Thursday, May 28, 2015

Is Interstellar Good?

I don't mean as a movie. Interstellar is a bad movie. Not terrible, but it's blatantly intended as an IMAX movie and that means lots of Kubrick-length scenes without Kubrick-quality inspiration, disjointed pretty fluff which didn't particularly need to be legitimized as a three-hour "motion picture" but hey, if that's what the public thinks passes for respectability, the lady shall be given what she wants. My real question is: how damaging is that pandering?

Interstellar is a bad movie made by a good team. Where concessions are made, it is a conscious and measured sort of degradation. Unfortunately this describes most of its air length. There is so much of classic science fiction interspersed through this Hollywood consumable that fans of space exploration staples will find scenes echoing anything from The Martian Chronicles to Red Mars with plenty of Clarke and Asimov and even a dash of George Martin in between. Yet this describes fifteen minutes to maybe half an hour of Interstellar's hundred-and-sixty-nine minutes. The rest is human, all-too-human.

I find this commentary must include some comparison with the only good space exploration movie I've seen in recent years, Europa Report. I've previously included it as a poster-child for the old progressive SciFi outlook, largely for the reasons which make it such a good counterpoint to Interstellar. Science Fiction is primarily a realm of cold fascination and grim obsession with abstract ideals. It is damaged even more than other genres by regression to a romanticized view of sexual relations and family/tribal loyalties, by the two-dimensional primitivism of pop-culture heroism.  

Europa Report's protagonists are human. We know they left families behind and we know they are subject to the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to. However, this is allowed to serve as the unspoken backdrop for their transhuman intellectual pursuits, for motivations beyond animalistic protection of one's mate and progeny. Contrast this with Interstellar's two-hour tirade of "daddy's comin' home" - compare Europa Report's $125,000 U.S. gross profit to Interstellar's take of $188,000,000.

Of course, we quickly run into the issue of tails wagging dogs. However popular Interstellar's lowest-common-denominator view might be on its own, we'll never know. This particular motion pick-a-chure has received the full "made to sell" poster-and-spot treatment by Hollywood's multi-trillion-dollar advertisement industry. Reducing humans to their instinctive lowest-common-denominator is not only a means to profit but an end to secure those very same means. Reducing, circumscribing the public's expectations makes that public more predictable and easier to control, which in turn makes it more reliably swallow more and more pick-a-chures in which some hero dedicates himself to his mate and progeny (but with lasers.)

Yet still. I can't think of a rocketship lifting out of a dustbowl without remembering Bradbury, can't miss the trace of Maya Toitovna in Brand's face or the echoes of HAL9000 in CASE and TARS. As far as over-advertised Hollywood tripe goes, Interstellar is quite good and carries enough hints of better stories in it to qualify as Science Fiction. The question remains: what gets through? Can a movie like this serve as a springboard, a gateway drug into more thoughtful stories for sections of the public who would otherwise be watching Fast&Furious 17 or, after three hours of special effects, is all they'll retain the mind-numbing pablum of "love conquers all" dressed in a black hole?

A ten year old might not have the patience to imbibe Europa Report's cold-blooded, subtle density of information, but if he does he'll be on the right path. Europa Report represents, yo!
I want to know whether a ten year old who watched Interstellar this year will be reading Slide Show or The Wire Continuum or The Foundation two years from now. There is some genuine quality and thought buried under its mountain of glitzed-up lowest-common-denominator, but is it enough?

Is Interstellar a social good?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Today of Yesteryear

I don't watch much television. I long ago began to find it too annoying, too simplistic, too controlling, too repetitive, too loud and obnoxious and everything else we've grown to expect from it. As a consequence, it's been years since I've actually seen one of the insipid morning shows on a major American network. I have a family member who's a complete TV junkie and keeps the idiot-box cranked 24/7 so I was exposed to that pablum every morning through my adolescence and often enough through my early twenties, but for the past several years I've managed to steer clear of that morning narcolepsy.

Recently I've been visiting said relative so I've had the opportunity to re-assess my opinion of morning shows, and I must say there's a marked difference. Oh, they're still insipid overdoses of everything pop, but the focus had shifted from lengthy interviews with heroic waffle-toasting grannies from Podunk and random clans of teenyboppers who have something to say about the latest boy-band to out-and-out plugging of other television shows. Constantly. Most segments were thinly-veiled advertisements, not for politicians, physical products and other social ills as used to be the case until a decade ago, but for movies, websites and most frequently the network's own shows.

I see this as a symptom of existing media's desperation in the face of the internet's dominance, concurrent with Hollywood's trend a few years back toward making movies about making movies. Video's being killed by the internet star, but instead of adapting somewhat and trying to make something of this cultural shift, the entrenched celluloid aristocracy and its various retainers are instead doubling down, clinging futilely to their delusions of grandeur.

Broadcast network morning shows along with every other time slot must be hemorrhaging viewership at a dire rate. You'd think this would be a good opportunity to admit your medium is no longer and never again will be the dominant brainwashing device for the rich, that the lavish lifestyle to which you've grown accustomed is no longer sustainable. Re-brand yourselves according to respectability instead of popularity. Become "morning news" again instead of morning gargle.
Instead, what I'm seeing is air-filler recursively advertising each other, leeches doing a poor Ouroboros impersonation. They used to feed on the public, on effluent Americana. As their available public diminishes, they insist, instead of adapting, on introverting while attempting to maintain the same mass. How does this look like a sustainable business model for anyone?

The kind of self-deluding wonderland that must exist in these people's board-room meetings, hot damn, that'd be a sight to see. Bunch of graying suits nodding to each other and assuring each other "no worries, a-yawp, Nero shall be here shortly with his fiddle."

Saturday, May 16, 2015

A Femmy Friggin' Christmas

If you were a Robin Williams fan and hoping he went out on a high note... well, The Angriest Man in Brooklyn was actually pretty good, so you're not entirely out of luck. A Merry Friggin' Christmas, however, has been both panned and shunned, and with good cause! A quick glance through its comments / reviews section on Rotten Tomatoes or IMDB brings up justified complaints about everything from flat jokes to jagged melodrama. The whole flick was a cut-and-pasted stream of holiday "family reconciliation" tripe. We've all seen a hundred like it.

Well, surely it must have some redeeming qualities. Maybe, like many such a moldy cheese-fest, what it lacks in cleverness it makes up for in social awareness and promoting equality and understanding. Sure enough, since it's a family dramedy, it presents a truly progressive view of its core issue of gender relations - by Hollywood standards, anyway.

I mean, just look at the egalitarian way in which the dumb, blundering males fuck up every single step of their little odyssey while the enlightened, nearly prescient women provide sage advice, which, hahaha, wouldn't you know it, those dumb pig-headed males are just too dumb and pig-headed to obey. Look at the egalitarian way all the dysfunction in the family comes from the boorish or unrealistic male half while everything good comes from those pristine, saintly women suffering through being saddled with such wastes of space as husbands.
Look at the wonderful climax, in which the women manage to save Christmas even though, hahahahah, wouldn't you know it, everything the men tried, every plan and plot and all their best efforts resulted in a pile of shit. Literally. Just how did those magnificent, beatific paragons of wisdom and kindness fix everything, you ask? By getting drunk off their asses and bitching about men until they fall asleep, obviously! Leave the rest to the deusa ex machina.
Even at their worst, women are everything good. Even at their best, men are shit. Right?

And, you know what, fuck this movie... in itself. Yes, it really does seem to have been an utterly forgettable, by the numbers contract-filler for the actors. Remember what I said before, though? We really have all seen a hundred others like it, in every respect. The real problem is that we don't even notice the utterly vicious sexism with which it's imbued. We expect it. We swallow it, plot-hook, gag-line and hope-sinker. We take such abuse as our due. For the past two generations, it's been part of the background noise of our entire lives. From the early nineties onwards we've lived with the stereotype of the dumb slob of a husband being kept out of trouble by a brilliant, kind and competent wife. Men are pigs. Men are stupid. Men are evil. Men deserve whatever abuse women care to throw at them. We just absolutely know it.

This is our social reality today. We can watch shows from sixty years ago and admit that the whiny, incompetent, bumbling, utterly dependent female characters represented a derogatory mindset, that Looosey always havin' ta do sum 'splainin' to her husband put her in an unnecessarily and unrealistically subservient position. When the same brand of sexism is trotted out in the name of women, though, we don't bat an eyelash.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Legitimized Griefing


The above list ain't ET's genetic code or a new pop-song refrain (what's the wer-fox say?) It's a running tally of my last thirty matches in the AoS game Prime World according to the presence of griefers.

represents a normal 5vs5 game. Regardless of their crass stupidity, success or failure, players all stayed in the match to the end and more or less played it out. (Six of those were losses. I may be old and my reflexes hardly up to the standards of ten-year-olds' but I do alright for myself when I'm not getting sabotaged.)

A or E
represent matches in which players on my Allied or Enemy side have:
Failed to connect to the match.
Quit by leaving the game.
Quit by going afk.
Quit by sitting at spawn continually spamming surrender votes.
Quit by refusing to take part in team gameplay and only running around the jungle running out the clock until we lose.

Purposely suicided repeatedly into the opposing team to give them an advantage.

I have been banned from three AoS games so far for swearing at the imbecilic little shits polluting the internet with their stupidity. Swearing. All these games have actually had the standard easy two-click ignore option for chat, but that's beside the point. Even ignoring ignoring, no amount of slander will actually affect the "physical" outcome of a match. You can't talk the enemy's health bar down. You can't talk your allies' crit chance up. You can't talk your way faster across the map, talk the fog of war into lifting or talk a retreating enemy back into range. You certainly can't talk your allies' intelligence up. Talk is not just cheap, but utterly inconsequential, useless except for spewing vitriol at deserving targets. You can never ruin a match by talking, unless you're feeding the enemy information.

However, you can ensure a loss for yourself and four others every game by simply refusing to play. The list above isn't even counting the run-of-the-mill idiocy which can doom a team, about which I was kvetching in this post. I've only been counting instances in which one player decides he gets to "call it" and refuse to play altogether, ruining the match for his side intentionally. This is apparently fine. According to developers like Nival, Ironclad, Riot and HiRez, this is perfectly acceptable behavior.

Of course they'd contest that statement. Each one of these companies has put up some sort of "report" system so that you can recommend teammates for banishment by Game Masters. They like being able to say they're working on improving the game environment, engineering that society. You'd think that if you're trying to better the player-base, then the first criminals on the chopping block would be the ones whose very presence in a match guarantees a loss for their side, the griefers whose idea of gameplay consists of the most egregious violations. Both of those Es up above were easy wins for my side. All but one of the As was a loss for my side. If a red card in football (yielding a 10-11 handicap) is a grievous disadvantage, then a 4v5 is a death sentence. The game is after all a game and not a chat room. Actions which impact the game are the true issue and not empty talk. Look at the list I started with and tell me again whether these companies' idiotic pretense of oversight has anything to do with improving the game experience.

30 games
N = 17
A+E = 13
Close enough to half the matches being invalidated by a quitter that I get to call whoever set up this system for Nival a half-wit.
You. Overpaid knuckledragger who set up an automated matchmaking system which fails to eliminate quitters.
You're a half-wit.

Griefers don't get banned. It's a facetious smokescreen. On one side of things, it just gives players the impression that the injustice they've suffered will be avenged, which given by the sheer number of quitters still merrily ruining match after match in every AoS I've played, never actually happens. LoL, SoaDA, Smite, whatever. Griefers do not get banned. However, if you call one of these shiteating retarded little bitches a shiteating retarded little bitch, you get banned. See, that's in print. Devs get to say they have "evidence" and it's much easier to word-search a text file for swears than to actually watch a replay to see what happened. In other words, the verbal response to an injustice is always worse than the injustice itself. You know who talks about racism? Racists! Obviously. Duh. We don't tolerate righteous indignation here.

Which brings us to another point. Game developers hardly invented this sort of corrupt governance. GMs have a long history of being power-mad petty tyrants from before games were electronic and game companies are just playing out the reactionary complacency of every established power structure in human history. Keep in mind these companies are not so much game designers as game sellers, and griefers fill up slots in a 5v5 game. They're "customers." That they make everyone's life a living hell, meh, who cares, quality schmuality. Every player devs ban, every player that leaves, is money out of their pocket. So they pacify you with the delusion that they're policing griefers so you'll sit through it all, and instead ban any troublemakers who refuse to just shut up and swallow this shit.

Sabotage and treason are no crimes.
Rocking the boat? Calling attention to the company's refusal to police actual crime? That's a sin against the almighty dollar. Or, whatever, almighty ruble in Nival's case.

One more thing, though. I recorded those games in order. Notice a trend? If I'd marked down the games from beforehand as well, you'd see the farther back you went the games would begin to look a lot more like the end of my current list: more Ns, fewer As and Es. This sort of confirms the constant issue with randomized matchmaking of punishing competence. The better you do, the more you start getting placed on teams with idiots you're supposed to carry to an undeserved victory. That's bad enough in itself but it's also a necessary evil to set up evenly-matched games instead of the one-sided slaughterfests you find in any FPS which allows players to switch teams at will.

It becomes truly galling when you realize these are not just incompetents but utterly worthless little snots who throw games on purpose. AoS games have not simply legitimized griefing by punishing the response to it, but are actively rewarding griefers by putting them on teams with players who increase their chances of winning when they don't actively throw a match.

I get why the companies are doing it. To them, it's profit. You worthless cretins who pay them to punish you for playing honestly, what's your excuse you spineless, gutless, dickless mouthbreathers? Why am I the only one willing to say anything about this?

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Shelter's ESRB rating was apparently bumped up from "everyone" to "everyone 10+" because of "fantasy violence." I mention this just in case you have so weak a stomach that you can't watch a construction-paper badger eat a construction-paper gopher.

Oh, sweet Jesus fuck, you idiots, trust me, your six-year-old is not that fragile. He's not going to turn into Jack the Ripper because he got to play a hungry-hungry badger going "om-nom-nom" and no, Cookie Monster was not a negative role model either because he was never a role mod.... oooooh-kay, simmarin' down naow.

But anyway.
Shelter. Lovely piece of work. "Indie" games are more often than not either incompetently made and deserving of their anonymity or pretentious attempts to feed on a certain market segment's un-analyzed nostalgia by cranking out some cheap, half-baked Adventure, Rogue-like or Prince of Persia copycat with "retro" graphics and passing it off as artsy. Luckily there are enough true gems floating around like The Cat Lady, Miasmata, Trine or Shelter to show that it is possible to break old molds and create something beautiful (-ly underfunded.)

I am Wer-badger, hear me yap !

But yapping's not all you can do, oh no. You can waddle and run and dig up roots and knock down fruit and hide in long grass and pounce on frogs, gophers and the occasional fox. What more could you want? Why, five hungry cubs to serve as your raison d'etre, bouncing with happiness as you decide which one to feed with your latest catch.
Make that four cubs.
Three. I said three two.
Two cubs.

Okay, fine, I'm not the motherin' type, but two out of five ain't bad, right? Right?
*Sniff* My poor babies...
Shelter is not drawn up in children's storybook format for nothing. It encompasses captivating old-style children's storytelling: beautiful, filled with wonder at everyday experiences, and yes, often sad. Its fairytale atmosphere dresses up what is essentially a survival-horror game, and perhaps this is merely a reversal of what makes such games so immersive. Maybe what we seek in survival horror is exactly that peaceful autumn meadow filled with both promise and danger, nature red in fruit and claw. Birds and (bears?) water and fire can make short work of your beloved progeny even as you struggle to keep them fed.

Seems a lot of people have nitpicked at Shelter's technical details, and I must admit I have run into a bug or two like being unable to drop a piece of food or getting stuck on terrain and crashed once. Customizable controls might've been nice for those of us who've abandoned the WASD configuration in favor of arrows. Having no save feature is understandable, but being unable to replay individual chapters seems like an oversight. It's true the game feels too short, but extending it by more than a couple of levels with the same mechanics would have made it drag.

As it stands, Shelter runs smoothly enough and is just long enough to showcase its true strong points. Its artists have a wonderful knack for taking what would be cheap emotional cliches and making you feel like a six-year-old seeing them used for the first time. You haven't seen leaves wistfully blowing in the wind until you've seen these. You haven't heard anguish until you hear one of your cubs drown helplessly, and if your heart doesn't pound when that damnable hawk swoops down for a kill, check yourself for a pulse.
To the millisecond, to the pixel, to the hertz, every artistic aspect of Shelter is tuned to near-perfection to draw emotional reactions. From the serene opening to the heartrendingly apt ending, this game's every bit the work of art it advertises itself as.

It's well worth the cash (so long as you're not buying it through Steam - Valve doesn't need your money.) Me, I'm on to Shelter 2. See you in lynx-land.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Zebra Girl

Well, since I generally like to let webcomic archives build up a while in between visits, it's been several years since I've revisited Zebra Girl. I must say I'm impressed with its progress. There are... several new pages.
No, really, by webcomic standards? At least it's not completely dead.

Zebra Girl's another interesting relic of a bygone age (fifteen years ago) when bandwidth was low and so were image quality standards and webcartooning at its best was still a half-assed endeavor by recently art-schooled (or not) computer-savvy young creators who couldn't quite believe they were getting away with this whole thing! The fourth wall was a frequent sacrifice to self-indulgence. Color was rare, but that's alright. Webcomics were after all still a counterculture feature and the counterculture was (to its credit, by my estimation) still dominated by the whole "goth" craze. Goths dream in black and white. Mostly black. Even though most good creators had little interest in writing yet another Crow rip-off, self-hatred, demonic forces underlying our world and a general sense of nihilism were the name of the game.

Enter Zebra Girl. It's like Kafka with stripes. One morning, after getting a magic book slammed shut in her face, Sandra Eastlake found herself in her living room transformed into a horrible vermin. Or demon. Whatever. I suppose if you're going to do a black and white comic, it pays to bank on black and white patterns, and Zandra's character design is admittedly one of the more inspired I've seen. It's rare you see a comic-book demon that's neither a red-skinned incredible hulk with horns nor a dominatrix. From the start, despite the clutter of ridiculous random gimmicks throughout the first chapters (flipping a panel upside down, the author drawing himself into the comic, etc.) Zebra Girl also displayed an obvious healthy reservoir of true creativity and depth.

Unfortunately, creativity's slippery. Let's keep in mind that nobody really likes to copy Kafka. It doesn't sell. "Kafkaesque" equals depressing - beautifully so, in the case of Sandra's growing unity with her verminous nature and its effect on those around her. Staying the course, allowing her to fall, would have set her story uniquely against the gaggle of cheaply redeemable antiheroes littering webcomics. Shunting her through the "world as myth" to meet storybook figures served little or no purpose. A rightful admiration for white rabbits notwithstanding, dreamscapes have been done to death and Sandra's journey of self-discovery has been looping back in much too familiar a cycle.

Still, if the overall character development seems to be shying away from what could have been much more powerful endings, the changing details and imagery of Zandra's newfound life remain consistently captivating. The prop that's a person, the stock characters who've had enough and are now transcending even the reversal of their original motifs, it's all adding up to something I at least have not seen before. Maybe it won't carry such a delightful gut-punch as its gothic middle portion would have suggested, but by the time Zebra Girl's ending comes about, it will likely still take a demonic enough shape not to disappoint.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings

"If shining wisdom passed your lips and 
traveled to the ears of God 
you'd waste it."

Brandi Carlile - Wasted

I'm about to embark on the dangerous undertaking of watching the last season or so of Futurama. Dangerous, I say, because you're always in danger of disillusionment when revisiting an old favorite, and though Futurama was never terrible even in later years, Fox largely succeeded in destroying the keen satirical edge which had made it one of the best things on TV during its original run. To whatever extent the original cancellation broke up the creative team, they never quite recovered their original rapid pacing, trenchant wit or sheer volume of material thrown at the viewer. The original Futurama could take a ludicrous premise like Jurassic Bark, make you think they're finishing it off like an after-school special, then in the last two minutes flip it into something so gut-wrenching you won't know what hit you. Post-re-launch, it too often settled for closing on the after-school special note.

I haven't read much on the cancellation of the original series, but my interpretation for it runs something along the same lines as the case of Firefly. Fox is certainly money-first, but their reactionary politics run a close second. If Futurama had achieved Simpsons-scale viewership, Fox executives would've likely swallowed their pride with a rich garnish of riches and been content with simply letting the show stagnate and turning it into a string of nonsensical celebrity appearances. However, after tackling incest, war, suicide, animal rights and other hot-button issues and repeatedly bashing megacorporations, Futurama probably broke the conservative camel's back with the Godfellas episode in season four.

Though some of season five plays out like the rest of the series, it's apparent that much production took place after the writers had realized they were getting fired. Slightly more experimental episodes like The Sting or The Farnsworth Parabox which quickly altered the lead characters' relationships were topped off with noticeably bitter commentary about the state of mass-media in Obsoletely Fabulous and Bender Should Not Be Allowed on TV. This was a creative team rightfully outraged over their senseless but somewhat predictable fate and going as far as they could in protest without getting sued. But what about the very last installment?

The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings is one of the weakest Futurama episodes, or certainly not one you hear fans reference often. Yet I wonder how much of that was by design, a helping of the sickness the writers must've felt, a dose of the trite, stilted, bad art that corporations demand. A deal with the devil to make good art which turns bad? Slightly apropos.
Yet there's a second layer of self-doubt below that. It seems to some extent to suggest the creators were beating themselves up over what would inevitably, regardless of logic or argument, seem like a failure. Maybe if you're getting fired you never really were good enough, maybe your splendor was borrowed to begin with, maybe the public simply found you out. What if you've wasted your one chance at making good art by losing this job? What if the beauty in your heart is useless without your borrowed hands? What if the public is right to spit on you? What if, what if, what if?

What if you're left with a niche audience of one? It's trite, it's cliche, but if you can reach one person, or the equivalent one in a million out of seven billion, the nerdy niche market that matters, is that meeting of minds enough? Wanna hear how it ends?
Those two who matter finally meet. The devil's hands, for once, have served a purpose.

"Then again
It's good to get a call now and then"

Or watch a re-run. Whatever.

Thursday, May 7, 2015


Here's a fun exercise.
You know how sometimes the bad guy in movies is about to ice an innocent bystander to show us just how bad he is and how worthy of receiving a heroic beating? The victim may try to plead for his and/or her life. So let's count up the number of times the victim says "please, I'm an innocent bystander" and the times he specifies "I have a wife and children" and tally these disparate pleas by gender.

Let's count up all the female victims who only have to state their innate right to exist to gain our sympathy. Then let's count all the male victims who have to justify their existence by the service they render to a female and her offspring. Even more fun, let's count all the times this actually works to summon the screenwriter deus ex machina.

Count up all that divergent disdain for human life then tell me how much our media-brainwashed society despises... women?

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Missing Middle Rung

Back in the day I used to play a lot of PvP games. FPS, RTS, whatever. I caught both Counterstrike and Starcraft during their golden ages. However the basic twitch-heavy routine got old fast and I moved on to MMOs, expecting a more grandiose form of PvP - which of course never materialized (world PvP in WoW lasted about six months, give or take a "working as intended") and other multiplayer games which could have delivered complex team mechanics (Savage, etc.) either vaporized or never materialized. So only in recent years, getting into the new fad for idiotically simplified AoS games like League of Legends or Smite, have I encountered multiplayer rankings again and noticed this recurring trend in every one of them.

Say you've got your rating based on win/loss accumulation weighted by match difficulties, pretty standard routine played out on some kind of Elo scale. Presumably the worst players would be at the bottom and they'd get continually better as you go up but that hasn't been my experience. See, the basic concept of the Elo scale was designed to work for one-on-one match-ups between involved, motivated participants, so it doesn't quite capture the poetry of team multiplayer in an anonymous medium devoid of repercussions.

Sure, some of the people at the bottom of the list are just utter mental deficients who have no business trying to puzzle out their left mouse button from their right, but many are simply stuck in "Elo hell", unable to move up for being stuck babysitting the others. Often, they simply have bad computers or connections and rack up losses for dropping out of the game. More interestingly, once you move out of the "novice and accident" category, players get increasingly worse. You heard me. Oh, sure, here we're getting into the realm of those who have learned the mechanics so a certain degree of competence smooths out the overall gameplay experience. However, you also have to deal with the fact that these idiots are invested in their own self-image and not the game itself.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire. You've left the level of those who simply go afk in the middle of a match because they don't give a damn and entered the much more crowded realm of those who go afk in the middle of a match because they're more invested in their k/d ratio than an actual win, putting blame assignation over success.
This is where you get the cretins who refuse to do anything but grind up their stats the entire game because unless they can play the hero for the team, the game simply isn't worth playing to them.
This is where you'll see teammates sitting in one corner of the map leaving you outnumbered because as long as they don't actually take part in fights they can't be blamed for losing them, right?
This is where you'll never see anyone playing support roles or taking a hit for the team, where every match has the maximum number of parasitic assassin classes and they'll pout and deliberately sabotage an entire game because you accidentally "stole" a killing blow from them.
This is where you'll be retreating from a fight slowly getting worn down by enemies while your teammates run just a step ahead of you with full health while doing nothing to cover your retreat. So long as they stay one step ahead of you, they get to call you a "noob" for actually getting into combat.
Here's where as soon as your team has less than a 50% k/d ratio, players will immediately begin spamming the surrender button instead of trying to turn things around, playing the numbers, gaming the system, trying to get as many matches in to count on the law of averages to keep them afloat since they can't actually understand what wins team games.
This is the realm of both expertise and griefing, of those who have accumulated enough information about the game to out-play complete novices but lack the metal capacity to actually keep track of the flow of all the elements in a team game. Their only understanding is of simpleminded, algorithmic procedures. Diverge from those by thoughtfully analyzing and adapting to the situation at hand and they will throw the game rather than admit their inability to do the same.

At low levels, players lose team games because they react slowly. Above that, they lose because they do not react at all.
New players lose because they don't know how to use their abilities. Experienced players lose because they all wait to use their abilities for a killing blow.
Newbies lose because they don't know where to go. Experts lose by knowing exactly where the fight is and running in the opposite direction.

Elo hell is not the bottom rung, but actually the domain of those who think knowing the game means they know how to play and are willing to sabotage you to prove that you'll lose if you don't follow their one-track idiocy. In real-world sports or other team activities, such stupidity gets policed by various authorities. Coaches may be knuckledragging muscleheads but even they won't stand for that nonsense. Random match-ups cover it up by forcing intelligent team players to carry such morons.

 Of course above this level are the competitive players who have learned the hard way that in order to secure a win they may have to sacrifice their own personal glory, but unless you've got a full team in your pocket, good luck climbing there before going insane screaming at your monitor to get those little randomly-matched deadheads on your side to actually cooperate.