"Johnson," I said. "I understand that it can be frustrating at times, but just because they weren't playing to your expectations, you flipped out on them? That's grade A horsedung right there. And you're trying to feed it to me like I was born yesterday."
After that, Johnson told me everything. He was frustrated and he just wanted to win the match. Something with his girlfriend had distracted him and he acted out of spite that night. I can't say I blame him, four months before I might have been doing the same thing. "Sarge, I dunno. I was just frustrated and angry and - "
"You needed to vent, I know. Look, Send a PM to the guys on that team, or catch them on Ventrilo and apologize. Figure shit out with your girl, get yourself some, and come back happy and ready to go. That's an order."
He laughed. "Hey Sarge, thanks for that. I really needed someone to talk to."
"Nah, I understand," I said before pulling out a tactic from the old man. "Look, Jake, I'm here for whatever comes to pass. This is my job. Now get outta here."
I didn't tell him that in this unit, it's not about how bad you foul up or how horrible you are at the game, it's about how you can get back up. Things hurt, they will sting like hell, but, as long as you take your lumps, you will grow a little each time.
I didn't express this sentiment because I knew that, if he has the heart to keep trudging on, he won't need to hear it from me. Sooner or later, playing in this fake military unit over the internet will either break him in two or make him a man. Sometimes people take what we are at face value, a bunch of nerds playing soldier. The truth is that the roles that we play in the 75th Ranger Regiment are as valid as the roles that we play in real life: supporting friend, benevolent leader, proud parent, and even village idiot.
Playing in this unit, as we tell our stories of pain and heartache along with our stories of victory and happiness, we become comrades and friends. "Realism" may have been the hook for me, but the people that I've met, the stories and battles that we've shared, is what keeps me logging in every weekend.
So as I sat alone in the channel recently departed by Johnson, I knew that if he can reach that level, if he can come to grips with the roles that we play, then he will realize that camaraderie is worth more than all the XP, Kill to Death Ratios, or match wins in the world.
Nick Branch can be found evolving in small coastal caves across the Mediterranean, but you can also find him over at his blog, The Branches.