Looking Back on Day of Defeat

dod 3.1b anzio

Me and my brother are sitting side by side, in front of our own two laptops, visibly shaken, angry, and confused. I was close to tears. We were in our early teens and two close friends of ours had just ended their friendship with us over a videogame. That videogame was Day of Defeat, and together, us four had started and built up a competitive videogame clan, scheduled practices and all.

A few weeks later, we were on such a high when we lost to one of the top teams in our league’s division by a mere 12 points. We had been getting utterly decimated in scrims with this team all week, that pulling off such a close game counted as a victory and an achievement for us. Later on, my brother would join an actual “pro” team and get sponsored by Red Bull and I would serve a short term as an administrator of a second-tier league before moving on to other games and things.

Anyway, me and my brother sometimes reminisce about “the good old days” where we would have clan practice, develop strategies, and work together for a common goal – winning. He used to ask me if I wanted to start a League of Legends team to dominate the ladder, or join him in CS:GO (although he knows I’m downright awful). Basically, he wants to capture that feeling of losing by twelve points and still feeling victorious and he wants to share it with me. Daily life isn’t as clear cut as videogames when it comes to feeling accomplished, that feeling is rare for many of us, but I always turn him down because that’s not the primary memory I have of our time in a Day of Defeat team.  It is one of anger and utter confusion.

What happened was that me and my brother had set up the server, recruited the team, and registered for as many leagues as we could. We were dedicated and hardcore while our two friends had disappeared from the game. (We lived in a rural area so even though we had face to face contact, we did not get to see each other often as we were too young to drive at this point.)

After a month or so, they both returned and found that the team they thought was theirs was something else completely. They were not really recognized as leaders as most of the members barely knew who they were. Their skills had degraded over time due to lack of practice. Hurt over losing ownership through negligence, they turned on my brother and I with obscenities and hateful words, specifics of which I do not remember but I do remember how it made me feel. Useless and lied to.

We spent one night getting berated and verbally assaulted and suddenly I would not see two of my (at the time) good friends for two years, either online or off.

The game got patched, my favorite gun was nerfed, and my brother, who is much better at these games than me, got recruited by a top tier team. The team slowly fell apart over time as we weren’t as good as we thought and our interest waned. I joined another team for a bit, a more relaxed team with real “adults” with children and all, to find some carefree casual competitive solace without the drama. Sadly, I learned that age has no meaning when it comes to being drama free.

I wouldn’t have fun playing with people online until World of Warcraft came out. The casual, PvE environment and focus on being social was calming and fun compared to the intense pressure, toxic, and drama filled world that Day of Defeat was.

But had I learned anything from my time with Day of Defeat?

I think so.

I would like to think that my ~2 year experience with Day of Defeat and the ending of friendship that it came to symbolize taught me many things, but foremost I think it taught me that competition kills. A competition of egos killed those friendships, a competition to show a group of online avatars who was the real “boss”. A competition of interests, a competition of who was better, a competition of who can say “you suck” and have others agree. We were supposed to be competing against other teams, not each other.

Back then, I was just confused and hurt by the way people were acting. Looking back on the experience, I can see a little bit clearer what was happening, or at least what I think was happening. At that time, we were are a little lonely, all looking for someone to look up to us, all looking for someone to tell us that what we were doing was good. We were insecure and we had egos.

We were all looking for approval but we had none to give, playing for attention but without an audience. Although rarely the antagonist, I was not blame free either. Connections, friendships, built on this are fickle because one crack will tear the whole bridge down. I did reconnect with my two friends many years later, but it was never the same. It is not a lesson fully learned yet, but I stopped trying to compare myself/compete with others and avoid the friendship of those who continuously do so. I learned that most people are looking for something that makes them feel good about themselves from other people, but do not necessarily consider giving the same favor in return.

For someone young who was naive and trusting, it was a bit of an eye opener.

When my brother inevitably shows me a video from that era, or retells the story of one of our conquests, I do get nostalgic for that feeling of being part of a group so hyper focused on practicing and working together towards a shared goal, despite learning that not everyone in a team wants to.

But that’s what nostalgia is about isn’t it? Remembering the good, forgetting the bad.

 

 

 

This post was written for Critical Distance‘s Blogs of the Round Table. Check the other entries, which are much better than this one.

 

 

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