Communication 101

Once upon a time, I would have assumed that people knew what was required to work in a team. What an assumption! It’s like some players can’t take the hint from Team Fortress 2.

It’s not just that I see comrades ignoring the plight of their injured Medic. Or that I’m always the only Pyro or Engie in a group of six Snipers who refuse to change class. Thing is, I haven’t seen many players who are good at the one thing you need to keep a team together. That thing is communication.

You see, the masterminds at Valve knew that communication would be important for the team mechanic. So they developed the Chat Box so we could talk to each other and relay important info. What happened? The Chat Box was filled with a string of MEDIC-spamming, with the occasional ‘gg’ or ‘wtf’ or some such acronym.

MEDIC spam

So Valve scratched their heads for a bit and thought, “maybe it’s too hard to type messages while being shot at.” So they encouraged us to use our handy microphones instead. These days most computers have microphones built into them and headsets are easy to buy. No excuses, yet the system still didn’t work. Why? Because everybody with a microphone turned out to be a Pyro in real life, so they couldn’t be understood.

As a result of these setbacks, it seems a large proportion of the TF2 community has given up on communicating altogether. Maybe that suits the Snipers and the Spies, who don’t want to give away their positions in the heat of battle. But the rest of the time? We really need to get better at talking to each other, because I feel that the team aspect is getting really under-rated.

Consider the Medic. No single class depends more on communication skills than the healer. It’s all very well to spam the E button, but what if it’s the Medic who needs your help? Medics are top priority targets and need protection at all times. If a Medic becomes separated from his healing target, he could be left by himself, surrounded by enemies, with only the Crusader’s Crossbow and 98% Ubercharge. When he calls for aid, you better darn well jump in and save him.

But do you? Can you honestly say you’d go out of your way to take care of the Medic? This is just one example where good communication skills are necessary. I’m sure you can think of plenty of other situations. For now I’m just going to outline the most common problems I’ve noticed, and ways to get around them. Communication 101 with Prof. Dekky.

Use the Chat. The default key for entering the Chat Box is Y. Press it, then type a quick message and hit Enter. Your message could be something like “Medic unprotected,” “Their Heavy out of ammo” or “They have three Sentries under the stairs.” Nobody’s asking you to type out your autobiography. Concise tips will help your friends to deal with obstacles and push the objective.

Look at the Chat. Yes, I know it’s hard enough to keep an eye on your health and ammo. But please, peek at the Chat Box once in a while to see what other players are telling you. I remember many frustrating times when I kept saying the same thing over and over again, only to be ignored by my team and repeatedly lose the same MvM wave.

Use your microphone. If you’re not comfortable with typing sentences, which I completely understand, get your microphone set up. That way all you have to do is speak, while your fingers do all the hard skull-cracking work. Just remember to change the game settings to suit your audio system and playstyle.

Use your microphone properly. I can understand people preferring microphones, but I cannot fathom why these same people can’t talk normally. No offense meant. Please, if you want to get a message out to your team, speak clearly and audibly. Like you would if you were talking to your best friend. If you are actually a Pyro, just go and burn something and stop wasting our time.

No MEDIC-spamming! All you have to do is push E once and a little arrow pops up on the Medic’s HUD to tell them where you are. Then take cover and wait for the healies to arrive. However, the more you push this button, the less inclined said Medic is to heal you. What makes it even worse is that you’ll fill up the Chat Box with constant MEDIC-spam, which drowns out all the other messages from your team. So don’t do it!

Follow instructions. There’s no point saying anything at all if it’s just being ignored. If a comrade asks you to go to a particular place or focus on a particular target, just do it. Chances are they know what they’re doing. Don’t start a pointless argument with them or, worse, refuse to help at all. If you want to argue, do it after the game. The rest of us don’t need a long string of “You can’t tell me what to do” clogging up the Chat Box.

What methods of communication do you prefer?

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