A new campaign for CS:GO was released the other day, and poor aabicus was suckered into it. After having to turn all his settings down to low or off in order to even play the damn game (a recurring bug that popped by Team Fortress 2 in the last Invasion update, remedied in the same way), aabicus spent a brief amount of time getting some fire damage and some pistol kills, he got rewarded with an old, crappy case and weapon that sold for 45 cents on the Steam Market.
The day before that, my sister had a Dead Ringer contract. She spent thirty minutes meaninglessly getting herself hurt so she could fulfill the contract quickly and get it over with. She got a Warbird case, worth 3 cents. “At least it wasn’t a Medi Gun!” I told her in an attempt to cheer her up. Probably not a good thing to say as Medi Guns have particularly bad skins and she’d found three in a row previously.
Then a few days back, I watched Davjo playing Dota 2. He a couple of matches. They were long and tedious and I have no idea if he managed to complete his Dota 2 contracts or not, but he got a chest that had some crap cosmetic in it for Sven, someone he doesn’t play. Then again, I barely had a clue what was going on. I have a lot to learn about Dota 2.
And for a personal touch, let’s zip back to Scream Fortress 2015, where I spent a fucking hour on that stupid fucking Payload map Hellstone, trying to collect souls and being killed by all the random bullshit on that map before actually being able to pick them up. In the end I got a shitty Soldier cosmetic that I transmogrified into another shitty Soldier cosmetic. After that, I went back to Sinshine and had a ton of fun.
Are contracts fun? Sometimes, of course! All sorts of things can happen. Most of the time though, you do something both the same and different, until you’ve filled up that progress bar. The best contracts are the ones that you’d be doing normally. Things like healing and deploying Ubercharges as a Medic, or burning enemies and extinguishing allies as a Pyro, or getting headshots as a Sniper. Then you’ve got the you-do-that-sometimes things, like getting kills while rocket jumping, but these are things you don’t do regularly. It’s one thing to go out of your way to heal someone with the Crossbow, it’s another to expect a player to only use the Black Box to heal – thankfully the healing ones are often set up so that picking up health kits count as well.
Sometimes you end up just farming the points to complete the contract. You don’t normally keep track of how much damage you’ve tanked with the Dead Ringer, you’re only using it to escape, so the contract that involves doing so repeatedly activating the buggiest watch in the game can be quite tiresome.
The bonus contracts are especially irksome. While they can easily help you pad out your coin or pass or whatever, they are often very tricky to pull off, or tiresome to do. Long range healing shots with the crossbow are supposed to be amazing, awesome things that make you go “wow, that was cool”, but having to do that to get the advanced points ruins the moment, again, making it a chore. What’s more impressive, getting that airborne shotgun kill in the middle of a fight without planning it, or finally getting that airborne shotgun kill after trying to get one for a good 10 minutes?
And what for? There’s two reasons. Some people like to fill up their coin, have a bit of fun and get that I-did-it vibe. But more often than not, we want the rewards. With all the contracts that Valve has released, big prizes have been offered. Incredibly rare prizes. Fancy decorated armaments. Crazy cosmetics that you don’t normally see. Unusual weapons!
Except you never ever get these amazing prices. All you get is crap. You know when you press that button to turn in the contract that you’re going to get a pile of ugly nonsense that few people willingly buy unless they’re bots who autobuy things that are cheaper than normal, only to sell them at normal price 7 days later. Piles of battle-scared weapons linger on the front page of the Steam Market, suffering exactly the same fate as the many crates we used to get in the past. The cases from both Gun Mettle and Tough Break became worthless after the first month and the Gargoyle and Invasion crates barely made it a week before entering $0.03 hell.
Playing Team Fortress 2, or Dota 2 or CS:GO for that matter, isn’t so much fun, it’s just a grind to get your contracts out of the way before moving on. Yes, some people will say it’s great, you’ll play a class or style you normally don’t, and maybe someone will be swayed. But most of the time you go back to what you do normally. And since the contracts aren’t that many and are wholly random, you might not ever really try a new playstyle anyway – between my two siblings, they’ve done four Jarate contracts and three Huntsman contracts. They are both Sniper mains. Or you do your contracts then quit the game, only coming back to see if you have more contracts to do.
It’s a vicious circle. You waste time getting points, waste time getting a mediocre prize, then waste more time doing more contracts, that payday moment fading ever further away. We are addicted to this tiny possibility of getting amazing loot and watching tiny progress bars fill up.
Or at least you are. I saved my €6 and spent it on food and Bionicle parts. I have my own addictions to feed, dammit.