Last night, on my actually for real final Apex Legends game, I thought my squad was doomed. Our third squadmate had been disconnected, and I knew I was dead weight for the more experienced player I was tagging along with. I was content to get lost and then shot, because it was around midnight and I knew I should sleep. Then my squadmate timidly said hi.
I don’t really like competitive games, or games where you have to talk to strangers. Why I’m so in love with Apex Legends remains a mystery even to me, because it is a competitive game where you might have to talk to strangers. Usually I play Apex with my friends, so talking on mic has begun to feel more natural. But after my friends logged off for the night last night, I decided I wanted a few more games.
My aversion to talking to strangers is mostly about being impatient and tired, or not wanting to meet new people. I also just don’t want to be yelled at by players who might be angrier or more aggressive than me. When it comes down to it, I don’t want to be shouted at during my private time, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
But last night, when my remaining squadmate said hi to me after we lost our third, I didn’t see a way out of the situation. I turned on my mic, and I said hi back.
He seemed like a nice kid. I assume he was a kid—he had a young-sounding voice and an edgy, all caps username. We didn’t run into much action, so we started chatting. I explained that I wasn’t great at the game but I really like playing. He told me that was fine. When I said that I hadn’t gotten a win yet, he seemed shocked.
“My friend, the guy who got dropped,” he told me, “last game he had 14 kills. We gotta get you a win!”
His enthusiasm was infectious. We shared a little bit about our lives. I told him that unfortunately I can’t play Apex all day because I have a job. He told me he has a paper route. He jokingly chided me for swearing at one point, so I told him about Tim Rogers’s promise to his mother that he would never swear, which he’s kept all these years.
“Nah,” he replied. “I couldn’t do it.” He laughed, and then I laughed with him.
We made it to the last few teams of the game, then got surprised by another squad who flanked us. I got a few good hits in with a shotgun but went down quickly. Soon after, the game was over. I thanked him for a good game.
I went to wash my face and brush my teeth. While I was applying various creams to my face, I thought about my squadmate. I wondered what he thought of me—some anonymous woman, older than him, who he crossed paths with for a game. To me, it seemed marvelous that even for just 15 minutes, our two worlds, so far apart, could meet. I wondered if tomorrow, when I was getting ready for work, he would be out there delivering papers.
As I went to turn off my PlayStation 4, I saw that I had a friend request. It was my squadmate.
“I had a little bit of trouble remembering your name,” he wrote. “But we gotta get you a win some time.”
I hit accept.