parry your way to the end credits, perhaps battering all the bosses with a tiny lump of wood. If you fancy your chances, get some tips from the Onebro subreddit.
Battlefield - Zombies
Zombies are overdone in videogames, but we still keep playing games that feature the decomposing teeth-gnashers. That’s because they’re the perfect videogame enemy: they’re dumb and can only attack you when they’re close, making them perfect fodder for people who enjoy popping heads like meaty melons.
In fact, we love zombies so much that we even put them in games that didn’t originally have them in. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is getting a zombies mode, following the success of Twitch-led community games where one squad faces off against hordes of players equipped with melee weapons.
A similar craze swept through the Battlefield community, too. There are countless custom games in DICE’s shooter where one small team, using the Support class, takes aim at a full team of Medics acting as the zombies. In the mode, the Medic class players use defibrillators to take down the opposing team when they get in close. It’s a hectic, unintended way to experience the destructive squad shooter.
GTA Online - RPers
It’s GTA again! Did you know that some people play GTA Online like it’s Second Life? There’s a dedicated community of GTA Online role-players who play the game completely in character, in servers with other players who are doing the same. In it, they live by strict rules - players can even end up serving time if they’re caught committing crimes.
In jail, they just stand around for hours until their time is served. If you watch the Twitch stream above (from 2:22), you can see some of the RPers in action - one group is out for revenge on another player, Surfer Dude, who snitched on them after a previous altercation.
They kidnap him, steal his phone, and lure him to a meat warehouse. Despite his pleas, they knife him in the stomach and douse him in petrol before setting his body on fire. It’s dark as hell, but the daft voices the players use for their characters means you’ll have to laugh at the absurdity of it. It’s strangely compulsive to watch.
Need For Speed - Car Meets
We all have that one friend who has a photo of their car as their Facebook profile picture. Well, the Need for Speed community has a version of that - groups of car enthusiasts who meet up and show off their virtual rides to like-minded petrolheads.
The fact they don’t have legs or a physical avatar to explore with doesn’t bother them at all. They pull up into a car park, like a nerdy, limbless Vin Diesel, and admire each other’s handiwork.
They even make stylish sizzle reels for their meets, showing off their rides as they reflect the street lights, Frostbite-engine rain beading down their hoods.
Titanfall 2 - The Gauntlet
A lot has been said about Effect and Cause, Titanfall 2’s most inventive and exciting mission. The game’s community has got worked up by something else entirely, though: the tutorial. Before you get into the action in Respawn’s incredible shooter, you’re plonked into a VR training simulator called the Gauntlet. For some, this is the real game.
People have been fighting over the top spot on the Gauntlet leaderboard since launch, and the fastest time currently clocks in just shy of 20 seconds.
Being the fastest isn’t enough for some, however. There are even players who run the Gauntlet backwards, with one of the most impressive of those clocking in at 34 seconds.
Dishonored - Coin Collectors
Being an immersive sim about stealthy assassinations, Dishonored shares some DNA with the Thief series. It helps that you can go through people’s drawers, hunt down combinations for their safes, and steal things from the pockets of unaware guards.
Stealing and hoarding coins is the entire game for some. It’s clear that players will track down any old collectible, so there were always going to be people who wanted all Dishonored’s bonecharms and whalebone runes. That wasn’t enough for one group, however - they wanted all the coins. They want to hoover them all up like supernatural, murderous magpies.
Dishonored’s currency is useful for upgrades, but players were never meant to get every single one. Even so, one group of players actually got in contact with developers Arkane because they were missing a single coin from the first game and assumed it was a glitch. It turned out the coin was just near a random rock on the coast. Liquid assets… No? Sorry.
Skyrim - Pacifist run
You spend a lot of time in Skyrim whacking enemies with swords or hurling fireballs at them until they keel over and die. One player didn’t see this as enough of a challenge, so they set themselves a bunch of rules and readied themselves for a pacifist run.
In it, they’re allowed to hurt enemies, but killing them by direct methods is a no-no. Fus Ro Dah-ing them off a cliff is fine - it’s the fall that kills them, duh. Placing traps is also okay, since it’s their carelessness that does the work there. Using followers to do your dirty deeds is against the rules, however.
These guidelines meant they had to get creative - especially in questlines like the mage’s guild where stealth and invisibility can only get you so far. You can see their exploits in the diary over on the Skyrim subreddit.
Minecraft - prison servers
Prison servers turn the Minecraft experience into an unforgiving MMO where you have to slowly grind through the ranks for resources. Starting with a pick and some low-level gear, you have to really work to make progress, slowly building up your belongings, and selling off any gems you collect to rank up so you can more quickly work your way through layers of stone.
Just like in an MMO, the first few ranks fly by, but the later ranks can take hours or even days to progress through. It’s Minecraft, but stripped back to its most brutal elements.
Beneath all this, players can make faster progress by donating real-world money to the server host, bypassing some of the grind with what is essentially a microtransaction. I’d rather build a massive dong, personally.