Postscript is Cameron Kunzelman's weekly column about endings, apocalypses, deaths, bosses, and all sorts of other finalities.
I would never claim to be the most consistent player. While I’m the kind of person who finishes a book if he starts and rarely stops a movie halfway through, if a game doesn’t really grab me in a couple hours then I am likely to put it down and move onto something else. I’m even ok with dropping a multiplayer game I’ve got a couple hundred hours into, since there’s always something else on the horizon (or installed on my computer) that can deliver the goods. But, with all that said, I’m legitimately sad about the end of Battlefield 1 content.
Look, I know the game isn’t over. I know that I can keep playing Battlefield 1 to my heart’s content over the next several years until the servers go dark and Tsaritsyn is but a cloud of crumbling data values being overwritten by the newest My Little Pony first-person shooter content (this is a grimdark future, some real Verhoeven shit). But the moment that a new Battlefield game is announced, which basically everyone believes to be very soon, Battlefield 1 will suffer a big hit to its player base and general interest around it.
It’s already happening. Despite being in the middle of a summer of new, piecemeal content, I can’t say that I think that the Battlefield 1 community is exactly popping with activity. People are playing the game, and it’s as elegant and fun as it ever was. But JackFrags, one of the game’s most popular YouTubers, has been reduced to doing bizarre “challenges” like picking up the weapon of every enemy he kills while basically podcasting on top of the footage. The pickings are slim.
My knowledge that Battlefield 1, a game that I have enjoyed off and on consistently since launch, is ending has put me in a weird place when it comes to coping. Let me put it this way: I don’t get dumped by games, I do the dumping! It’s not me, it’s them! My entire precious ego of video game player being is centered on never being abandoned by these things that I can dip in and out of at will. The mass community of players is going to hop forward into the next generation, and I want to follow them, so I’ll leave Battlefield 1 as well. It’s bad behavior. It’s chasing the future. It’s what I’m going to do.
So, the coping. My first method, weirdly, has been to avoid playing the game. In our last couple possible months together, I have chosen to turn my back on the game, despite people around me wanting to play it and asking me to play it with them. I don’t know what my logic is here, or even if there is a logic, but somewhere in the tunneling electricity of my brain I think that I have come to the conclusion that the disappointment, the sadness at leaving the battlefields of the Great War, will be lessened if I’m able to decouple myself from it.
My second method has been to constantly ruminate on the experiences I had in the game. Imagine a surly 40 year old man in a serious independent film. He’s back in his childhood home, probably for a funeral, and he goes into his bedroom to have his Film Emotions. The wall is covered in posters of cool musicians from when he was a kid. He finds his high school yearbook and gently settles onto his immaculately made bed, the sheets crinkling for the first time in like twenty years. He flips through the book, and there are his friends: some guy played by Andrew McCarthy, someone else played by Joan Cusack. And he cries, one little tear gracing the page, his sadness growing to fill the frame and then augmenting his encounter with his high school bully at the charred husk of the house they burned down accidentally after prom.
That’s me looking at my unlocked weapons in Battlefield 1. I’m nostalgic and upset about something that hasn’t even been negatively impacted yet. The game is still there, still playable, and it still has a significant player population. And yet here I am, mourning it in real-time, like it’s a childhood pet on its last legs.
This is a new feeling for me, but I think it’s one that lots of people feel regularly in their relationships with video games. This is what makes people so excited about Crash Bandicoot remasters or throwback platformer games. There is an idea that the world has moved on, Stephen King style, and that market forces and video game developers can reverse time a little bit. There is very little I wouldn’t do for another year of expansion support for Battlefield 1 instead of the inevitable next game in the franchise. I would pay my annual fee to stop time, to keep the march of releases from eclipsing the past, and yet there’s nothing I can do about it. People out there want the next Battlefield experience, but I’m just trying to hold onto this one.
Video games often feel like a weird cycle of beginnings and endings where my enjoyment of a thing is dictated to me by corporate interests far beyond me. It’s an isolating, strange experience to care about the AAA gaming experience, and yet here I am. Here we are. Enjoying the old thing, hopefully letting it slowly fall through our fingers, waiting for the next thing to come and slam the door shut on the last thing we enjoyed. And hopefully we enjoy that next thing, or at least it helps us forget about what we lost.
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