When Respawn’s Titanfall Xbox One bundle came out and we picked it up at the store together, my boyfriend was more excited than I was. He had tried the demo at his friend’s house before it came out, and had nothing but praise for the new game. To me, it was just another online multiplayer first-person shooter like Call of Duty. My boyfriend and his friends would stay up late playing that franchise together, teamed against other players in constant shooting matches. I had played Call of Duty split screen with my brother before, and never saw lasting appeal.
I don’t normally play first-person shooter games, especially when they required interacting online with other people. Too often I heard players during my boyfriend’s Call of Duty games bashing other players, being annoying or simply being children. Some of them actually were children. I couldn’t stand the thought of playing a game online that 1). I didn’t excel at and 2). being ridiculed for it. I handle social situations with more sensitivity than some people, and harsh comments made from behind a microphone would hurt me more than they should.
I enjoyed first-person shooter games when I was younger, but only when I was playing split screen with family. I still remember the days my cousins, brothers and I would sit around a small television, passing off N64 controllers each time we died during intense rounds of Goldeneye. I had no problem playing Perfect Dark with my brothers, and later playing games like Nightfire on the Playstation 2. Competition between family was different – it was serious, but never went beyond the game. It was never as intimidating as playing online with complete strangers.
Yet, as I watched my boyfriend play a couple of rounds of Titanfall, I became transfixed on the game. It was like every first-person shooter game I had seen, and like none of them at the same time. I saw people running on the walls and calling down massive mechs to fight in. And for the first time in a while, I felt the urge to play a first person shooter game, this game. But maybe not online. No, I would just try out the training course. There was no need to play online.
And then there was, because the training simulation wasn’t enough. I aced it, and then sat there staring at the campaign. I figured the campaign would be full of newer players just like me, so maybe I would try the first round. And even though my hands were shaking and my palms were sweating, I did it. Mind you, I had no microphone plugged in and did not plan on speaking to anyone, but I was still anxious. Picturing players on the others sides of their screens watching me play – potentially judging me – made me very nervous.
The thought that pushed me the most – that made online multiplayer seem okay – was that I didn’t need to work with other people. The campaign only utilized two game modes – Attrition and Hardpoint. In Attrition, all I had to do was focus on taking out enemy players with my weapons or my Titan. In Hardpoint, I didn’t need teamwork to capture A, B or C as long as there wasn’t much resistance. I operated on my own agenda, going for whichever Hardpoint was closest or the least populated. Teamwork didn’t matter.
And then something amazing happened. Hours passed and I couldn’t stop myself from playing through the campaign. Adrenaline coursed through me when we captured a hardpoint, or took down a Titan, or won a match. If we didn’t win the match, I didn’t give up – I fought hard to reach the drop point and evacuate in our team’s ship. And while it was competitive, I also found myself silently praising other players who took me out by being clever or catching me off-guard. This isn’t to say I didn’t curse like a sailor, but it wasn’t hateful.
When I called down my Titan, I found myself seeking out my Titan-clad teammates to take down our opponents with them. I started riding my teammates’ Titans into battle to watch their backs. I followed my teammates from hardpoint to hardpoint even though nobody was giving commands through their microphones. It didn’t matter if I wasn’t as skilled as the other players on my team – as long as I defended a hardpoint, killed NPC grunts or militia and genuinely tried my hardest. Teamwork came naturally and did, in a sense, matter.
Titanfall made me love playing a first-person shooter online, more so than I ever truly enjoyed World of Warcraft, which used to be my extent of online multiplayer gaming. In Titanfall, I am constantly learning – I am learning which guns best suit my play style, or which weapons I shouldn’t use during an Attrition match. I continually hone my skills and enjoy it, whether it is wall parkour or taking out enemy Titans with just an anti-Titan weapon. I’ve fallen in love with Titanfall and now, I am okay with that.