I’m a bit of a boomer when it comes to online gaming: I do most of it solo, and when I do hop online with friends, it’s mostly casual. However, in the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns — and the increased risk of contracting COVID-19 during group physical activity — I haven’t been able to shoot hoops with my peers or engage in any other in-person competition. Instead, I opted to finally try my hand at online gaming.

There were three main video games I tried in lockdown — League of Legends, NBA 2K, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). League of Legends came first — and I absolutely hated it. I wasn’t too awful at the game: I ‘mained’ Senna, kept a solid kills-to-death ratio, was a great teammate, and never put anyone down — I was the model player. 

However, believe it or not, people on the internet suck. As mentioned earlier, I was relatively new to online gaming. My reaction time was average at best, and I was still learning the ins and outs of League. The chat is merciless in League of Legends, and after being called a ‘scrub’ for the last time by an anonymous player, I gave up on the game. 

NBA 2K is probably my favourite video game franchise of all time. From 2009 to the present, I’ve bought every copy. Yes, it’s the same game every year with a new roster, but I don’t care; I just really love basketball. 

Mostly, I tend to play the single-player modes such as MyCareer and MyLeague, role-player-game-like modes in which you control an athlete or a general manager of a franchise, respectively. However, I was bored enough to hop on the online servers to see what was going on. While the 2K community tends to be nicer, it felt like I had walked in on a circus. 

Every game on The Park — MyCareer’s online extension where you can compete against others — has three types of players, much like in real life pick-up games: the dribble god who never passes but thinks he’s Kyrie Irving when he’s not; the person who loves blasting music during the game; and, last but not least, the trash talker — perhaps my favourite of the types.

Despite the occasional setback, I found competing on NBA 2K to be incredibly fun. In a good lobby, the clutch moments make you feel like the ball is really in your own hands — and the emotions get just as intense. 

More recently, I picked up an old favourite of mine, CS:GO. In high school, I was fairly decent at the game, reaching the peak of the silver rank but never any further. Around grade 12, I was more focused on school and stopped playing altogether. In the wake of COVID-19, I decided to check back in on the community, and I was atrocious at first since I was starting from scratch. 

I practised and practised — especially during a much deserved reading week this semester. I started my comeback like Michael Jordan in 1995 — except with more hair and a lot less to lose. I’m now back on track to get through the ranks of CS:GO again, and I’m getting some much needed competition to keep me engaged day in and day out.

All in all, I miss the action of in-person sports. In the midst of the vaccine rollout, I’m already dreaming of the day I can return to the real hardwood because while I can get my fix of competition from the screen, the anonymity of the internet can often create a toxic environment. Therefore, if you plan on picking up a controller today, make sure to be respectful on your mic. A lot of us are novice gamers waiting for the day we can hop off the screen and into the gym.