I haven’t played Apex Legends for a while now. I seem to have drifted away from it for the moment, but still think that it is the incarnation of the whole battle-royale-thing that suits me the best and I generally been enjoying jumping in to rounds with the randoms that inhabit King’s Canyon. It’s the events of one ill-fated round that I want to focus on as they keep coming back to me even now, several months later…
Two random comrades and myself dropped in to the Airbase; it’s a region that’s high on loot, high on danger. Not the worst place to drop in, but the wide open space between crates encourages bullets toward you, so failing to hit the ground running and getting lucky with some weapons can be a death sentence. We touched down very close to a couple of other squads and were immediately in trouble as the air erupted in the first rattles of gunfire. Our squad scattered on the hot tarmac; each of us picking a vector that would lead to the closest possible loot whilst trying to ignore the chaos surrounding us. My two teammates darted for some supply crates out in the open whilst I ducked in to a small storage building nearby.
Someone had beaten me to it and outside my teammates were merrily being gunned down. By the time I was back outside, trying desperately to find something to shoot with but simultaneously skirting the combat, they were both dead. For non-players of Apex Legends, it is possible to revive fallen teammates if you can pick up the banner from where they fell and take it to a respawn beacon assuming you can make the pick-up within a time limit.
Still weaponless, but thankfully not being noticed in the fray, I ran up some steps and away from that particular area still hoping to find a weapon and dash back to grab their banners once I was better armed. The banner locations of my squadmates pinged on the map showing that they were waiting in spectator mode and I’m a savvy enough player to know that without a team the chances of getting very far are slim to none. I searched and the time limit ticked down. Still no weapon. I circled wider and checked out a few other buildings, still no weapon. If I didn’t head back now then they would just timeout. I decided to sprint back to their banners; maybe the enemies had dispersed, maybe I’d pick up a gun as I looped back around to them.
Neither of these things happened.
Instead I was stuck in the same conundrum; a firefight surrounding my fallen teammates’ banners and me with nothing other than my fists. In a final desperate attempt I popped a smoke grenade into the area and dashed in hoping to be able to make the pick-up and run away before being spotted. The first part went fine, but as I dashed away I was gunned down from behind and was faced with the all too familiar ‘Game Over’ screen.
… and then I saw a message from one of my brief teammates in the text chat:
“Nice Try, Good Game“… This is such a rare occurrence that I actually had to go and look up what ‘nt’ stood for. I’d been expecting no message and I’d been mentally prepared for the onslaught of abuse and blame that often comes after this sort of round: “Where were you???”, “FFS!”, “You suck!”… and much worse. What I hadn’t expected was a friendly word from a teammate who’d watched me try as hard as I could to get them back in the game. That little ‘nt’ helped. It picked me up and validated the choices that I’d made in the round, it was a small pat on the back for doing the right thing but it not quite paying off.
Unfortunately the reason it’s stuck with me is that it’s the only time that I can remember it happening when playing Apex Legends. Sure, it’s easy to jump, cheer, and say ‘well done’ when you’ve just won the round, but aside from an obligatory ‘gg’, this is the only time that I recall effort being acknowledged by my teammates when we failed. The more I think about it, the more it throws in to relief how wretched and abuse-ridden chat can be serverside. Of course it’s not the majority of people. The majority of people I suspect are like me; voice chat muted, barely daring to say a word. That vocal minority are bullying us in to silence to avoid confrontation and we comply because it’s easier than bothering to fight against it. Why should we? It’s only a game, the round will end, new teams drawn, and I won’t have to listen to their crap anymore. The problem with this is that whilst I’m pretty casual with online gaming and generally let it pass me by, for many gamers this type of abusive language constitutes a significant portion of their social interactions: Imagine if you worked in an office where communication was as aggressive and unpleasent as you can hear on a public server, or imagine you played in a sports team with that attitude? There’s every danger that you would start to normalise this behaviour; berating and belittling rather than supporting and congratulating.
… and yes, I know it’s not every online game. I know that there are some great communities out there, but for anyone who’s ever played a game online, you know as well as I do that hitting that connect button is like rolling the dice.
So is there a solution? Short answer: I don’t know. Better answer: I don’t know, but there is something that we can do about it. Arguing with troublesome characters online isn’t going to help, it never does. What we can do is try and counteract it; imagine if for every angry & insulting gamer you heard in voice chat you heard five who were friendly and supportive. For every team where one player runs off, gets killed, and blames everyone else, you play with ten others where your squadmates stop to watch your back whilst you sort out your inventory. If there were actually more players helping, explaining, and supporting new player than vote-kicking them. How much better would that be?
… in short; the next time your team has been wiped out, before you hit ‘exit’, try typing ‘nt gg’.