Sunday, May 04, 2008

My game characters, myself

PZ Myers regularly writes long posts about squid, which is his field of study and weird obsession. I don't mind those posts, but I just skip them. My weird obsession is computer games, which is interesting to some. But I always have this need to warn non-gaming readers when I am about to write a gaming post, so that they may bypass it as necessary. This is such a post. You have been warned.

I was an early adopter of online gaming. My sophomore college roommate Mark was much more technically savvy than I am, and as soon as the original Doom released a patch to introduce network capability, Mark and I spent several weekends messing with cable and network settings so that we could play cooperatively. Later, our room became a mini-gaming center where people would get together and play two way deathmatches for hours.

I never really found deathmatches all that enjoyable, though, and cooperative gaming has always been where it's at for me. I love playing with two or more players against a hostile opponent, whether the opponent human or artificial. Which, to an extent, explains the staying power of World of Warcraft for me. It also explains why my other favorite game right for the last few months has been Team Fortress 2, even though I usually don't go for all-out player vs. player action.

I don't know if my brain is wired differently from most players, but I love to play a support role. Most players seem to like pointing their gun and shooting it, while competing to do the most damage and rack up the most kills. Me, I like being a character who multiplies everyone else's abilities. My first Warcraft character was a priest, Kazimus. (You can see character detail at the link, if you want to.)

People would ask me, "Russell, you're an outspoken atheist. How can you like playing a priest?" "It makes perfect sense," I said. "In this world, you actually fight demons face to face. You can do magic and bring people back from the dead. Why wouldn't I believe in gods?" In real life, I'm an atheist based on evidence. In a universe with gods, obviously I would be a theist.

That's not the point, though... the point is that priests don't do the job of calling down destruction; they heal people. They keep everyone in the group alive and in other ways enhance everyone's experience. They are probably the least played but the most appreciated class around. Other people slaughter monsters for personal gratification. For me, I get gaming gratification from the appreciation of others. It may be a neurosis, but I find it fun.

So now that I've been a level 70 priest for several months, I find that there's another class that's underrepresented: tanking warriors. In an online game, "to tank" means to run in ahead of everyone, with greater risk of dying, and draw the monsters' attention so that they hit you instead of the weaker players who don't wear plate mail. A tank doesn't deal a lot of damage, but they do play the role of protector.

That's right up my alley, which is why Rupert Thrash the warrior is planned as my next power character. Whenever I try to join a group and they say "Well, we can leave as soon as we find a tank..." I'd like to be able to say "no problem" and fill that role. Tanking in Warcraft is a much different experience from attacking, and requires a different skill set... instead of concentrating on one monster at a time, you have to pay attention to the entire group and make sure no one's in trouble.

Similar for Team Fortress, which is basically a fast paced all-out slugfest between dozens of huge, ugly, heavily armed thugs... and then there's this guy.

The medic runs around with a big Ghostbusters-style ray gun that shoots healing beams out of it. He is one of the most necessary classes for a team to achieve victory, and also the most likely character to be missing from any giving game. This is because, presumably, most players of a "first person shooter" style game find it more fun when you're shooting to kill.

The medic is my best character. According to my in-game stats, I've logged a total of 17 hours as a medic, and my personal record is 25 points scored and 9,600 hit points healed in one life. Since medics rarely hurt anyone, they score points by being attached to another player when they make a kill, or just by healing a lot.

Being a support player doesn't necessarily mean always playing the healer, though. The neat thing about TF2 is that you can switch between the nine characters any time after you get killed. As a result, my favorite character is whichever one happens to be required on the team at the moment, and I switch classes as often as I need to in order to ensure victory. No other medics? Be a medic. Too many medics? Be a heavy weapons guy (huge slow guy who gets tremendous benefit from being healed). Need to capture a point quickly? Switch to the fast moving scout. And so on. For me, the character-switching aspect of TF2 is almost as enjoyable as the gameplay, looking at the overall strategy of the map and picking the right tool for the current job.

I don't know very many people who play Team Fortress 2, so if you play, please add me to your Steam friends list and drop me a message. I am Kazim27, and I always enjoy hopping on a team with friends.

1 comment:

  1. My priest is a scientist. I've always been a bit bemused by the occasional NPC talking about faith in the Light... you don't need faith when praying actually makes glowing globs shoot out of your hands and smite and/or heal people.
    The priest is shadow, though - my healer's a shaman. I love going into battlegrounds and healing, it feels so effective. I can fill up life bars much faster than someone else can wear them down.