Team Fortress 2. Now, I must admit, I’ve not been playing TF2 since the beginning (not even close), but after playing for three years and having friends who have been there for the long haul, I can’t help but be amazed by the game’s replayability. Think about Call of Duty, for instance. You can play COD for six months and have a great time, but by the end of a Call of Duty game’s first year, most of the player base is long gone already and playing the next game. It’s not a long-standing sort of environment.
TF2, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. The game was published in 2007, yet over a decade later, it still has a significant player base. New people still pick up the game. Old players may take breaks, but they come back. As I type this, Team Fortress 2 currently has 45 thousand online players, good for the fifth most on Steam. What’s different about TF2 from other PC games to make this happen?
Youtuber LazyPurple recently explored this question in his video “TF2 is a Timeless Masterpiece,” and one of his main conclusions is that the game has been propped up over the years by its fantastic shooting and movement mechanics. I certainly agree that the game is fantastic in both respects, but I’m not sure if that’s really a sufficient enough conclusion given that more modern first-person shooters do well in those areas too.
I think it really just all boils down to the community. TF2 is a free-to-play game. It’s one of the first games many people download when they get a Steam account. Because of this, you get all sorts of people hopping into a TF2 match. Once you get in a match, anything can happen. Sometimes, you may get a serious server where people play the objective and try to win and coordinate attacks like on other shooting games. However, most of the time you get the sort of utter chaos that makes TF2 fun and unique.
One of the servers I landed on in the past couple weeks had a guy screaming bloody murder into his microphone, but no one seemed to care since he was actually leading our team in points. In a different server, my friends and I managed to convince our whole team to play as snipers. We didn’t even manage to get out of our spawn after the first time we all died, but it sure was fun. In yet another game, we ran across two jokers giving a tag-team philosophical lecture to our team while we played.
It’s the little things like that, and they happen all the time. The taunting. The conga lines and Kazotsky Kicks. The Sniper saxophone, Engineer banjo, breakdancing Scout, and Pyro air guitar band that starts playing in spawn before the match and continues to do so THE ENTIRE ROUND without leaving spawn, but hardly anyone cares because it’s hilarious and it’s TF2. That’s the sort of thing that sets TF2 apart from games like CS:GO, COD, Battlefield, and Overwatch. It’s just funny chaos.
Now, I’ve got to say, Valve hasn’t done much to help the TF2 community stay afloat. They give TF2 a significant update maybe once a year, and that’s being generous. They don’t sponsor TF2 tournaments. They do make new hats, but I guess that’s not really a big contributor to gameplay. However, to Valve’s credit. They have kept the servers up and running. They have not made any indication to kill the game, and quite frankly, I’m not sure if they’ll ever need or want to. The TF2 community has kept itself alive all these years, and even though it’s experienced some hardships along the way, it’s still out there having a good laugh and fun times. That’s all that really matters.