I mentioned this briefly in my last article. Sacrifice. Taking one for the team.
I rarely witness moments of sacrifice in games nowadays. I’m not talking about one character in the campaign jumping – Captain-America-style – on a grenade to save another. I’m talking about multiplayer. Where humans do their upmost to kill other human players on the opposing team and win the game. Obviously, titles derived from sport usually don’t apply here.
With many multiplayer games involving random players from across the globe, or whichever continent you happen to inhabit, gathering together against another team, in environments where self-preservation is the key to winning or gaining enough points, credits, weapons and equipment or experience, self-sacrifice is a very rare sight.
That’s not to say that random players or even those who are close friends, don’t help out during a game. Because they do. But what I’m talking about is the realisation that although your actions could save a teammate, even one who isn’t that good, the act could result in your destruction.
I’ve done this myself, in many different games: Halo, Call of Duty, Gears of War, World of Tanks, PUBG, World of Warships, Battlefield. These are just a few titles that I recall taking one for the team. Sometimes this was for the greater good. Helping to preserve another player’s life, who might carry vital equipment or weapons, so that the team can win. Other times this has been purely instinctive. Noticing an enemy player while a comrade is completely oblivious of their close proximity, or ill-equipped to fight. I’m not boasting here. I consider myself to be a distinctly average player. And I play primarily for fun. So, I’m not proclaiming to be a gaming Messiah or a pixelated saviour. No. What I’m talking about is a willingness to take one for the team.
For Halo, I have fond memories of spending hours in the dunes of one of my favourite maps of all time, Sandtrap on Halo 3, and racing around in a Warthog, or scampering along on foot, avoiding snipers and rogue plasma grenades. But I often sacrificed myself when we were on the backfoot, grabbing a Mongoose to draw enemy fire away from my team, giving them the opportunity to surge forward, and drive the enemy team from their positions. Sometimes it worked so well that I actually survived to contribute to the counterattack and make a few kills myself. But it often resulted in death.
In World of Tanks, I’ve often taken a fast, lightly armoured tank and performed my scouting duties to the letter. After all, that’s what that tank is good for. And when working in combination with a couple of other players in much better armoured and armed tanks, the results can be devastating. Scouting ahead for the benefit of a friendly anti-tank player, so he can snipe them from afar. Or zooming around in built up areas so your artillery players can rain fire from above on slower enemy vehicles. It’s part and parcel of being a scout. Sometimes, if the enemy seem intent on remaining concealed and stealthy, I’ll charge forwards on a flank to spot as many enemy players before I’m blasted to oblivion. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. But I do it anyway.
In truth, I’ve seen players who know each other do something similar on PUBG. Such as using their vehicles as a battering ram, or as mobile cover to save another downed player on their team. I’ve done it myself. But where I find this lacking most of all is when playing with complete strangers. Randoms. They don’t have a vested interest in your survival, other than it helping out when and if you make it to the last dozen or so players, all fighting to obtain that elusive chicken dinner. But I’m a team player. It’s what I enjoy most. Even though I have won a chicken dinner in solo. But team games are my go-to favourite. And it’s not because other players might make up for what I lack in skill in certain areas, and vice-versa. It’s all about teamwork. Plain and simple.
You don’t have a med pack? Here, take this one. You want ammo? I’ve got spare. You need a weapon? I’ll give you my other one, because two people firing at the enemy is usually better than one, right?
But even in a game where the map is literally covered in weapons and equipment, I still encounter ‘hoarders’, who covet their collection of attachments and bandages like Gollum with the one ring. If anyone’s played a game of PUBG with that one player who won’t give you his 8x sight for your sniper rifle, you’ll know this pain. And, of course, there’s an argument to be made for offering up your rifle for the other player to equip the sight. It’s a sacrifice.
When I play with a mic on PUBG, which is almost always. I’ll always ask what the players in the team want to do. Where they want to drop, what the plan is, and the obvious one of “Anyone on mic?” I’ll even offer my own suggestions, though I’m no expert at PUBG, at where we should drop, usually sighing with dismay when that one player convinces the rest of the team to drop in Pochinki, even if the flightpath is directly overhead. Knowing full well that we’re all going to be dead in less than two minutes. I know the advice by the most successful PUBG players is to drop in hot zones to hone your skills, to sharpen your reactions, grab the best weapons and the best equipment and attachments. But I play for different reasons: for the best experience, and one that I can share with others, or that I know others will remember.
You might be thinking, “Wait, isn’t winning the better experience?”. And you might be right. I’m not here to say what’s best for each individual player. I’ve won solo games before, and it’s great. But only you can take pleasure in that. You’re alone in your elation, your accomplishments. As they say, it’s lonely at the top. And I feel this rings true in most cases. You can’t turn to a friend and say “Hey, remember when I won that game?” because they didn’t. You weren’t in a team. They didn’t experience it. Unless you’re that one player who likes to recount his solo chicken dinners to your friends.
Of course, if you’re driven, competitive, and trying for something career-wise in gaming as a professional player then that’s slightly different. But again, it’s just you winning or losing. No one else is doing it with you. But you get to reap the rewards, personally. But this article isn’t about that. It’s about working in a team.
We currently live in a world where gaming focuses on obtaining and collecting and personalising, whether it’s having the most cars in Forza, the best Kill/Death ration in Halo or Call of Duty, the best ship in World of Warships, or the most rewards in Star Wars Battlefront, or the most skins and emojis. The industry has realised that if we’re able to customise something, we perceive it in a more personal way, which means it has value, at least to us it does. We’re also more likely to opt for additional customisation, which means paying for them. It’s good business sense. Though I’ve never understood the concept of selling emojis when a title claims to be more ‘social’ than its competitors. Wouldn’t the concept of being more social mean we all have it and can use it to communicate?
I don’t want to sound like that one disenfranchised, misty-eyed “there-used-to-be-fields-here” kinda guy. Because I’m not that. But it often feels that some players are so intent on obtaining certain additions, that they’ve lost sight on the experience of gaming. Who here has pleasant memories of the early LAN days, and gathering with friends, ordering pizza and then shooting each other in the face for three days? It wasn’t about victory, even though you could gloat. It was about the social experience. About getting together and having the kind of fun you can talk about years afterwards. And still do.
I suppose what I’m hoping for here, is for players to ‘pay it forward’. To volunteer for dangerous situations when a more skilled player usually does that. Or even the most skilled player taking that hit. Creating that diversion, being the bait.
The next time you’re in multiplayer, do something sacrificial for the benefit of another player or for the team as a whole. Make that run, go back to help, give them some ammo, some bandages, a healthpack or even words of encouragement. Not everyone will say thank you. And not everyone will return the favour. But you may even discover that it’s more valuable than that pink and black cammo skin for your SCAR-H.