javelinThere I was, minding my own killing spree when I saw this enemy running around in a Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer session. He had a Javelin missile stuck to his back. These things are heavy ordinance and pretty nasty. You shoot them and they rise vertically in the air and come down on an armored target from above.

So I shot him. Then he and his Javelin proceeded to blow up, taking me out. This little trick is called the Javelin missile exploit. And if you’re caught doing it, you’ll be banned from the game for at least 24 hours, according to Microsoft, which runs the Xbox Live online gaming service. In extreme cases, repeat offenders will be permanently banned.

javelin 2It will be interesting to see how far into the gamer zeitgeist the Javelin exploit will travel. Modern Warfare 2 has sold at least 8 million copies, and many of those players have gone online. And this Google Trends report shows how much the search terms “Modern Warfare 2 Javelin” have appeared in Google searches.

The ban is all in the name of preserving a fun Xbox Live multiplayer experience. I’m all for that. But I’m amused at the creativity of the gamers who figured out how to exploit this bug in the Activision Blizzard game, which has become the fastest-selling video game of all time. The player exploits the bug by cooking a semtex grenade, holding down the left bumper on the controller. Then the player switches to the Javelin missile. When the player dies, the Javelin blows up and its blast is quite a bit bigger than a grenade blast. You can take out a bunch of enemies all at once, but it is a kind of a suicide bomber operation.

Some of the Modern Warfare 2 commentators on YouTube are having a great time showing off this bug in their videos. (In fact, there’s a growing cottage industry of videos on YouTube about Modern Warfare 2). I’m annoyed with the bug, which tends to ruin the game that you’re playing. But you have to admire the ingenuity here. And it shows how, even after tons of testing, Infinity Ward’s programmers aren’t perfect — they can leave a little opening that hackers will drive a truck through. Infinity Ward is hard at work fixing the bug. In the meantime, gamers beware. And if a gamer you know starts babbling about Javelin missiles, well, now you’ll understand and be able to offer some consolation at the great loss of life and grief this exploit is causing.