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Pirates Online event recap: Sword-fighting

Zack Stern

I played Pirates of the Caribbean Online at a media gathering last week; this post describes the event put on to keep us journalists entertained. While Capcom has thrown its share of parties -- publishers often dangle shiny objects to draw us journalists in -- Disney Online tied its in-game sword-fighting to a real-life fencing event.

Any event like this has food. (The tasty plantains paid dual tribute to the Caribbean of said online pirates and the largely Latino location of San Francisco's Mission District.) Beyond our stomachs, Disney Online tried to impress us with various props used in the movies, hidden behind glass cases, safely away from our greasy fingers. But the real spectacle was that they thought it'd be a good idea to give us all swords and let us spastically fight each other.

Okay, it was a little more controlled than that because the event was held at the Golden Gate Fencing Center. Olympic coach, Mike Pederson literally said that he didn't want any of our eyes on the ends of our swords. (I assume they're hard to clean off.) We all worked to live up to that goal, but our legal waiver aimed much lower.

Safety first: Coach Mike Pederson tries to calm us down.

Disney Online organized a single-elimination ladder in which we could settle our editorial differences. Like most of the other journalists, I'd never fenced before. After quickly donning a canvas jacket, glove, and face mask, I nervously began my first match.

If there was any doubt, épée fencing takes much more endurance than activities in my usual day: sitting, typing, and answering the door for FedEx. I quickly scored four points -- one "touch" activates a light and counts as a point -- before exhausting myself. After losing a couple points, I finally scored the fifth needed to win the round and earn a break.

My second match was generally an inversion of the first; I got behind by a large margin, earned a couple points for my pride, then lost. While we were trying to jab each other with blunted swords, I didn't consider the likelihood of injury until I stabbed my opponent fairly hard in the chest -- much harder than needed to activate the light. So, I lived up to our motto at Joystiq, "to cause others pain even in loss." (Vlad has the original Latin phrase above his desk.) My opponent, Chris, later said that it didn't hurt much during the excitement of the match, but my strike caught up to him afterwards.

Nerd fight: What would Guybrush do?

Who was the fiercest journalist at the event? The tournament winner -- including cumulative points from a brief challenge within Pirates Online -- was IGN Vault Network's Richard Aihoshi. He was originally supposed to win a replica Pirates sword from the movie series, but our hosts decided to give all of us swords, very Oprah-like.

We at Joystiq figured that a life-sized sword would find a better home with one of our readers than it would mounted above my office mini-fridge. We'll soon announce a contest for you to become the keeper of an authentic Pirates of the Caribbean replica sword.

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