A long time ago I faced the sad truth that I’m not the best FPS player in the world. I think Halo taught me that as time and time again I would be shot, stabbed, crushed, splattered, and as of Reach, assassinated until it finally was driven, much like the bullets, into my skull that when it comes to first-person shooters, I’m not very coordinated. Even when it came to one of my favorite shooters of all time, Star Wars Battlefront 2, I shined in vehicles, but I could never find myself at the top of the scoreboard unless I got the hero or was driving an AT-AT.
Then came Battlefield. Specifically Battlefield 2142 though it would be much longer until I realized that this was my chosen life. This being my real first Battlefield game, I was intrigued by the semi-futuristic theme. It was different than Battlefront though. The fights were slower paced, the vehicles were much harder to control, and your team mattered a lot more. I really didn’t like dying, so the assault class that came with a med kit seemed like the best class to suit me. I can imagine myself back then, that little newbie kid who had no idea what he was doing and needed others to help him. As time went on I grew a bit more competent, getting more and more points as I learned to hang back and heal my injured team mates. Back then I rationalized that since I can’t shoot, I would support the ones who could. Then one day, I stole from an enemy medic the holy grail: A defibrillator.
I never knew one existed until then, and didn’t know what to do with once I had it. After using it on nothing for a bit, I tried on the body of one of my team mates who just died. When he arose, it was like magic. Best of all, I got points for it. It would still be a long time until I unlocked the devise for myself, but once I did, I skyrocketed through the ranks with barely a kill under my belt, eventually unlocking better equipment at the same time. I was even making some good points by flying around in a transport helicopter and getting transportation points. It felt amazing to at the top of the scoreboards consistently and I could tell that I earned a lot of thanks from my team mates. Eventually, I felt confident enough to become a squad leader and spent most of the battles placing beacons, giving orders, and coordinating attacks.
The fact is, I love playing a support class. While today I still have the tendency to want to play the tanking warrior or the gun-toting Rambo like trooper, my real love comes in supporting my team mates. When Battlefield 3 came out, I instantly jumped to the assault class again, but this time I knew what I was doing. I actually found it humorous how the more close quarter combat than 2142 made it so medics were a lot more important, and after a while I was finding myself neck and neck in score with buddies like Drew who would have over 30 kills and less than 15 deaths, while I would have something like 4 kills and 20 deaths because I would gather a ton of healing and reviving points over time. It’s how my team would often hold onto chokepoints because I would stay out of the fire fight and constantly revive. It didn’t matter who was the better shot or who had the best weapons (well, not entirely), but what group of people could function better as a team.
I wish that more games would offer supportive roles, and it doesn’t always have to be white mage type of healing characters to make a difference. For example, right now the game I’m playing the most is Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, a game that really makes you rethink what a shooter could be. In it, intelligence is the key and knowing where the enemy is can make all the difference in the world. I mainly play as an engineer armed with a shotgun, but I spend more time piloting my remote UAV and throwing sensor grenades, looking for enemies who are lurking behind corners or carelessly walking down corridors. When playing siege mode, which is a lot like counter-strike, intelligence can make all the difference and so even if I don’t get the most kills in a match I still play a very vital role to the success of the team. Every intel assist kill I get is almost like another kill, and the game rewards that by giving a good number of points for other people’s kills if done with your assistance.
But I often wonder how more multiplayers could utilize a supportive role. Afterall, not every game genre suits itself for team-based multiplayer and for a most of us, half the fun is being able to pull the trigger. My initial thought was Monster Hunter, with bow gunners having the ability to heal his teammates. But, in a game about hunting monsters, worrying about your team mates health is probably the last thing anyone wants to do, plus it cost precious resources to keep having to buy the healing bullets and a team of four good players will probably never need it.
Maybe the goal shouldn’t be to make more games have supportive roles, but think about how those games that use it well, shooters in particular, can work it into their multiplayer. For example, in Conduit 2, I managed to create a support class without realizing it. It involved using a Reverse damage perk that made radiation grenades heal you and your allies while poisoning your enemies. It wasn’t much, especially in a shooter like Conduit 2, but when capturing a territory or holding a chokepoint, it made that little extra difference to be able to stand in a once damaging radius. I imagine at some point other shooters will find ways to take advantage of the supporting roles. Maybe there can be ways for players to specialize in communication, so more than just providing team mates with information, but making sure information doesn’t get to the other team. I’ve always imagined an real-time strategy game mixed with a shooter, to have a commander player give support to his team through a kind of Eagle eye type program and be able to call in reinforcements or something.
Either way, in an age where most of us can’t spend every waking moment mastering the finer points of no scoping a sniper shot, I’m glad that some games out there give the rest of us a way to feel important in ways that don’t always involve pulling a trigger.