The Only Two Games I Play Now
It’s amazing that even with an underpowered, two-and-a-half-year-old laptop, my two gaming companions of the past few months have both been PC titles. I have returned to my ongoing love affair with Team Fortress 2 and started a new and dedicated relationship with Starcraft II. Not only do I play both games a few times a week (ok, I actually haven’t played TF2 in a while), but I will continue to do so for years to come thanks to the frequent updates the games will receive.
And it’s not as if I fall in love with games easily; for example, I stopped playing Red Dead Redemption shortly after its release, quickly becoming bored of riding horses around a barren Western landscape while trying to aim and shoot with a shitty control scheme. I don’t want to digress into a Rockstar-bashfest or an argument about console and PC gaming; I’m just using my experience with Red Dead Redemption to contrast my experience with TF2 and SC2. Maybe I just enjoy games that end in “2″ this year (Mass Effect 2 was the fucking shit).
Although I love both TF2 and SC2, they are polar opposites. Two multiplayer games couldn’t be any more different from each other (perhaps UNO and Street Fighter 4 or Counter-Strike and Carcassonne). One game is a cartoonish and ever-evolving first-person shooter featuring at least one huge element of luck; the other is a science-fiction (although not exactly gritty-looking) real-time strategy game requiring multitasking, flawless execution, and a thorough knowledge of a game that is similar to its predecessor.
TF2 is about as casual and straight-up FUN as a PC game can be while still appealing to hardcore players. You can jump right in and play as a soldier, spamming rockets across the map at the other team, and have a good time doing it; or play as a Pyro, trying to find a way to get behind the other team so you can roast them up-close; or play as a Sniper, hanging back behind the rest of your team while trying to snipe enemies in the head. You can jump in and play for fifteen minutes or spend an entire night killing characters that look like they were created by Pixar.
Starcraft II, on the other hand, is about as ruthless and unforgiving as a game can be while still appealing to players who are unable to click their mice 100 times a minute. Although, the multiplayer is only appealing after you’ve played a bunch of the single-player. There’s no way you can just jump in and have any idea of what to do. And then even once you have an idea of what you’re doing, you’re still going to be on the very bottom of the ladder without knowing some basic knowledge. And then once you have a grasp of the basics and can follow a build order and know counters, you have to learn how to scout and keep track of your own base at the same time, how to attack and train reinforcements at the same time — then maybe you’ll be decent. Then maybe you’ll learn how to micro-manage your army for maximum effectiveness, using spell-casters to devastate the opposing forces in a way pure brute force can’t. And this all happens at a pace much faster than most other RTSs. Units and buildings are very fragile, magnifying every small mistake. Oh, you told those units to move instead of attack-move and lost a bunch of them? Guess you fucking lose now. It’s brutal. Yet when you win a close game or fight off early cheese (do you really want me to explain that?), there aren’t many games more satisfying.
What ties these two games together is their respective developers, Valve and Blizzard. Both are the kings of PC gaming because they stick to what they know and polish their games until they’re nearly perfect. There’s the “Valve-Time” meme, but Blizzard is just as bad with getting its games out in any reasonable amount of time — but no one cares once they are finally out. Whenever they come out with a game, it just becomes the de-facto standard for the genre. Starcraft is a spectator sport in Korea. Diablo II and World of Warcraft have ruined thousands of lives. Valve too has ruined thousands of lives, starting with the famous mod for the original Half-Life called Counter-Strike, a game that became a worldwide phenomenon and introduced many gamers to the concept of “clans.” But more importantly, Valve created Steam, a digital distribution and multiplayer platform that is probably the greatest development of the 21st century thus far. There’s no disputing the integral place of both companies in PC gaming history and its future.
The bottom line here is that both games offer more than enough content to satisfy most gamers. TF2 is the wacky, content-laden, constantly-updated distraction; SC2 is the high-maintenance, but ultimately rewarding obsession–well, as rewarding as beating someone at a VIDEO GAME can get.