I Coulda Been a Contender
nlike many gamers my age, my love of FPS didn’t arrive with Wolfenstein. Sure, it was cool, but it was also a game I couldn’t play for very long without getting lost or bored. Similarly I let Doom pass me by; another neat game, but I found I still had little patience for key-hunting. Duke Nukem 3D’s puerile humour and partial nudity added a layer of the forbidden over the whole approach, and I played it a lot for that reason rather than any love of the genre.
Quake was the game changer for me, but not for its full 3D, or its dark satanic tone and Reznorbuilt soundtrack; it was the first time I experienced competitive online gaming. Not that I was particularly competitive to begin with, because I played keyboardonly and it took weeks of getting my butt kicked, before I conceded that a mouse might be necessary, and things got serious.
I heard about a thing called Team Fortress – a “mod” for Quake - and that became my life. I played a lot. The kind of “a lot” where I knew player movement so well that even with a ping of 250+ on dialup I could snipe enemies through the opaque surface (no fancy OpenGL effects on my crappy laptop) of the water separating 2Forts and Rock. I obsessed over my stats on The Champion’s League for Quake (theclq.com – now defunct) which monitored tens of thousands of servers and hundreds of thousands of players worldwide amongst which I ranked somewhere in the top 3-400. I was thoroughly addicted to being better at shooting people than they were at shooting me. But it was more than that too, because it could be done cooperatively, as a team, each member playing a vital role to secure victory. At the time it seemed gaming would never get better than this.
Then a friend introduced me to Counter-Strike (1.3), and I forgot all about Team Fortress. Since this discovery occurred immediately prior to my moving out of home to attend university, you can probably guess what my average day consisted of: a lecture or two, and Counter-Strike. Furthering my habit, a LAN café opened up near the uni, and since a lot of internet was still dialup in those days, I spent a lot of time there playing over high speed internet or on the local network. I got pretty good. Café patrons knew me, and whispers rippled around the room when I walked in. I guess it was cool in a “king of geeks” kind of way, and it fed my desire to be the best FPS player I could. I once started a session at 11am on Friday, and walked out of the café at 11am Sunday morning with maybe a couple of hours sleep in between. My bike, left at the train station for two days, had the seat stolen.
Life’s different now. I don’t have much free time and I tend to prefer my FPS with a start and end, rather than the continual chase of unattainable perfection in never ending rounds. I sometimes wonder if there’s a version of me in the multiverse who followed through and became a pro-gamer. Hmmm… maybe I’ll just play a couple more rounds in Overwatch…