I'm Late To The Party is a series of blogs I'll be writing where I describe how utterly late I am in joining everyone else in playing and enjoying something that many of you have had the pleasure of enjoying years (and in some cases, a decade) earlier than me. I write about it hopes that I can get others to enjoy it as much as I am, and perhaps let others reminisce about it, or laugh at me. It's all good.
I'm a stubborn bastard. Incredibly stubborn, to a fault sometimes.
After playing mostly platform games on the NES / SNES / Genesis at some point in that slice of crazy most people call the 90's I started playing Doom. I had to have been 16 years old at the time, and was introduced to the game through my uncle (who had moved here from Europe to attend University). I was just flat out in awe, and this is well after having played Wolfenstein previously. My wonderful naive teenage mind was racing with thoughts of joy, "Oh man, I'm fighting demons from hell! Wow these levels looks insane! That one looks like a giant flying tomato! Holy SHIT is that one shooting rockets at me?"
I played all of Doom 1 at the time, but then my uncle threw Doom 2 into the mix AND the inclusion of BBS sprouting up all over the place with user made levels. I was on a high that lasted well into college, even when the likes of Quake, Unreal, and so on came along. Suffice to say that the game left an obviously deep impression on me.
Afterwards I stumbled into the realm of fighting games, to which I'm still enjoying. What am I getting at? Well, Doom was the only FPS I had ever really, and I mean really played and loved. Most every FPS that came after that just didn't really do anything for me, regardless of how good they actually were (though Goldeneye and Perfect Dark did manage to sneak their way in there). So when my good friend started bothering me to play a new FPS (new to me anyway) recently my reply was to remind him that Doom was the last FPS I had ever really bothered with. Doom had auto aim, no mouse look, and your character made the Flash look like a snail stuck in molasses. I was in no way ready to take on any game that required me to actually look up and down. That FPS he was pushing me to play, it was Team Fortress 2.
Where it all begins~
So I finally cave in and decide to give the game a try. It had only recently become free to play at that point, so no harm to my wallet, right? My mind is still against it but my friend was pushing me pretty hard to play because he knows how moronically stubborn I can get. So I boot up Steam, take 5 minutes to recover my password (I don't even know why I had Steam to begin with!) and wait for Team Fortress 2 to finish downloading, installing, updating and all that jazz. This all takes an hour, and of course during the whole time I am still telling my friend that he's wasting his time (I really hate myself).
The game boots up, and I'm treated to the opening splash screen. I don't have a clue what to do so I just go straight to the tutorial, but not before messing around with the video settings. The game booted up in average settings mode but my toaster of a set up couldn't handle that so I set most everything to their lowest parameters. Hopping back to the tutorial I'm put in the role of the Soldier, a scruffy, rocket launcher equipped individual who somehow manages to see past the helmet blocking most of his face. I struggle through it, learning the basic control scheme and fundamentals of the character. Use a shovel up close, make use of the shotgun at mid range and use the rocket launcher for long range attacks and for splash damage. Ok, I get it I get it.
Then the game puts me into a mock battle to teach me how to handle 'capture the point' maps, namely on Dustbowl. My computer starts coughing up blood and I am utterly lost at what I should be doing. Looking back I just wasn't entirely into the game so I was just forcing myself to quit. "Oh there's too many characters to keep track of, I can't switch weapons properly, and I'm still utter buns at using a mouse and WASD to move around".
I give up. The game sits there on my hard drive for a few months while my friend coaxes me into playing another game in the meanwhile. He's disappointed that I didn't really give Team Fortress 2 an honest try but our new game has me in its grip quite hard so he overlooks it, for the time being anyway (said game will be featured in the next ILTTP). We devote some good, hard man hours into this game, and to my surprise this game actually teaches me how to use mouse look and WASD in conjunction with one another, though it is not an FPS by any means.
Time marches on and my friend stops on by for another session of whatever fighting game we were playing at the time. We play a few hours worth, going back and forth before he just turns around to me with a giant, silly grin.
"I don't like you when you smile like that," I tell him.
"You know what you should play?" he replies, with the stars clearly occupying his eyes.
"What?" I bite back, my eyelids dropping halfway, my face now in 'stubborn shithead mode'.
"Team Fortress 2! You're going to play it again!"
By now the little morons in my head are getting ready to flick the levers to let steam out of my ears. I tell him I had already gave the game a try but he insists that I should try it again, and that this time he'll be joining me. I whimper in reply but he puts his puts his fight stick away and replaces it with his laptop. I reluctantly boot up the game, but much faster than last time (my pc had a rigorous cleaning that helped boost its performance dramatically since I had last played). I tell him I'll need to give the tutorial another run through but he tells me to bypass it all together. He joins a Dustbowl server, tells me to join him, and then suggests I play Demoman this time. He's well away of how defense I am when playing fighting games, so I just comply in agreement, waiting to find that one opportunity to lambaste the game yet again.
I don't get that chance.
Alcohol, explosives, and a Scottish accent in one hilariously awesome package.
We played for at least 6 hours that night. I had been completely engrossed by the game, and since our previous game actually taught me to use WASD and mouse look together, my execution wasn't a problem at all. In fact as soon as we stared playing my fingers had been moving as if it was never a problem at all.
I was back stabbed beyond my ability to count high enough. Pyros happily air blasted my own sticky bombs right back at me. Heck, when I saw an uber'd ANYONE my ass went running in the opposite direction, glowing shiny supermen was a giant 'RUNFORYOURLIFE' warning sign to me. I just kept dying but I was enjoying it, oh god was I ever enjoying it. I turned to my friend and just start blabbering and blubbering about it, "Did you see that one kill I got? Heavies are so annoying! Snipers are jerk butts! What the hell is a Spy-Crab anyhow?" He looked back at me with that same grin that started out our night, which caused me to go silent.
"Told you so!" he smugly remarked.
"Yes, yes you did." I replied.
Every night after that we snuck in a few hours of TF2. I bought a crown for my Demoman and suddenly the game started giving me random weapons and items, something I quite accustomed to now. All of the experiences that were 'ho hum' to my friend sent me in a tizzy and running back to him to proclaim how utterly (retarded) excited I was. After a bit we grew tired of Dustbowl, which lead my friend to find a random server called "Mario Kart 20v20". I had no idea what I was getting into but now I knew to give it try. Pure pandemonium. Low gravity, rolling the die for random 'effects', critical hit on everything, we were laughing for hours. We played that for a spell before we decided to try something else. This time stumbled onto 'Prop Hunt', a mode where one team consists of just Pyros, while the other team is actually turned into a random prop that can be found in that map. Literally hide and seek.
This behavior continued. When we grew tired of one mode we would find another one to jump into and eventually we would cycle through everything, just playing whatever we were in the mood to play. Six months have passed since then and I find that the more I play the more I fall in love with this game. The more I play the more I feel like I am part of this giant community effort to maximize the fun out of TF2, an effort that's been going on for five years. Every time I get just that right blend of players in Dustbowl, where a match can take up to 25 minutes, it's just so amazingly invigorating and exciting to be part of the team defending the point or trying to control it. I don't have a MIC either (and usually turn voice off) but when all the gears are in place it's amazing. Coming from Doom, which was primarly DeathMatch (it invented the mode, did it not?) playing cooperatively in TF2 still gets my blood pumping. The best part is that even after playing Dustbowl for hours I can find myself playing Spy-Crab on a silly server for just as long and enjoying the game equally as much. I didn't get that with Doom, everything was serious business then, even once the game supported 32 player matches.
The advent of Garry's Mod and Source Film Makers only aid in fleshing out the already hilarious personalities of each class. Mann vs Machine is just icing on the cake. Holiday promotions get me giddy for whatever random items I may want to buy or updates we may get. I love playing every class in the game, even when I utterly awful at some of them. Having just obtained the Rocket Jumper weapon yesterday I'm already doing my damndest to 'goomba' players to death. Really, the more I blubber on about this game the bigger a shithead I become, having shunned the game initially for really stupid reasons. I do this often enough that I'm pushing myself to actually write about it now.
So to any other stubborn bastards out there, join the Late to the Party Club! We have jackets!
My steam handle is mchibi, I will happily try out any map or mode, and I'll to my damndest to actually join Desctructoid's TF2 Tuesdays, eventually!
Ten years ago I started playing this game I had noticed in the corner of Barcode, a half bar / half arcade nestled in the heart of Times Square. Among all the machines put there to maximize the amount of money taken out of you while intoxicated there stood this small, white Japanese candy cabinet with two joysticks and two sets of six buttons to their right. I watched the game's demo mode play for a few seconds until the screen just erupted into this mess of beams and fireballs and a climbing three digit hit combo meter. Well, that's all it took for me to pump every quarter I had into the machine, I was hooked. Five to six different games, several hundred tournaments, five Evolutions, and a decade later I'm still playing fighting games. The difference now is that the game has changed and so has its community, so let me go into my thoughts on it all.
TS Min, Empire Sanford Kelly, and TS 'om nom nom' Arturo Sanchez'
When Street Fighter Four dropped roughly two years ago it brought in a new crowd of people that had never really bothered with fighting games before. Hell, it brought back veterans that had long since 'retired' from the scene. The community at large had suddenly gotten an influx of competition, and well that's what we're always looking for, more people to play. At its core that is all we as fighting gamers want, more competition. Sure, in a way it is a bit barbaric but when you become one of us you start to see what a rush it is. Anyways, that's exactly what we got with SF4, an enormous amount of competition we had not seen for years. Local tournaments began to pop on a weekly basis, monthly tournaments starting garnering numbers you would only see at yearly majors, and said majors had gigantic brackets and pots none of us had witnessed period. It was pretty crazy, hectic, and fun! Then we saw the birth of something we had all been alien to, sponsorship.
Money money money, monaaayyy~
Where tournaments would usually just register your online handle into the brackets, we started to see players enter with two to three lettered abbreviations preceding them. TS Sabin, EG Justin Wong, EMP Yipes, the list goes on. Suddenly players were representing their sponsorship, and vice versa. More players gained the means to go to more tournaments, so long as they seemingly earned it. For the most part the ones being sponsored did have a standing in tournaments, though many have since faded away into the lower part of the brackets so to speak. Certainly we all assumed that this would drive more of this blossoming community of ours to get better at their respective games. Unfortunately it seemed to do the opposite, players began to treat sponsored players as celebrity. People would enter tournaments in hopes of getting to play against Mike Ross, or consider it an honor to have played him online.
Now that's not an inherently bad thing, some people have been deserving such attention and status for far too long. The problem here is that it begins to instill the notion that what many of us have been enjoying as a passion and poured our heart and soul into, many are taking to be but a fad. People become aptly named 'stream monsters' or 'pot monsters', and you suddenly begin to realize that the inflation of the community has resulted in the need to wait for it naturally weed itself out. I'm not hating on the players having jumped into this niche little genre of ours but a few years ago, I just worry ever so slightly for its future.
Stay the hell on my lawn! I mean it!
See the thing about our community is that we're incredibly tight knit and grass roots. We've been sacrificing days off work, our own money, hell even our health sometimes for over ten years now. More even. While there was a point where we were in a dry spot for a few years (thanks to the lack of new games in the genre) we were still going at it. While this in-pouring of players is a blessing, things have shifted to where people are attending tournaments to see those celebrities play, while not entirely caring for the game. You look at the numbers for Evolution and you see 2,000+ entries, but in reality I wouldn't hold the amount of serious competition (people actually vying to qualify, get out of their pools, etc) to be past 200. It's hard to explain my point while trying to NOT sound like I'm outwardly hating all these new folk, but perhaps it's my cynicism at play. Our individual 'blogs' dedicated to news of the fighting game genre have gone from providing a mix material for serious members and casual alike to completely shifting to the 'casual', leaving the front page ridden with videos on someone 'beat boxing Ryu's theme' or countless two minute long combo videos made by people looking to just get onto the front page to begin with.
This is where the issue of 'esports' come in. Do begin to form a season that annually climaxes at Evolution? What type of games are we going to include in there? What if I want to push Melty Blood more than I do 'SSF4 : I have to publically announce I'm sorry we imbalanced AE edition'? My cynicism kicks in again here, predicting that in two years time the 'fighting game fad will fade out' and all the folks chanting 'Fuudo-isms' and lambasting 'Daigo for tier whoring' will just mosey on over to the next 'in thing'. Are we still going to be getting 2,000 heads to show up when a game isn't being patched anymore? Will players still be sponsored two years down the line when we end up having to wait another ten years for SF5?
I don't know. I just hope that along the way we don't lose ourselves, our passion to play, and the social aspect that comes as the best bonus you could get out of any game. Maybe by then I'll have my own porch, rocking chair, and shiny cane to work with too~