I RECENTLY forayed into the first person shooter game genre for the first time ever in my life and I must say: I have never been comfortable playing with and against teams.
I picked up Valorant a few weeks ago for the sole purpose of research. I wanted to study the game mechanics to better understand esports journalism.
Coming from fighting games, I am heavily oriented with the importance of accountability–but only to myself.
With one-on-one fighting like Street Fighter and Tekken, I have no one to blame but myself (and sometimes the internet) whenever I lose a match. Training becomes a very personal thing and teamwork is nowhere to be considered.
Valorant, however, is a different world.
The game follows a 5v5 format where two teams race to 13 wins on a match. The attacking team’s goal is to beat the defending team by either successfully planting and detonating a bomb (called a spike) or obliterating opponents in a gunfight.
The defending team must defuse the bomb or stop it from being planted at all.
Here is where it gets tricky, especially for a solo-oriented gamer like me: unless I organize my friends to form a party (a personally organized team), the game matches me with strangers (from all over Asia) to form the team of five.
When I am with strangers, I am left with no time to plan strategies and teamwork in any way. Sure, we get to know each other during the pistol round (the first round) but the action gets so fast paced that we—they, actually—often end up cursing or insulting each other. Intimidation and harassment are packaged as fleeting banters like “ang bobo mo”, “tanga amp”, “ulol”.
Trash talking instead of teamwork is not a sight to behold.
Trash talking is a staple and a norm in any game or competitive event. And it appears that I am not very well conditioned for it.
Some studies refer to the psychology of it: that it somehow motivates players to outperform opponents. Other references simply point out that it is meant to distort clarity in thinking.
But I am not used to being yelled at and called names—especially by my own teammates! Clearly, I am experiencing some disconnect with my trigger-happy folks because I understand teamwork differently.
I know games and workplaces are worlds apart but in the corporate world where I spend my 9-5 on weekdays, the teamwork that I know is confined within a decorum. Actions are planned, mistakes are called out but corrected respectfully, and good manners trumps all forms of disrespect.
There are passive-aggressive and bitchy discourse sometimes but these can’t compare with the hell that is in-game trash talking. I guess this is because gamers don’t have the luxury of time and space to practice an “ideal” teamwork—especially when every second in the game counts.
Not all matches, of course, are toxic.
Some players that I get matched with bring surprises to the table by expressing great understanding of team synergy. They adapt their fighting styles with the team that they are in. They use the radio well and communicate strategies on the dot. These good players make the game fun and easy to love. I wish there are more of them.
But then again, I wouldn’t learn new lessons on teamwork if it weren’t for the erring teammates. They are rewiring my brain but they’re also teaching me to be more patient and resilient. And doesn’t that just make me a better team player?
(Jesse plays Street Fighter and Valorant in his Facebook Gaming Page: https://tinyurl.com/thegamejay)
Jesse Pizarro Boga is a writer who has keen interest in media literacy, sustainability, and sci-fi. He enjoys bacon and burpees.
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