People live in New York City because of the perpetual promise of something to do and someone to do it with (it's certainly not to grow your savings account). But right now, in the midst of the largest outbreak within the United States, it feels incredibly lonely – so my partner and I have started meeting up with the crew to play Apex Legends.
That Apex Legends is free-to-play made convincing our friends to download it all the more easy – it's not costing you anything, just your time, which you have plenty of right now. It's also tailored for repetition, as failures can be forgotten before you've landed in the next match. You fail, you back out, you talk some shit to each other, you go back in. As the resident FPS specialist in the group, it's fallen to me to help teach the squad the ins and outs of Apex – a task I have not taken lightly, and one that has shown them an entirely different side of me.
So far, we've sunk about 15 hours into playing Apex Legends together, but apart –a fine testament to the unique ways we're socializing in the time of coronavirus. One of our friends has even become a tough competitor in a short period of time (and a Crypto main, at that).
The starting lineup
Before I felt comfortable jumping out of a dropship with the newbies, I needed to know what I was dealing with. Of the three that joined me for social-sessioning Apex Legends, one is a fairly loyal Call of Duty: Warzone player who I used to play Halo 3 with, one plays competitive Rocket League for hours at a time and little else, and one only plays video games casually. If you're curious how those various skill sets would apply to the frenetic pace that is a battle royale, join the club.
Everybody got a version of the same speech as they waited for Apex Legends to download: Choose a character like Bangalore or Gibraltar, whose passives and ultimate abilities are the most straightforward. Tell me what kind of guns you like in other games and I'll find something like that for you here. Do not stray. Watch your minimap. Communicate. By the time the games were downloaded, all three were a bit scared to play, as I was repeatedly warning them that I can get bitchy (and my partner was chiming in with confirmation).
As a coach, I'd say I fall somewhere between Denzel Washington in Remember the Titans and Kurt Russell in Miracle. I'm a hard ass with a heart of gold, but I will not tolerate people who don't listen. If I could make my friends do laps after spending too long idling over a death box in the middle of a field, I would. It's the old soccer captain in me – I believe in working together as a team and communicating your every move so that you can act as a cohesive unit. Use your mic, use the ping system, be aware of your surroundings. It's a tough ask for a group of green players who were all a bit pickled.
Rookie of the quarantine
Just like any competitive sport, there are people who are cut out for it and people who aren't. If you thought the Modern Warfare/Halo 3 player would turn into an Apex phenom – you were wrong. We played together once and he left me to rejoin the Warzone. Our casual friend also fell by the wayside, he didn't like being on the receiving end of pointed (and loud) directions, and now uses his projector to play concert videos instead of Apex. He even props a mattress up against the wall and pretends it's the security barrier. To each their own.
The Rocket League player is the Aaron Judge of our little Apex experiment, so I'll call him Judge in this scenario. The least likely to be goosed out of all of us (he was drinking more caffeine than alcohol), Judge was communicative and open to direction from the first match. He quickly took a liking to Crypto, of all the Legends, and after some not-so-gentle badgering learned to stop going into the scout's drone while crouching in the middle of a field.
My padawan learns pic.twitter.com/WmFaWHY12bApril 15, 2020
It was clear Judge was destined for Apex greatness on the third day of play, when I was nearly a bottle of wine deep during a late-night match. Our other squadmate had quit, the third ring closing in a way that forced us through a choke point in order to get to a better position. That choke point was full of buildings, and as I barrelled towards one with misplaced confidence, I was immediately downed by a sniper rifle. Judge began to run towards my downed body, but with at least two enemy players safely ensconced in buildings, I quickly told him to back up. At first, he ignored me and kept running forward, so I shouted, "Trust me, trust me! Back up!" He did, and tucked himself away in an outcropping of rocks. I dropped off the cliff behind us, the ring angrily buzzing right next to me, and instructed to come get me when it died down. He threw Crypto's drone up, locked it in place, and deftly dropped down to revive me.
We won the match a few minutes later.
It's about the friends you make along the way
This was a learning experience for all parties involved: my friends had to learn how to play a new game at a competitive level with a bossy hawk for a coach, and I had to learn to calm down and stop taking every match so seriously. The drinking helped, as did everyone's desire to aimlessly chat in between matches. I've never spent so much time in the pregame lobby watching Wraith anxiously bounce back and forth on the balls of her heels.
My partner and I have an Apex Legends rule: if you don't finish in the top ten, the other person gets to play, so our friends got to spend virtual time with both of us. When we weren't diving out of the dropship, we were all chatting about our situations, catching up and seeking solace during these bizarro times. Our friend in Philly was having neighbor drama, our friend in Manhattan was moving a few doors down but had a cousin who couldn't return home trapped with him and his girlfriend. We were anxiously awaiting the day our nurse roommate returned to our miniscule apartment, and figuring out where we could go if need be.
Everyone was uncertain what the next day would hold, but we ended many nights with a promise to meet in the arena the next day. And I promised to yell less.