I’ve never been a competitive gamer. I don’t get much enjoyment from competition, although I do like a local multiplayer every once in a while; and titles such as League of Legends and Overwatch don’t hold an appeal for me. Adult responsibilities mean I don’t have enough time to improve my skills to an adequate levels to be able to compete and I don’t want to spend the free hours I do have being slated by my teammates for not being good enough.
This was something I pondered over in March last year last year after reading an article by a blogger about whether you could still enjoy gaming if you ‘sucked’. In that post I concluded that yes, you could indeed have fun but your teammates may make it extremely difficult if you’re playing in a competitive environment. It’s not the games or the genres themselves that are the issue, but the people we play with and our own attitudes when it comes to winning and losing.
It’s therefore understandable that I was hesitant when asked to step in for a round of Guns of Icarus Alliance while at Rezzed in April. My stepson had first encountered the game at the PC Gamer Weekender back in February and had fallen in love with both it and the guys from Muse Games straight away. They’d been extremely kind to him that day, taking the time to guide him through their project and giving him loads of trading cards which he keeps in his wallet even now.
They appeared again at Rezzed and, despite already having the game at home, Ethan made us go back to their stand six times over the course of the weekend. During the final match, my stepson and two other attendees sat down but they needed a fourth before they could start; and after being asked by the developer if one of us would mind stepping in (and my other-half nudging me forward), I found myself in front of the sort of title I wouldn’t normally touch.
Fortunately one of the team was on standby and told me what I needed to do to steer our airship after being put into the most difficult role of pilot. Once I had the dirigible in place to enable my teammates to blast the enemy from the skies, I dashed around bashing things with my trusty hammer to repair our equipment before leaping back to the steering wheel. The developer told me I’d not done too badly for my first go despite Ethan cheekily telling me I’d been rubbish.
The following weekend, he spent the entire evening playing Guns on my PC with us spectating from the sofa. A weird sensation took over as I saw him listening to his pilot’s orders and firing the ship’s weapons: I remembered what it had been like playing the game at Rezzed and had to admit I’d actually enjoyed myself. My other-half was watching me and asked me what I was thinking – and was amazed when I told him I thought I might buy a copy for myself.
A few days later I ended up installing it on our PlayStation 4. The developer had told us it had taken a lot of work but they’d managed to sort out cross-play, so I thought it would be cool if my stepson and I could play together. Obviously though I needed to get some practice in first so he’d no longer think I was bad and that’s what I’ve been doing for the past month. And I’m not going to lie: I’m completely hooked. I’ve not even touched The Elder Scrolls Online for ages.
I’m currently a level nine Engineer for the Anglean Republic and, although I prefer the co-op play mode, I’ve participated in a few PvP matches and even managed to win on a couple of occasions. There’s something about working as part of the team, focusing on my role of repairing our vessel while listening out for their commands and doing what I can to help, that’s strangely addictive. Women are in the minority but there are more female characters than I expected to see so I feel at home.
I wrote last year that games which inspire extreme competitiveness and players who take winning incredibly seriously weren’t my idea of fun. There’s some of that in Guns, but on the whole everyone has been lovely to play with and supportive of their team. There are some who drop out as soon as the match isn’t going our way, similar behaviour to that I picked up on with Rocket League, but an AI immediately replaces them and so you don’t feel at a complete disadvantage.
If it hadn’t been for Rezzed and the developer needing an additional person to be able to start a match, I’d never have realised that maybe I can find a competitive game enjoyable. I’m not sure I’ll ready to move on to another any time soon (despite Pete regularly teasing me now that next I’ll be taking on Call of Duty), but I’m content cruising the skies with my teammates. I can imagine how much fun it would be to play with a group of friends rather than strangers…
…if anyone wants to fly and needs an Engineer on their crew, you know where to find me.