And I Finish Different Than I Began...

I started in October, at the very last minute putting an ad up on the UGC LFP forums for the NA Iron teams. There were, as I understood it, five divisions, the lowest being Iron, then Steel, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. And the teams that placed in the top so many spots of each division could move up.

I honestly didn't think I could even get into Iron... I only had 700 hours in the game, and barely 60 of them were as a Medic. I'd mostly played Pyro, Engie, Heavy, and Medic was my fourth-most played class. But Medic was the one class I thought I might be able to play in the 6's meta, which really only allowed for medics, soldiers, scouts, and demomen.

gTurtle picked me up from there, said that while he could teach technique, he couldn't teach attitude, and that I qualified simply because I really wanted to learn. I thought I was pretty good back then, at the casual game, often in the top four or five of my side. *laughs quietly*

I now have over 1600 hours in the game, over 300 of them now as medic. I've done nearly 5,000,000 heals in casual, and far more outside that game mode than in it, because of all the scrims, matches, and other things I've played that weren't on Steam servers. If I'm not the top score, most of the time, now, I'm the second score after the guy I'm healing. And I *am* a Steel 6's Medic.

I'm not good. *laughs* I have plenty of people who will tell me that. I have people who have said that I've improved a lot, that I am a "real medic", or that I can surf adequately, that my 35-50% crossbow accuracy is all right, and that my game sense is improving. I'm adequate but not great at getting everyone buffed to mid, and I'm more aware of whom I should be healing; but I am not good, yet, and my game sense still needs work, especially in 6's.

And I still really suck at spotting spies....

We started with a team where we didn't even know if we would win a single match in Steel, since the team had started in Iron and was kind of low even on that totem pole. We ended up going 5-3, 14th place out of 76 teams, and able to qualify to go into silver. It was a really big leap, and at the end of the leap, I'd taken on two new players for the last two matches who were amazing.

One of them was Mer3k, who had wandered onto our server while we were doing a map review, and he'd been named Nigel. I'd just talked with him and wondered if he was interested in 6's, and it turned out he'd done nearly a dozen seasons, and was really interested in dabbling in it once again. So we took him on for less than a week when one of our scrim partners lost their scout, so since we had all our scouts and a couple of subs, including Mer3k, I offered him to them, not really understanding all his capabilities. He ended up, in his next scrim with them, having DOUBLE the score of anyone else on the server. It was kind of insane, and then because they were our scrim partner, he came after us.

It became something of a joke to say, "Mer3k just got me again..." And I learned how to dodge him, and by learning that I learned how to dodge all other scouts all the better. He was amazing, and I actually managed to get away from him by the end of the season and he complimented me on it. *laughs* There weren't all that many medics that could dodge him, and I could see why. It helped that my pocket scout, Ratie, was really good at protecting me, too.

The second player that wandered in was Baddie, who was, as everyone put it, and MGE God. He could take any other player on as a Soldier, and he'd kill them more times than they would kill him. He was so good with his individual DM that some people would seek him out to fight him. He was Blitz's friend, and Blitz was my pocket soldier, who would protect me and whom I would heal and follow through the maps. And near the end of the season, he would hang out with us, and watch us work.

Near the end of the season was a map called koth_bagel, koth for King of the Hill. And it was a brand new community map that no one had played, so we did a lot of work on it. First with a scrim, then with a string of pick up games, nearly six of them on Saturday afternoon, and then a scrim that night where we really tried to figure out how to play on it. Finally we had two scrims on Tuesday and one Wednesday before the match, and we thought we had the map down pretty good when we completely trounced our scrim partner on it (including the amazing Mer3k). Baddie had never seen a team work that hard at a map before, and he was all excited about it. He PUGed with us and when our Roamer said the just wasn't that interested in TF2 anymore, he played it with us in the scrims. A couple of days before the match, I asked him if he wanted to play in it, and when he said yes, I put him on the roster.

That was also the week Mer3k broke up with his team. Just personal issues. So he came back to us...

We lost the Koth Bagel match due to some really weird play on the part of the other team, and it was demoralizing. But with both Baddie and Mer3k, we won the last two games, and ended up near the top of the steel heap. Mer3k decided, at that point, to go off and make his own team, but he still wanted to play with us, so we started more PUGs on Saturdays, so that everyone could just play together.

PUGs work a bit like schoolyard games, the two medics start out and fight to see who gets first pick, and then we pick each other kids in a schoolyard. Those that get left out get picked first the next round, and people are actually really good about including everyone. That was cool, especially when Merek started inviting people he'd known in Open, Invite, and much much higher divisions. They were *nice* and they were informative, and would really talk with people who wanted to learn. That was the coolest thing ever.

Other people started to join, and we ended up with over 100 people in the channel. And other PUG groups decided to join us when they couldn't find enough people. But that also meant that they weren't always the easiest people to play with or against, and in competitive, the guys are really competitive, and start to compare themselves against each other and equate game play abilities with worthiness.

It's a slippery slope. And we went right down it when after Mer3k left, we had to replace him and Baddie brought in a friend with five years of experience in competitive. He was ex-Platinum, had played high open, and had been kicked off a team for his personality. He was, in their terms, toxic. When upset or frustrated, he could go into a verbal mode where he would be negative about everyone and everything. We didn't see a lot of that at first? And it was off-season. Plus, he had a lot of amazing insight into how 6's should be played, and what tactics and strategies were good. And even when he was upset, he'd say what needed to be said, sometimes, to get someone to stop making a particular mistake.

He wasn't nice.

And when the PUGs needed more people, he would invite other people, and some of them were very nice, some of them weren't nice at all, but they were all really good at the game. So the whole group got better, since they were all fighting people who were really good. The overall improvement was amazing; and even some of the open players commented on the fact that we were all getting better quickly with the fights.

And we were playing nearly every night; and my overuse issues made it so that I had to ice every day and both my massage therapist and my chiropractor were shaking their heads over me. When I finally took off for LA for my vacation, and my shoulders and arms ached so fiercely through the whole time off, that I took a lot of ibuprofen and tried my best to do nothing with a computer. Just to let myself rest.

I thought the week off would allow me to heal up. For the three or four weeks before the end of the season, he was having to put my shoulders back into their sockets and put my left hand back together. I hoped, and we had a wonderful time in LA, walking, dining, exploring the city, and wandering about and seeing things. It was really good.

And my hands felt really good when I got back.

And then the team played every day of the week, with four hours of PUGs and then ultiduo until midnight after dinner. My hands felt like raw beef at the end of Monday. All the problems that I had were back within a week. I'd been thinking, all through the season, that it wasn't sustainable. That the damage I was taking while playing just wasn't getting any better with whatever time I took off. I couldn't get enough time off to really make it work. And with this evidence, I finally had to give up.

I just told the boys that I was stepping down as captain and as a main player on the team. That I could probably substitute on an infrequent basis; but I couldn't play quite as often as we'd been playing and not lose my abilities to use my hands. I'd already given up painting, knitting, and almost all my handworks during the season, especially at the end... and the only way I could get all that back was by quitting... not to mention all the time with my family, the weekends and the evenings and all the daytimes I've just hung out to communicate with people to figure out scrims and things.

So I did.

And gave the team to Baddie, 'cause he was the most motivated, he had everyone's respect, and he seemed the one that was most likely to make all the necessary decisions. That was really good. And I've now handed over the servers, the Discord, and the UGC page to the guys, and it's kind of been hurting... giving all of that up. The scrims and setting up the schedule and managing the server and managing the people on the team have pretty much been my whole life since Christmas.

And it's now all empty of all of that.

And I'm working on what to fill it all with, and figured I'd come back to what I was familiar with... *laughs* And actually write here. I'm trying not to game quite so much anymore, and trying to give my team the space and time away from me so that they can put themselves back together.

The interesting thing is that they have replaced me with an ex-Platinum medic. Which amuses me, and now the team has two ex-Plat players, one of the number one or two jumpers in all of TF2, and the MGE God that even invite players have trouble killing. The team has moved on from me, they're good together.

And now I get to put my life back together again, from things that aren't competitive, comparative, or couched in the terms of teen and twenty gamer boys. I'm still on the team, as a substitute, and I'm still in the communities that I picked up along the way. The captains still speak to me now and again, and some of them have become friends, especially the ones that have had teams that have disbanded, and we play together or talk together now and again. That is good.
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Team Fortress 2

Also this entry might enlighten you a bit more as to all the nuances as well. There's a lot of stuff I've kind of skimmed over, in part because there's just so much of it. I haven't really written much since I started on all this, as I just didn't have the hands for it.
If you're still interested in gaming but want a more casual approach and enjoy D&D, I cannot recommend Neverwinter enough. It's completely free to play, there are currently 8 classes (Control Wizard, Scourge Warlock, Devoted Cleric, Hunter/Ranger, Trickster Rogue, Great Weapon Fighter, Oathbound Paladin and Guardian Fighter) with each class able to select 1 of 2 Paths and from there, 1 of 3 Trees. You get 2 free character slots and can purchase more if you want.

Additionally, there are 12 races to choose from (and you can be male or female without it affecting your stats), although I think 4 of them you need to buy the pack to be able to play them. Races are human, drow elf, sun elf, moon elf, half-elf, hafling, half-orc, tiefling, dwarf, Menzoberranzan renegade (a type of drow) and dragonborn.

The current level cap is 70 and there are areas that are level 70 only. Once you reach 70, you continue to gain overflow experience that rewards you with extra power points, astral diamonds (in-game currency) and enchantment stones to slot into weapons/gear. The quest line is fun and the run up to level 60 can be accomplished in a few days is you go hardcore at it. There's a good number of dungeons at both a normal level and epic levels. Guilds are part of the game but you don't need to join one if you don't want to although being in a guild will get you more boons and another area to explore as well as some specific encounters/fights such as stronghold seiging and flight of the dragons as well as a new module that will be dropping in May I believe.

You also get companions and mounts. Some are cheaply bought with in-game gold. Others can be purchased in the Zen market with real world cash (or you can convert astral diamonds to zen and not spend real money) or through the auction house for astral diamonds. You can also win some by opening lockboxes (this requires a key purchased from the zen market), but RNGesus must love you long time for that to happen or you need to open literally hundreds of boxes a day (I have a friend who opens 100 boxes a day). Special companions/mounts can also be acquired during events basically for free as long as you do whatever daily thing is required (which usually takes 10 minutes or less).

I play/log in every day and if you want to give it a whirl, just email me and I can trot out my DPS nuke (that would be my main, a Scourge Warlock) or tag along as your healbot 2000 (I have 9 toons that I play).
Very cool! That sounds fascinating!

But I'm probably going to tone down on all the video games for a while, since my hands just aren't really up to a lot of anything right now. I'll definitely contact you if I do decide to play, though.

I appreciate it and your offer of companionship on the way. xD
No probs. I wasn't sure the level of not playing you were doing so thought I'd throw it out there in case you still wanted to run around in dungeons killing monsters.

I hope with rest your hands get better. I wear a brace on one of my wrists when I game/write due to sever arthritis. it holds my wrist fairly immobile, which helps tone the pain down a lot. But it also always hurts regardless so for me its just a matter of degree of hurt.
I appreciate it.

Everything still aches... and I've been doing some things with the boys now and again just for the fun of it, and to test their servers and to just... be with them. So still playing a little, but not nearly as much as I was.

Yeah... and I understand the it just aches... there's a certain amount of that which is inevitable with time and wear.
You keep on adding new things to your portfolio. I do admire it.

But I am also glad that you're resting your hands and getting more time.