“Tonight there’s gonna be a jailbreak, somewhere in the town” sang Thin Lizzy in 1976. It’s always troubled me that Phil Lynott, for all his musical prowess, was unable to accurately pinpoint the location of a jailbreak. Protip Lynott: it’s at the jail. Dumbass.

Now in 2011, if the king of Irish afros were to ask that question again, the response could also be “Counter Strike: Source, Phil.” For if you look hard enough amongst all the custom Counter Strike maps available, you’ll find a map that completely changes the dynamic of the game, and acts as a very interesting social experiment that (slightly) screws with a very popular internet theory.

Hey Phil, I heard there's going to be a sale on Swedish furniture that you'll have to build yourself. Any idea where that is?

Jail Break is an interesting map. Calling it a map, actually, is selling it short. Typically, a custom map would still play by the classic Counter Strike game modes. Setting up bombs, saving hostages, etc. Jailbreak is something totally different. In my first experience with  this fan made game mode, I spawned in a jail cell armed with only a knife. Out of the bars I could see an expansive building filled with different areas designed for various tasks and in the middle of the room a big, open door cage. Then, through the game’s Voice-Over-IP service, I heard a small, pre-teen voice say, “All terrorists to the front of their cell, kiss the bars and freeze!” I then started to notice a collection of “Wardens” with guns scanning the cells to make sure we were obeying Captain Tinyvoice’s commands. Eager to learn more, I did what I was asked and “kissed the bars”. Then, Alvin (or Simon or Theodor, it was hard to tell) barked “When cell doors open, all terrorists must crouch to the big cage, no detours or delays, freeze on arrival. Do this or be shot.” Then something amazing happened. Everyone did it. People on the internet, in an online FPS, taking orders from a child? This is madness I thought.

Wardens have many, many options of what they can make “prisoners” do. Reaction games, trivia, races, a tricky obstacle course, anything that’s possible within the engine and within the level. The purpose of these tasks is to whittle the prisoners down to two, at which point the server allows the two remaining prisoners to select games to play with the remaining wardens. These can be no-scope battles, gun toss competitions, dodgeball and a few others. It’s up to the prisoners to eliminate the remaining wardens, before they themselves are killed. The whole experience can be pretty tense. Occasionally you will be standing facing a wall and hear a warden tell another prisoner to aim at a terrorist to be killed. In that moment, it could be you, and there’s nothing you can do. It’s genuinely quite terrifying. Alternately, there is a thrill in a group of prisoners causing a revolt against a poorly organised squad of wardens, since the odds are so heavily stacked against you. It’s amazing how fast things can go badly for wardens if they give prisoners a chance to revolt.

For a game that came out in 2004, Counter Strike: Source is still doing good numbers online

As previously mentioned, it’s an interesting social experiment. The servers that run these maps will have very strict rules on behaviour and etiquette that, if broken, can easily result in a ban. Wardens can only kill prisoners if they are rebelling, not following orders or if they lose a game. Any other kill is a “Freekill” and will see you sent back to the terrorist team in a heartbeat. Also, if you spend enough time there, you will see that it’s the same people every day, so it’s in a user’s best interests to follow the strict rules. It removes a lot of the “I’m anonymous on the internet so I can be an arse” mentality. It’s also the kind of gaming experience that no-one has really approached before. Admittedly it is a one trick pony, but have you ever heard of a FPS where one team is at the bidding of the other, literally?

I feel a full psychological study could be done on the type of people who keep going back to jailbreak servers and really enjoy that experience. I found it a little odd how much even I enjoyed it, but it’s an oddly submissive and dominating game style which is unique amongst its peers.






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