Convergent Evolution of Terrorist Tactics

Over at Wired, there’s a great little editorial on one player’s discovery of so-called terrorist tactics in Halo 3.

Whenever I find myself under attack by a wildly superior player, I stop trying to duck and avoid their fire. Instead, I turn around and run straight at them. I know that by doing so, I’m only making it easier for them to shoot me – and thus I’m marching straight into the jaws of death. Indeed, I can usually see my health meter rapidly shrinking to zero.

But at the last second, before I die, I’ll whip out a sticky plasma grenade – and throw it at them. Because I’ve run up so close, I almost always hit my opponent successfully. I’ll die – but he’ll die too, a few seconds later when the grenade goes off. (When you pull off the trick, the game pops up a little dialog box noting that you killed someone “from beyond the grave.”)


The structure of Xbox Live creates a world composed of two classes – haves and have-nots. And, just as in the real world, some of the disgruntled have-nots are all too willing to toss their lives away – just for the satisfaction of momentarily halting the progress of the haves. Since the game instantly resurrects me, I have no real dread of death in Halo 3.

Terrorism is a military tactic - a tactic of last resort. We decry the tactic as shameful and unfair, but we continually fail to realize that it is a rational tactic for combatants with nothing to lose, fighting a lopsided conflict they cannot hope to win. It is a tactic we cannot defeat by invading any place for any reason (real or imagined), because it is born of the inequalities inherent in civilization. Despite its apparent general ineffectiveness as a tactic, terrorism will continue to re-evolve because a chance at minor success is a better option than no chance at success.

Faced with such a hopeless situation, what would you do? As the gamer above demonstrates, each of us are not as far removed from such tactics as we’d like to think.