Pasta Disaster   Leave a comment

Team player, for once.

On Sunday I cooked a lasagne for the dinners of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I had the bright idea (after misreading the pasta packet) of precooking the lasagne by steaming it above the sauce, hoping that it would become infused with its flavours, and wouldn’t become a single soggy fused lump of mush. I’m sure you can guess what happened. But nevermind; I doubt anybody’s ever used up a whole packet of lasagne, so it doesn’t matter.

Mostly on Sunday, however (and also Saturday night, but I wanted to end on a thing about Civ V so didn’t mention it), I played Team Fortress 2. It’s a team-based multiplayer shooter. I’m not much of one for multiplayer, especially team-based multiplayer. Makes sense, huh?

The reason I decided to play was partly curiosity, partly because I’ve owned the game for three or four years and have barely played it, and partly because there was a halowe’en event on, so I wanted to see what that was about. And, I thought, so would a lot of other clueless people, so I’d not feel like such a useless numpty as usual.

I don’t often play multiplayer games because, well, they require other people. And you know what they’re like. And they’re even worse when they’re anonymous and can get away with anything*. And team games are even worse: I don’t want to have to rely on others – especially strangers plucked at random from the internet – for my entertainment, and I’m certain other people don’t want to have to rely on some clueless newbie who doesn’t know the game, the maps, or even have much idea as to what he’s supposed to be doing, for theirs. So I tend to stick with the computer, like the majority of people playing games (according to developers with the tools to track such things); it doesn’t mock me because I find any shooter more complicated than Unreal Tournament’s deathmatch, or less complicated than ARMA 2, horribly confusing and inaccessible.

But the halowe’en stuff coinciding with the end of my game of Civ provided the impetus to hop in. And it was actually quite fun, albeit largely in a “what’s going on” kind of way. Last time I’d tried to play the game had some basic bot tutorials (and even that was an improvement over my first attempt), but then pretty much threw you in to let you get on with it. This time, not only were the special event levels the simplest game mode (King of the Hill; there’s only one control point in the middle of the map, and both teams try to hold on to it for three minutes), the quick game launcher gave you hints about how difficult different game modes were. Once I’d figured out roughly what was going on, and got bored with King of the Hill, I knew which game mode to try next. And so I had several fun hours in TF2, defending control points, pushing a little cart, and being absolutely useless as a Sniper or Demoman. Pyro is definitely the best class, although I feel the kinship of intellectual equals with the Heavy.

It didn’t matter that I was rubbish, though; the kill-cam makes every death amusing, or you can admire your opponent’s skill – in one game I was stabbed in the back by the same spy probably a dozen times, and each was more hilarious than the last – and in the worst case it means you at least know what killed you. It makes it never feel unfair.

And, rubbish as I was, it was heartening to know that there were some people who were even worse.

Just one quick war-story: a pushy-cart game, and we were attacking. The cart was mere feet from the goal, but the timer was ticking down. Playing as a Medic, I was trying to charge my Ubercharge (invulnerability for you and the person you’re healing). My first attempt failed – knifed in the back by that spy again – but the second was more successful. I latched on to a Soldier, we snuck (somehow) into the enemy stronghold, and managed to stay alive until the Ubercharge was ready. I fired it off, with less than thirty seconds of the match remaining, and we raced for the cart. I kept us alive whilst my soldier frantically swatted baddies, and when we were clear the cart began to trundle to its station. The Ubercharge ran out, and I didn’t long outlive it, but the soldier was still pushing the cart, the rest of my team were making a frantic rush, and there was only a few seconds to go… Would it make it?

No, we lost. But it’s the best way to lose. And, for the opposing team, probably the best way to win.

* People complain about behaviour on the internet, but what they often don’t realise is that people don’t behave that way because it’s “virtual”, or anonymous, or because there are no consequences: they behave that way because that’s what people are like. The rest of the time – “real life”, if you like – they’re too scared to act that way, because they don’t know they can get away with it. It’s much harder to be an arse to people when they can punch you in the face. Online anonymity shows you what they’re really like.


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