But, ever since May, I've been going forward into this gaming world like a blind man moving without even a cane to figure out where the next step even was. I'd just feel my way forward with each day; and things happened to me, sometimes without my really consciously choosing what it was I was going to do, who it was that I was going to seek out, or even a very clear idea as to what it was I was even attempting to accomplish. I would blindly ask and then I would receive the unexpected. Like going to TPF and asking to learn how to play with other people and being gifted with people well beyond what I thought was my ability to play against. Going into competitive TF2 and suddenly being given a team, of all things. And then going and doing what I thought might be best for the team, with the advice of my most experienced comp player who was all of 16-years-old, and we now have a good chance at going into the playoffs.
The biggest of which was utterly unexpected.
I was the least capable of the players on my team. Honestly. And for the first time in my life, I actually got to feel like I was accepted, wanted even, despite the fact that I am not in the least gifted at this. And despite the fact that my capabilities are not up to the level of most of the people around me.
I have had a lot of gifts my entire life. My intellect, my communication abilities, my luck, my monetary gifts, my artistic abilities, my ability to grasp the essence of things quickly, my strategic swiftness, and my ability to drink from informational firehoses means that I pick things up quickly, so I'm rarely at a loss even with things that are entirely new to me.
But I'm finally at the age where I have to acknowledge that I cannot physically do what teenagers and twenty-something people can do. Period. I've lost my fencing reflexes. I can gain a certain amount of muscle memory and a certain amount of learning is possible, but I will never be as fast as these guys are. And my upper body overuse problems are catching up with me again, with a vengeance.
I have to ice every day. I have to limit my playing with friends in order to be able to do the scrims and the matches. Every time I visit my chiropractor and massage therapist, they have to frantically try to put me back together again. I can only train so much a day, unlike Blitz, who can spend nearly all day in the game, sharpening his movement and aiming and fighting abilities against players of his ilk. I cannot do that anymore.
But they still accept me. They marvel at the fact that they can't bring themselves to be mad at me when I make my mistakes; but they don't. They forgive me even when I sometimes can't forgive myself. I have to use strategy, be able to predict further than they can, see the situation progressing in order for me to react appropriately, and on the most part I can. It's those few times when I can't that I know that I'm not going to be going with them up to the highest tiers of competition; but while we're still in Steel, and perhaps even in Silver, I can at least do my job and support them.
And support them I have. Starting with the hard work of just finding scrims, the fights that we fight with other teams in order to become a team. Our former leader had a hard time getting them, so I went and found a couple of groups that organize around the need captains have for getting scrims. And at first it was horrible, we'd come across teams that would just stomp all over us and then insult us by going off-class.
But then I made friends with some of the guys that were friends of TPF people that I'd known. The biggest of which was ToastGhoast, who was the captain of the 6's team that Teck's Highlander team was doing for fun. Steak used to be the leader of that HL team, and Teck had gotten it from him the same time I'd gotten WalkingCalmly from gTurtle, so Teck had been sympathetic and told me to contact Toast. Toast got to be pretty good friends with me, so they were the first team that we organized a regular scrim with at the beginning of the season. We have them every single Wednesday, right before our match.
He also connected me up with Rapid, who happens to be a TF2 YouTuber, who was on Toast's HL team as a soldier; but who wanted to make his own 6's team. They needed a scrim, and we fought them and won against them pretty handily; so they asked us to be a regular challenge team for them. So that's two regular scrims every week, and the groups that I belonged to have been providing the rest.
While our team was just messing around on our server, a guy named Nigel came in to ask if we were having a 6's game, and we said, no, there's just four of us and the server wasn't locked. But he played with us while we were just killing each other around the map, and he seemed pretty skilled and friendly enough. So I friended him on impulse; and it turned out that he'd played 6's and HL and a lot of competitive, even up in the Open ESEA leagues (the leagues that the UGC is kind of the kindergarten/training ground for, where real money is involved). He was really good, and he wanted to play 6's again.
I took him in as a sub for a few weeks, but then Toast's scout was failing him, so I sent Nigel on to him; but Nigel/Mer3k was really nice and kept giving us advice. With all his experience, Mer3k, alone, can really mess with our team at our regular scrims. And he's making our flank learn like crazy just to counter him. So I listened and learned, and then he sent me to Clara, telling me she could mentor me as a medic. I got in contact with her, asked her a bunch of questions about how to approach 6's medic, and she apologized to me and said "I hate to do this to you, but I'm going to have to send you to this other guy..."
Rogue is amazing...
If you look at his record there on his page, there's so much experience there it's just crazy, and he's someone that's told me that I can message him any time night or day and he'll try and get to me when I do. And he does. That's the amazing thing, he just loves the game enough that he's willing to mentor people of all skill levels and willing to spend the time on newbies like me.
And I can tell, just by talking with him and letting him lead, that he can teach me faster than I can learn from just the experience itself. I have five decades of learning how to learn, especially from learning from the unconscious abilities of those who are truly skilled at a particular thing; and just watching him move around a map is an education in and of itself.
The other thing was that Burning Smile, a guy who loves making servers sit up and beg for attention, was part of the deal for Out of the Box, the community that I'm trying to support by paying for said server. And he's also a 6's team captain, and I've had fun talking with him and playing with him and his team members. His team can probably just crush ours, and he kept asking for 6's mixes...
A mix or a PUG, is where 12 people get onto a server, and the medics duke it out at mid and then pick people for their teams. A PUG is a Pickup game, like the schoolyard pick up games, where people choose each other. The funny thing is that most of us were "the fat kid" at the actual school games... always picked last... so we have sympathy for each other, and sometimes take on 'the fat kid' as our nicknames. Even though I have the least ability, I get made captain simply 'cause I'm the medic... that always bemuses me. But nearly no one actually wants to play medic... so it works. *laughs*
But we get all kinds of interesting people at the PUGs, and we've made them in-house PUGs, i.e. the 6's captains bring their people or people that are vouched for by their people; and so it's been a safe place to experiment and try things out. It's funny having a solly main try demo and say, "I'm so not a 6's demo." Or when I got to try scout and being able to say, "I'm so not a 6's scout." And have no one get mad about it or complain about how terrible we are... *laughs* It's just a fun pick up game, where we just get to play whatever with each other and know that there's a certain level of game sense throughout, no matter the class.
And it's an easy place for captains to see how people who have no comp experience play, and a place where it's easier for the players without a team to get seen by a team and vice versa. If nothing else, if the PUGS keep going, that'll be something I'd have been proud to have done.
And, not least, I've supported the guys by simply getting a lot better at medic. Between the mentors, the people who have done demo reviews with me, the people who have walked me through what I should be able to do and trained with me (Amrynn shooting me through jump maps, Steak working at my melee skills, Blitz helping me with movement and strafing and surfing rockets and my ability to just fight and move as a scout), and the people who simply tell me what I ought to be doing and taking the time to really watch what it is I do when in game (Puzol, Anteri, gTurtle, MonkeyMasterB8, and others). I've had plenty of input on what to improve and how to improve it, and it's been working.
Everyone tells me that I've gotten better. That I'm moving now, that I'm looking in the right directions, that I can crossbow better than most mid-Steel medics, and that I can surf rockets and grenades with good grace. Those are some of the things I never thought I'd pick up, and there are still a lot of things I can still improve upon.
For those who are curious... this was our sixth match, and most of our matches are now a bit like this. I sit down at the computer, put on my headset, and get into comms with the guys and we go at it.
Eyra, one of my long time TPF friends, was just talking with me the other night, and I was saying stuff about how I didn't think I was good enough. And he said, pretty simply, "Well, now you are a steel sixes medic."
I thought about it and then acknowledged. "Yeah... I guess I am," and I had to taste the words with wonder. "I am a steel sixes medic."
I guess, at least for this moment, I know where I am and what I am doing, and where I need to go. I'm playing for Walking Calmly, a steel sixes team in UGC's 23rd season of TF2 sixes, and I'm going with them through the whole of the season. We're likely to be in the top sixteen at the end of this season, which means that we'll be in the playoffs for our first season, which is quite good, and a place I never thought we were going to be able to be when I was handed the team at Christmas time. And we're walking together into the last two weeks of the regular season.