Here is a (tldr) story on how a co-op gaming done right changed my perspective about life.
I work in Agate, a game studio with unique ‘working culture.’ It never feels like an office. Instead it has become a ‘home’ for 70+ creative people passionate about living the fun way and videogames development. Most of us are very young, each having unique set of traits, personalities and habits. While we are allowed to ‘be ourselves’ at ‘home,’ we have to professionally work in teams. Sometimes communication can be quite a challenge.
It is my 5th month with Agate. Blast months indeed. But sometimes a simple task as pitching my new strategy plan to the team led to a migraine. I thought it was because I had been a solo freelancer for almost 2 years, and I might have needed more time to get to know them all.
My fiancee, Ibnu, joined Agate 4 months ago. He mingled well with everyone after his first week.
I desperately asked, “How do you do it? How can you easily understand these guys?”
“I play DotA with them almost every night.”
Lesson #1: Videogames, especially co-op ones, allow you to learn more about people you play with.
Ibnu can tell who has what personality, and how to deal with each and every one. He believes how you play in DotA (Defense of the Ancients) inevitably reveals your behavior, ego and choices.
“I usually choose the role as a supportive hero because in a team I don’t have to always be under the spotlight. Everyone matters, each shares the equal portion of importance in what he does. The goal is winning the game as a team of heroes, not as a superhero. There is no superhero in DotA.”
DotA’s chat feature allows players to chat with teammates while they play. Ibnu paid attention closely to what his teammates typed. One day he learned that one of his teammates disliked being told what to do although he knew it was the right thing to do. “When someone gave him an advice, he would instantly reply, ‘Shut the hell up and just play the game!’ but he did it anyway.”
It somehow reminds me that…
… more than 2 decades my gaming life revolves around single-playing. I believe I am good at tower defenses and RPGs, but most games that fall under those genres are more enjoyable to be played alone. In my room. Without anyone else yelling at me.
Then I remember my first co-op gaming. It was traumatic. I was 5 or 6 years old, playing the NES version of Contra with my cousin, a boy 4 years older. He yelled at me throughout the game, “Run, dumbhead! I’m dying here!” or, “Jump now! Don’t be a chicken! Oh now I die, thanks to you. Idiot!” I kept my tears from falling down and tried my best to keep up. I was not allowed to play outside with other kids. He was the only friend I could play with.
Ever since I have kind of developed a sad notion:
That playing alone is more fun.
As if he could read my mind, Ibnu said, “Let’s give it another shot. Play co-op with me.” He picked Resident Evil 5 simply because I love zombies.
My first reaction? Resistance. “I love zombies because I love Plants vs Zombies. It’s a tower defense. I can’t do shooter. Any shooter. No! Please pick another.”
“The more reason for us to play this game. You’re really into RPGs and tower defenses. It’s time for you to try other genres. Relax. It’s not an FPS, won’t be as hard as Counter Strike. It’s more of an action. You’ll love it.”
“I won’t! I’ll be too panic when zombies attack us that I’ll move to all the wrong places and you’ll die because of me.”
“You do remember that videogames have replay buttons, don’t you?”
“But you’ll be mad if we keep hitting that goddamn button!”
“I won’t. Stop resisting! You need to get out of your comfort zone. You want to be a game designer, don’t you? A good game designer plays various games from various genres, not limited to the ones you love.”
I started to give up. “Promise you won’t be frustrated over my dumb moves. Promise me!”
“I promise,” he said solemnly.
He installed the game on my desktop and Rocky’s–a co-worker who sits next to me. We played every night after Rocky left the office.
First night was hell. I could not move well using WASD, hitting the wrong buttons all the time. The camera movement made me dizzy after half an hour. We could not pass the first level because I ALWAYS DIED.
“See? I can’t do it! I never played with WASD before.”
“Hmm, I’ll get you something tomorrow.” The next night he came with an Xbox 360 controller lent by another co-worker. “Use this. I know you grew up with NES and PlayStation, so it might help.” I tried it and…
IT WORKED! IT WAS SO MUCH EASIER! I KICKED AND SLASHED THOSE FRIKKIN ZOMBIES! WITH NO DIZZINESS, YAAAY!
“Wow! I can do shooter,” I said, astonished by my own achievement.
“Well, you’re a ‘console girl’ after all, while I’m the ‘PC guy,’ hahaha…”
Lesson #2: Playing videogames is habitual. If you are accustomed to a certain controller, stick to it. Also, apparently 360 controller can be used to play PC games. ( ._.)
Every time we finished a level, a score board window appeared, revealing how good each player played throughout the level. Ibnu’s shooting accuracy was always S (Superb) while mine was less than 50 percent. After one week, my accuracy improved to 75+ percent. I got A, YAY!
Lesson #3: Videogames teach you patience. Perfection needs practice.
We analyzed our strengths and weaknesses. Honestly, only my weaknesses count. Ibnu is an awesome gamer. He, playing as Chris Redfield, picked the rifle. He covered me whenever a horde of zombies abruptly attacked. I, playing as Sheva Alomar, went melee. I was also the medics support; vials of herbs filled my inventory.
Resident Evil 5 is designed to be a great co-op game. On one level we met a powerful boss impossible to beat by bullets and punches. Ibnu walked slowly, luring the monster into the furnace that would burn it to death, while I ran faster so I could reach the ignition panel before they did. On another level we were separated. I jumped into one building and got trapped, while Ibnu was kept outside. Not my fault, it was in the game design. I bit my lips, forcing myself not to scream while dozens of zombies jumped towards me. Fortunately, Ibnu found a spot where he could shoot through the window and saved my ass.
On final level I had this frustrating moment when Sheva hang onto a cliff and had to climb for her dear life. The command was to rapidly hit B button (in gaming it is called ‘button mash’). We replayed it a dozen times before I started crying, “Why won’t she climb?! I mash B so fast my thumb hurts!” Ibnu said, “Do it faster.” I could not. Something was definitely wrong.
A quick googling told us, it was indeed an extremely hard button mash. -_______-;;
Oddly enough, I finished the level with a sore thumb instead of using any trick suggested by other gamers.
Lesson #4: Videogames teach you about perseverance.
First nights I was clueless when Ibnu’s character was low on energy, and he died a couple of times. Over time I learned that I could send him a vial of herbs. He never asked, but when I did it, he smiled, “Thanks!”
Sometimes our convo went more geeky. “Reload, Chris!” “Roger that. Thanks, Sheva!”
Lesson #5: Videogames teach you about teamwork–in a fun way!
Ibnu is as competitive as any other guy, but I slowed him down. He got Superb for all scores but one: Completion Time. It was the only mutual score. We finished all levels as a team, so my completion time was also his. And it was quite pathetic. My fault. Totally my fault. >.< He never blamed me though.
Too often than not, I apologized throughout the game. "Ooooh, sorry. My bad, my bad." He would then pat my shoulder, "It's okay. Totally. I love you."
Lesson #6: If you want the girl you love loves you more, go play a co-op game with her. Do it right, make it the best co-op gaming she has ever experienced.
Now I realize, Ibnu is not just a great gaming partner. He is a great life partner. My YES answer when he proposed to me is the best decision I have ever made in life. Thank you, Resident Evil 5!
Also, I cannot wait to start playing Left 4 Dead. ^.^