On nights like this, I wonder how I’m going to kill the time before it’s late enough to fall asleep, worried that I’ll be bored on a Friday and consequently faced with the fact that I’m so very alone. I was craving some kind of human contact tonight, but spending time with people takes too much energy nowadays so I decided, instead, to play Team Fortress 2.
I purchased it on an impulse, but this was still three years after TF2 first came out. There’s a very good reason I avoided buying it for so long: it’s the sequel to Team Fortress Classic, one of the games I was most addicted to in my life, and a huge time sink1. An entire day could go by without realizing it when I was playing TFC, and I purposely didn’t buy TF2 when Aaron was getting into it too; I knew I wouldn’t stop if I had friends encouraging the habit.
I was first introduced to TFC in residence of my first year of university, and many years after were spent playing with my roommate, Pita. Usually as only one unit: the sniper. It got to the point where I would only eat, go to class, and play. There was nothing as satisfying as seeing giblets flying after a charged headshot, and to feed my addiction I started a sniper clan, ran practices, and organized matches. Yeah, I was that serious about it. At one point, I could reach a zen-like state in the game, and killing people became a meditative exercise.
One time, a clanmate and his friend drove up from Illinois (which to Ottawa is almost 1500km!) to meet me, and we hung out and drank and ate wings. It was a pretty good time in my life.
So tonight I started up TF2, feeling nostalgic, playing a familiar map ported from the original, pushing a 3‑to‑1 kill ratio like old times. Even with some rather significant gameplay changes from the original (the rifle doesn’t charge when not zoomed in, no grenades, lots of new items with different abilities), it felt comfortably familiar. The same principles of vision, awareness, cover, timing, psychology, and movement still applied when dueling with other snipers.
There was one other difference though: the implementation of voice chat. When I stopped playing the original TFC, XBox Live had just launched and headsets were far from popular. People used to communicate mainly through typing, but now there were people talking shit and joking around.
On a Friday night, when I was looking for a bit of social contact, I found the company of a few human voices over my speakers. They were loud, and silly, and sometimes socially awkward, but I didn’t care. I didn’t even need to talk back; it was enough to hear people communicating in the camaraderie of battle to feel like I wasn’t alone.
I can’t believe I stopped playing long enough to write that.
- Also the same reason I haven’t tried World of Warcraft. [↩]