Battlefield 2142. Was. My. Jam.
Aside from MMOs, this was the only online game I’ve ever gone deep into. I tend to be pretty lukewarm about multiplayer-only games, not much caring for games that don’t have a distinct end, and where you play the same scenarios and game modes over and over. Battlefield 2142 doesn’t do anything different from its peers, admittedly; it’s just really good at what it does.
I was 18 when 2142 came out; soon to be 19. Which means I was fresh out of high school… but no, not fresh in college. I didn’t go to college when I was 18, or 19, or 20… or 21. For a lot of that time I was working dead-end jobs, but for another good portion I was doing nothing at all. There’s no one to blame but myself for the wasted years, for the aimlessness and self-hatred that I stewed in during that time. Were games like Battlefield 2142 part of the problem? Pointless time-sinks for me when I should have been thinking about school or looking for jobs, or were they what kept me sane?
The short answer is that I don’t know. I have never regretted playing videogames, never thought that I should have been doing something else with my life — except very occasionally when I think back on these few years. From my high school graduation until a found a job more than a year later, I didn’t go out, didn’t spend time with friends or family, didn’t have anything to focus on or look forward to. All I did was play games, and in that light, games look like a negative influence.
At the same time, what would I have been doing then without videogames? It’s easy to say that I’d have been forced to socialize, to work, to get my life together. But the truth is that I still wouldn’t have gone out because I had no money; probably wouldn’t have found a job because I was hopelessly overwhelmed and afraid of the great big world; I still wouldn’t have talked to anyone because there was a horrible shame in my heart, and a crippling guilt for asking my parents to continue supporting me. The games weren’t the disease; they were a symptom of it. They were a way of distracting myself from how badly I was handling adult life.
In the end, I think the fact that I look back on Battlefield 2142 with almost entirely fond memories says more than anything else. It was one of the few good things in my life when hardly anything was good.