Team Fortress 2 has meant a lot to me over the last four years that I have played it. It has been there through so many events in my life as I have grown into a teenager and gone through some tumultuous times. It has kept me company through lonely, quiet days where it felt like I was alone in the world, and it has been there through loud, fun events between me and groups of friends. The game which has been in the world for over half of my lifespan, and been such a thorough part of the last quarter of it is something that I want to express my love for somehow. Unfortunately, I do not have any real creative talents. My most dignified piece of artwork is a stick-figure sketch hung on the wall of my sophomore history teacher’s wall, or, more likely in the trash can by this point. My skills with building and 3D work have always been mediocre, and entirely unexplored in the TF2 world. In fact, the only thing I could think of to begin with in this game was to try speedrunning a jump map or editing together a frag movie but my best run on the only map I felt confident at was 45 seconds slower than a run which was deemed ‘slow’, and all my clips are cluttered, unimpressive, or simply do not make sense without context. It is due to this inability to express myself that I have turned to the pen, (or, more accurately, the keyboard) to attempt to chronicle my experiences with this game.
While the hire date on my mercenary badge may state December 18, 2013 my original start to this game took place soon after the fourth Scream Fortress update in the October of 2012. At that time, I found myself allured to the mystery and magic, the wonderful, intriguing game that Team Fortress 2 seemed to be. As-if. What really happened was a friend of mine said “Hey, come play TF2 with me,” and I downloaded and booted up the game, joined a wave 666 MvM server with him, selected pyro, and played for a little bit. I remember distinctly using some flamethrower ammo and walking over an ammo pack, not knowing even what the thing was, and immediately finding an item (for those curious the item was the sharpened volcano fragment, which I promptly equipped, thought it looked cool, and started whacking the robots with it). I then was confused about how I got the weapon, made the connection that it was from the ammo pack, and picked it up again- which gave me no item. I asked my friend about it, and he told me that, in fact, he had no clue how you got items, and that I was being useless screwing around with an ammo pack at our spawn. After that session, I stopped playing TF2 or using steam for some time, not really having any use for the client and not being particularly interested in TF2.
Fast forward a year to Smissmas 2013 and li’l ol’ 7th grade me decides to install steam on my MacBook Pro (which I just recently upgraded to a windows PC) around early December, and created a new steam account because I did not remember my old one’s credentials. Later into the month I decided to revisit TF2 because most of my friends were playing it, and I did not really have any games that I wanted to buy particularly. So, I started playing 8 days after the Smissmas 2013 update, an update which I cannot really say I experienced since, after all, it happened before I started playing and I was not aware of the changes. Still, though, I had fun messing around with my friends, killing bots, abusing console commands, and sort-of trying to learn how to play. I liked the game. I played it somewhat regularly, and while it still was not anything like my favorite game at that point, I started to get interested in it. This interest was piqued with the release of the Love and War update.
With the release of the Love and War update I genuinely started to adore TF2. I got into the comics and lore, watched all the short films. I played avidly, both with and without my friends. Other games I was playing at the time fell into the dust, only occasionally being revisited as I started learning to play TF2. I originally mained Demoman, but I played pretty much every class except for spy and enjoyed them. This would change, however, as I purchased a few crates and some keys, saying “If I unbox an unusual, whatever class it is for is the class I will main.” Lo and behold, I unboxed a spy unusual. To be specific, a miami nights base-metal billycock. Frankly, the hat was disgusting, and I eventually traded it for its non-metallic counterpart, the backbiter’s billycock with the same effect. And, naturally as a condition for the unbox, I switched to maining spy. I learned about the class through youtube, and found all sorts of fascinating “frag videos”. I had never heard the term before, and watched more- discovering many spies and others who did impressive things with their class. I also asked questions about spy on the TF2 subreddit, and was helped along through reading there. The other frag movies I watched, however, made me again interested in other classes- namely watching jump movies which showed up in recommended causing me to start rocket jumping as soldier and having absolutely no clue what to do. I watched STAR_’s tutorial on rocket jumping, and attempted (and failed) to do pogos for a long time before I eventually succeeded. I spent hours completing the first two courses of jump_beef, and experimented in demoman jumping (finding it much more difficult to do anything vaguely complicated, I quickly gave that up).
I spent the next long while messing around with the spy, gradually improving until I felt I had hit something of a plateau. I was bored of pubbing, and was interested in finding a little community and chilling there for a while. This ambition led me to one of the neonheights trade servers, where I quickly established myself as a constant presence. Almost everyone who joined the server would recognize me, and many of them became my friends. And while I did spend several months almost exclusively on that server, I eventually migrated from there, realizing that I wanted to improve at the game rather than just messing around in a 50% gravity trade server forever. With a short break in-between on just pubs, I started looking for a competitive team. At this point, I had over 2000 hours in the game and was hoping that I would be able to join an iron highlander team as spy or soldier. I searched the UGC forums until I came across a fledgling iron team, where I played sub soldier- abandoning spy largely because I did not really like how spy was supposed to be played in highlander. For the first season on the team I was shy, and did not really talk to anyone outside of scrims or matches. Continuing with the team into season 20, I came out of my shell, became main soldier, and have kept on it up until now, season 22.
My experience with competitive, however, was not entirely positive. Despite staying on the same team and befriending many of my teammates, my desire to play TF2 competitively had died, to some extent, after season 20 when the team disbanded for the first time. It then disbanded again during season 21, and most recently, after a fierce discourse between the team’s owners, in season 22 as a silver team. After repeatedly losing matches with the team, only really winning because of forfeits, I did not want to play competitive so much. The only real reason I stayed with them was because of those friendships that I built, and because I did not want to abandon these cherished teammates. I did not despise competitive to the point where I refused to play or anything, and the camaraderie among my teammates is enough to keep me around.
Entering a new school in 10th grade, I met new people. One of which was a div.2 soldier from Asia who kicked my ass in MGE (although he’s never 20-0ed me). What I learned from meeting and playing against him was how good some people could be, and how rewarding it was to improve. My desire to be better at the game from early on when I first watched frag videos when I was learning to be a spy main was rekindled. I practiced a lot more to try to get better at soldier, and to this day that is where I am. Just gradually trying to get better after playing this game for 4200 hours and somehow still not being very good, messing around on pubs, trying to manage the UGC team I have been on for so long and am now a co-leader of. If anyone actually read through to the end of this terrible essay, I commend you- I certainly did not want to re-read through the whole thing after writing it. There’s a lot of stuff I left out, some stuff I feel like I should probably have written better but the jam is almost over and I do not have time to do large edits of this relatively short paper due to my other commitments. Regardless, I am glad to have been able to contribute something to the jam, and who knows, maybe I’ll write something again next year.