Burnin' Out His Fuse

Yesterday was one of those days when Elton John really got to me. The tunes of Rocket Man strike chords in my heart like no other song. And what’s the main message of this heartfelt classic? To appreciate your life and loved ones while you can? Obviously, NO! It’s that flying is fucking awesome and everyone that’s stuck on the ground is a loser. And what better way to get the euphoric high of flying than by playing pokemon? Ah yes, clicking that button that says “Fly” and teleporting to a new in-game location really gets my blood racing. But alas, since Professor Bambo doesn’t think letting a 10-year-old fly on the back of a pigeon-sized monster across the country is a good idea (yet), I had to look for my aerial escape elsewhere.

Intro Rocket League. You might think that flying cars only exist in the world of the Jetsons (you might also think that this Jetsons reference is 30 years too late). Either way, you’d be wrong! In the world of Rocket League, humanity has reached its last leg. World War III has been going on for decades. Despite the massive degradation in average quality of life, humanity has made two major technological achievements: 1. The invention of sick-ass cars that can jump in midair and shoot fire out of their asses, and 2. The mass-production of massive mechanical soccer balls. Tired of the endless war, NATO has devised an ingenious plan to settle the conflict once and for all. What is this ingenious plan you ask? Nothing other than an international giant flying-car-soccer tournament. And you - yes YOU - are captain of the American team of Freedom and Cultural Appropriation. You must defeat the forces of communism and the players who keep telling you to “git gud” in order to restore The Great Wall of America to its former glory.

Thankfully, the developers at Psyonix really took the stereotypical hardness of rocket science to heart. Good luck trying to control your metal flying death cage as it hurtles through the air, going the complete opposite direction of where you intended. Already bad at coordination in real life? Don’t worry, there’s more. One of the most euphoric experiences Rocket League has to offer is the excitement of watching a ball slowly roll into your goal as you and your teammates look on helplessly. “Next point” you may say. “50th time’s the charm” you may also say, but don’t underestimate the evasiveness of that giant mechanical soccer ball. Like the last bit of boba hidden among the ice cubes of your tea, the ball is a master of being exactly where you can’t get it. This is especially true when there’s an open goal and you have an easy shot. You may not have meant to jump just around the ball in a way that makes you look like an idiot, but that’s what happened. And will happen. Constantly.

Despite the steep learning curve, Rocket League is an amazingly deep game once you get the hang of it. Some, like my friends Scott and Virin, are able to catch on pretty quickly. After a few games, they were already scoring goals! Others, like myself, take about a year playing regularly with friends and brothers before they’re able to make contact with the ball. If you play online, you’ll find a plethora of players all along the spectrum. And since Rocket League has degraded my self respect to the point of no return, that’s exactly what we did…

Before yesterday, I’d played quite a few 2v2 matches online. Some I went in solo, some with my roommate Sam. Either way, I end up winning about 25% due to my general shittiness and my opponents general ability to not massively fuck up. As a result, I was pretty surprised when Scott, Virin, and I won our first 3v3 match! Before this, I’d forced Virin to play with me a couple times, but Scott had not played once in his life. This astounding win could’ve led me to two possible conclusions: either 3v3 is way easier, or Sam really sucks. I choose to believe both :) Unlike 2v2, 3v3 is super hard to play online by yourself. It’s difficult to communicate with people. By the time you type “you’re a fuck up” into the message board, the other team could’ve already scored. Since I could just yell at Scott and Virin when they were being stupid, this wasn’t a problem for us. Onto the second game, we’re still kicking ass and taking names. In fact, just to highlight my complete inadequacy, Scott actually made more goals than me that game… But whatever, it’s a “team sport.” Third and last game of the night rolls around, and this time we’re facing people who actually know what they’re doing. They’re making passes and shit, implying that they can actually control where the ball goes when they hit it. One minute into the game and we’re already down by 2. Not looking good. After another minute of frantically hitting the ball away from our goal, we get it to the other side of the field for the first time! Virin, using the classic tactic of hitting everything in his path, rams the ball straight into the wall, popping it high into the air. And in the following moments, Rocket League truly excels. Most of the time, the cars in rocket league do, in fact, stay grounded. They might jump a little to throw themselves at a ball, but I wouldn’t call that flying. However, when the ball is tantalizingly floating in mid-air, both teams will instantly feel a rush of excitement. Both teams know what they have to do. That’s why at that moment, both teams - me and the goalie - jumped into the air, tilted the butts of our car towards the ground, and shot out a pillar of fire, bursting towards the ball. Making it there first was the difference between a goal and a save. It was a close one, but… I got it! I felt like a god. The instant replay of the goal made me feel that way even more so. The following 4 goals scored by the other team might have diminished the feeling a little, but still today I’m left with bits from that high. Rocket League may be a difficult game, but that only adds to the euphoria of scoring a goal or making an awesome save. And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time before I stop playing.

Written on May 7, 2017