This article is likely to be more of a “story” than an article, as I do like to ramble, and I’ve no idea who this is for other than me, but as this is my blog I guess I can write about whatever I fancy …
As so it began …
Once upon a time (see, it’s a story really), at least as far back as the start of the 21st century, I had a PC, and an internet connection but, at the grand old age of 38, had never played an “online video game”, and decided I’d like to give it a go! My wife had bought me 2 games for Christmas 2001, Quake 3 Arena and Return to Castle Wolfenstein, both what are known as “First Person Shooters”, or FPS for short.
I mentioned to a computer geek friend at work that I’d had these 2 games bought for me and said I was tempted to play them online, and he said he’d played Quake and hated it, he described it as “lots of people running around like headless chickens and the guy with the fastest internet connection wins”. I (now) know this to be rubbish, but decided I’d try Return to Castle Wolfenstein first, hereafter known by it’s initials (as most games are) RTCW.
It was a revelation to me. I’d played games offline, in what’s called Single Player (SP) mode, but playing online in Multi-Player (MP) mode was a whole different experience. Knowing that all the other characters on my screen were being controlled by “real people” was a bizarre concept at first, albeit it must seem a completely normal thing nowadays. I was immediately engrossed in both the social and competitive nature of online gaming. These were real people, they were talking to each other (at least via typed messages on screen), many were so good at the game that I couldn’t keep up, but I did at least want to try.
I soon discovered there were such things as teams of people playing organised games with each other, these teams were called “clans”, and they played in organised competitions called “leagues” and “ladders”. There were websites, and forums, where gamers would discuss all things gaming related. These forums were full of good people, bad people, idiots and clever people, and many nasty people hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet to throw insults at each other. It was a whole new world I hadn’t previously known even existed.
Within weeks of going online for the first time and discovering a forum specific for the game I was playing, www.rtcw.co.uk (obviously doesn’t exist anymore), I had asked to join a “clan” called TFA (The Friendly Alliance) because, well, they seemed friendly. It turned out they were a mixed bag of people from all over the UK, and some from Europe. I played my first match for TFA in an organised league called Barrysworld, playing RTCW on a map called Castle. We won, and it turned out this was the first match TFA had ever won in RTCW! I was ecstatic and, more to the point, hooked!
Here’s a RTCW video (often called a “frag movie”) showing what RTCW was like.
Gaming life …
And so a routine emerged. I’d get home from work, have something to eat, jump on the PC, and load a program called IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and join a number of “channels” (chat rooms), some public channels for the game I was playing and the leagues / ladders my team competed in, and a private channel just for our team. We’d organise friendly matches with other teams, called “scrims” (scrimmages), or PCWs (private clan wars), jump on a private server and play a game, and, whilst in TFA, almost always lose because we were rubbish. I can certainly see how young people, especially young men, become hooked to this way of life and rarely leave their bedrooms. Luckily I was a married man with children and had a natural brake on how many hours I could play, although that was later to become a source of tension in my marriage.
I became engrossed in the gaming world. I was playing, of course, but also active on the forums, discussing not only the game itself but teams and players and leagues. The website www.rtcw.co.uk sold out to a game server provider called Jolt and the community moved to Jolt’s forums, where I became a moderator. I helped in the organisation of a league run by Jolt. Myself and a few other members of TFA decided to form our own “clan”. There was a lot of politics involved in being a clan member, and many arguments broke out between members disagreeing on everything from tactics used in matches to how the clan was organised and run. I helped found a new clan called Optimus, and built a website and forum for my new team (which in turn led to me learning new skills which I still use today).
Optimus didn’t last long and soon I found myself part of a clan called Dead Presidents, which was an American organisation with a European RTCW team. Again politics and arguments ensued and the RTCW team left to form our own clan initially called Ex Presidents. We continued playing RTCW and I was getting deeper and deeper into this world, spending more and more time on the PC, and my wife getting more and more pissed off with me for doing so!
RTCW -> ET …
In 2003 a new game called ET (Enemy Territory) was released. It was supposed to be an expansion pack for RTCW, some saw it as a sequel to RTCW, but the main thing was it was free and most of the RTCW community moved over to it, including me and my team, which was now called “The Infamous” (rubbish name I know!).
One day, whilst idling in IRC, myself and a few team-mates were in a public channel chatting to a guy called Frillinix (or just Frilli for short). By the way, I should explain, online gamers almost exclusively use nicknames rather than real names, and mine was Kendle. We also identified ourselves by team using a “tag”, which for The Infamous was Ti, so in-game my name was Ti.Kendle. Anyway, Frilli was a very good RTCW player, an expert in the Panzer class, and our team didn’t have a good Panzer player, so we tried to recruit him. He, surprisingly, agreed to join us, as long as we re-named the clan “Sinister Cow Formation”. We agreed and so Sinister Cows was born, with our tag being m00 (the noise a cow makes!). I still use the nick m00!Kendle to this day!
Anyway, this coincided with our move to ET, and I started getting even deeper into gaming, putting in more hours, playing more seriously, getting better, more competitive, playing at a higher level. I wasn’t anywhere near “pro” gaming level, indeed there were no professional gamers in ET, and the whole concept of professional gaming was only starting to take off at that time. But I was a good player, and our team was doing fairly well.
I built a website called www.etnation.co.uk aimed squarely at competitive ET players in the UK and Europe. I helped to run a competition called UnterElite, first for RTCW then for ET. We introduced to the world a young commentator, or shout-caster as they were called at the time, called TossPot (who was an amazing Panzer player as well and played for us in Sinister Cows for a while), who is now a Senior Vice President of a global eSports organisation!
There were things called “LANs” (LAN = Local Area Network, but in gaming terms meant an offline competition where teams and players gather at a location to play on PCs set up on tables to play many games over a short period of time in a one-off competition). I toyed with the idea of going to one of these (there was a major LAN in America every year called QuakeCon), but the truth is I was already 20 years too old to be a gamer before I’d even started, I was now 42 and this life was not really for me.
My interest in ET, and gaming, started to fade, as to be honest it seemed to be doing for many other ET players. People grew up and gave up gaming, or moved to other games. It seemed my online gaming days were drawing to a close.
Day of Defeat …
Sometime in 2005 I’d bought a game called Half-Life 2, or more specifically the “orange box” edition, which included a number of other games, including some online games, into the bargain. In September 2005 a free game for owners of Half-Life 2 Orange Box, called “Day of Defeat:Source” was released. I tried it one day as I was bored, and immediately fell in love with it. I can’t explain why, but after ET was starting to fade and I’d been playing less, DOD:S (as it was known) reinvigorated me and I went full on back into gaming again.
Having never been particularly keen on the nick Kendle I changed my name to FooFighter (being a big fan of the band FooFighters).
I joined a DOD:S clan called 2X (Too Extreme), played a lot of matches with them, left and joined RAW (Renegades at War), played even more matches with them. Their players were really good so I had to push myself to get to their level, and I did. I was serious about gaming again and loving it. I was active on the 2 main forums for DOD:S, www.enemydown.co.uk and www.zpgaming.eu. To this day I’ve played more hours of DOD:S than all other games I’ve played put together.
Here’s a DOD:S movie featuring some decent players that were around at the time I played:
Urban Terror …
In 2007 I was getting a bit annoyed with DOD:S, it was kinda broken, especially the class I was playing, Support, as in the Support’s primary weapon had a bug which meant it wasn’t as effective as it should be, so I looked for another game, and found UrT (Urban Terror), an old Quake 3 mod that, like ET back in the day, had been released as a free standalone game.
Again I went for it as I’d done in previous games, joined a clan, played some matches, helped the community by developing a website for a league called UrbanZone, which is still running today – www.urban-zone.org
Day of Defeat – again …
In 2008 Valve, the company behind DOD:S, released the “Palermo” update, which fixed the issues I’d had with DOD:S, so I returned, and fell in love with it all over again. Found myself in a clan called TnP (Take No Prisoners) and enjoyed playing DOD:S again, now as *TnP*FooFighter. I really enjoyed this time, most of the other members of TnP were older, and the game suited us, and although we were never that good we had a lot of good times playing, and that after all is the most important thing.
And so the cycle repeats …
There were times of inactivity where we didn’t play. I went back to UrT briefly, played for a mainly European clan called FAT (Fuckers At Tirol would you believe), guess the Euros thought it was funny. They were quite serious actually, and quite good, I struggled but it was rewarding.
I was still active in TnP however, and at some point we collectively moved first to COD:BO (Call of Duty : Black Ops) and then to BF3 (Battlefield 3). It was whilst playing BF3 that I hooked up with some old ET buddies, one of whom had created a Facebook page for Sinister Cows ( https://www.facebook.com/groups/sinistercows/ ) which is still active. And so the cycle seemed to keep repeating itself, new game, new enthusiasm, new team, new competitions, become jaded, game fades, go inactive for a while, start something else, get into it again.
In my time I’ve played many games, some only briefly, some for quite a while. I’ve tried CS (Counter-Strike), which was once the biggest game on the planet, and home to many professional players. I played MOH:AA (Medal of Honour: Allied Assault), which I really enjoyed but it died fairly quickly. I played Brink, from the developers of ET. I played DirtyBomb, also by the developers of ET, and for which I was an early Beta tester. I played DOW (Days of War), which is almost a clone of DOD:S, though by an unrelated developer.
And so it ends …
But by the time a good 10 years had passed since I first went online I was all but done with gaming. I found new hobbies, motorsports and photography, I got rid of my 144Hz gaming monitor and bought a 4K monitor for photography, gave away my gaming keyboard and bought a better keyboard for touch typing etc.
I look back on my gaming days with fondness, but also with quite a lot of regret. I regret that I was already too old to be a proper serious gamer before I’d even started. If I’d been 20 years younger, and single, I’d have gone for it in a big way, and not regretted doing so. Gaming is addictive but also incredibly rewarding. I regret that my wife, who I love more than life itself, hated me gaming, that I was never able to share my great passion for it with the person I share all of the rest of my life with.
But bloody hell, it was fun while it lasted!