“Merry Christmas!” appears in the game chat.
It’s not Christmas!
But it is.
Christmas Day 2015, to be precise, at about 10 past midnight.
I have been so absorbed in this game I have completely forgotten that four hours ago I was enjoying the Christmas Eve joint of ham with my parents, that three hours ago I was bidding them a cheerful good night, and two hours ago…what? …and where?
I was here, sat at my living room table, hands and eyes locked on this Macbook, marching little marines and medics up and down, shooting things.
And I am still here.
But I have not been here alone. There has been a steady stream of partners, exactly as hooked and enthusiastic as me. Partners who say things like “Go go go, I will Time Stop”, “Nice save!”, and “We did it we are the best”.
These gamers don’t say “u suck n00b”, or “git good fagget”. These gamers say “Merry Christmas!”
* * * * *
I am writing this in February 2017 and have been playing Starcraft 2’s co-op mode several times a week for well over 14 months now. I started a couple of months before the Christmas mentioned above.
I still enjoy the game and I still get a real sense of positivity from the teamwork involved. It is a positivity that is refreshing, compared to the competitive toxicity of so many other game communities.
Blizzard continue to add commanders and missions to their co-op mode, as well as a weekly “mutation” where one level is picked and has had various difficulty filters applied to it. For me the co-op mode of the game is succeeding in staying fresh, perhaps by only demanding a modest time investment. I enjoy a few short sessions throughout the week, mostly relaxing with a cup of tea, and feel no pressure to play more than that. This contrasts starkly with other titles I play such as Hearthstone, where meagre quests and rewards have a tendency to turn “playing” into “grinding” and make me question why I’m spending so much time for apparently so little enjoyment.
It is true that real-time strategy games like Starcraft are notorious for the multi-tasking demands they place on players and the insanely high level of competition at the professional level. But Starcraft 2’s co-op mode shows they don’t have to be played that way. If you have ever wished you could enjoy games like this in multiplayer but are daunted by the learning curve then I thoroughly recommend giving co-op a go. In a pick up game, how good you are doesn’t much matter – it’s about balancing teamwork, even if that means being carried sometimes. Mastering the finer points happens naturally along the way.
Starcraft 2 is available on Battlenet. The Starter Edition is free and includes three co-op mode characters.