Respawn. That (and the fact that you can have up to 32 of the same merc on the field at once) is the major question that gets most debated by those nutters who care about canon and storyline and those sorts of ridiculous things.
You know the type. They’re all over SPUF. “Why is the RED Scout talking about saving Smissmas in the new comic when it was BLU Scout who killed Nicholas Crowder in A Smissmas Tale?” they may ask. Or “Why does the Engineer Update state that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John ‘Tower of Hats’ Booth when the WAR! Update says he killed himself rocket-jumping up a flight of stairs?” You know, those sorts of questions that don’t really have an answer and are very awkward to field when you honestly couldn’t care less.
But despite my flippant mocking of the scryhards, I have a fascination with data and historical chronicling (I made my internet debut as a very active Wikipedian and have admin’ed for multiple Wikia sites) so we actually have a lot in common. So here are some bizarre, extensive, and (most horrifying) possibly plausible theories on the more difficult parts of TF2’s game mechanics to justify. Doylists, you can leave now.
1. The respawn hypothesis. This fascinating virtual document has some awesome ideas on how we can have significantly more than nine dudes running around killing each other, even explaining what they’re doing on both teams. It even sneaks cosmetic items in there, proving they’re far more important than originally led to believe. However, it suffers slightly from its justification of Team Fortress Classic, which was basically subverted by their recent comic appearance as full-fledged characters in their own right.
2. The True Identity of the Pyro. Okay, after respawn this would have to be the most debated part of TF2. (Actually, it might be more discussed.) Theories on the Pyro can be found absolutely everywhere. (Check out the oldest SPUF page we’ve got on Wayback. You know what thread title I’m talking about.) One of the most viewed is this one here on Game Theory, which uses cold hard scientific evidence to puzzle out Pyro’s gender. This puts it a few notches above most, but I’ve never liked how much body evidence he tries to fit in there when TF2 has a cartoony, unabashedly unrealistic art style.
3. Complete Contradictions. TF2, being written in a myriad of formats for a number of different reasons, has some pretty glaring discrepancies infecting a number of its parts. The part about RED and BLU secretly owning every government on the face of the Earth seems to have been dropped as of late. Medic’s bio says he was born in Stuttgart but the new map Rottenberg was advertised as his hometown. (Though if you adjust the spelling slightly this one can be true). The Halloween elements are a bit off, easy to say. Wizards, spells, reincarnated Horsemenn, and other fantastic elements that are hard pressed to fit in with the spytech atmosphere of the 2007 release maps. And then there are the hundreds of TF2 cosmetics. Companion Cubes, Bioshock Songbirds, Alien Swarm Parasites, and countless other immigrants from other canons that would be impossible to fit into the storyline. Unless you’re FixItFelix, who has come up with an entire series of DC Comic-style parallel universes where each faction of TF2 can safely coexist with its brethren. Not sure which universe lets TF2 be a fictional franchise within the Left 4 Dead universe, but assuredly it’s not too hard to add another one onto the end.
But as zany ideas get crazier, only one can be the best. So here it is.
It covers all three questions we’ve just asked. And it’s got canonical evidence backing it up. Are you ready?
4. Aabicus explains everything. Check out page 9 of the recently-released catch-up Comic:
If you can tear your eyes away from that amazingly-drawn 1850s team, notice what it says in that second box: As dramatized in the documentary video game Team Fortress 2!
These aren’t the real Gravel Wars we’re fighting; these are re-enactments! We are all actors who have done our best to dress up as historical figures from the famed Gravel Wars of 196X, and like all film dramatizations, we have done an incredibly poor job of accurately representing the real battle. (In addition most of us have gotten the outfits completely wrong.) But what we lack in accuracy, we clearly make up for in special effects, which is why we can blow the crap out of each other and always come back to play a new soldier in five to twenty seconds. Re-enactments always do that to make the most of the actors they’ve got; I noticed this guy with a mustache get killed three different times in The Patriot, twice as an American and once British. Going further, you can say the item drops are our payment plans for our continued acting, and that each round is a reshoot of the scene for that battle (In that case, you’d think they’d have found a suitable take for the Battles of 2Fort and Dustbowl by now.)
Call me crazy, but that answer actually solves every single problem with TF2, bar none. And it also gives the best possible answer to the mystery of the Pyro: The Pyro is you. Unless you choose to cast yourself as someone else.