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Switching Weapons — Escort Mission

Posted by Jim on October 20, 2016

Switching Weapons

After several consecutive weekends of duty, call-ins or other assorted shenanigans, I’m finally able to sit down and churn one of these things out. My clearly inaccurate assumption that gearing up to leave the military would provide more time to commit to writing these articles has caused numerous delays, but has not pushed me out entirely. Rest assured, I may be scarce, but I’m not gone!  And if I’m to be totally honest, World of Warcraft: Legion and Destiny: Rise of Iron have not been helpful in that regard. But in my defense, this is a gaming column, and I’m chalking that up to field research…

The bright side in all of this, however, is that it provides more than enough material for articles. Case in point: recent ordeals have proven to me that there is nothing more valuable in any stage of transition, or even any static stage in life, than a good support system. In gaming, as is in life, the difference between success and failure can be as simple as party composition.

If the title of this article didn’t make you cringe, we can’t be friends. No one likes escort missions. No one from my generation can see a 64-bit render of Natalya from Goldeneye 007 and not feel instant, seething rage. Getting from point A to point B should not hinge on the antics of a ridiculous AI barging out into the direct line of fire and then turning to you, staring directly into your soul with confused, accusatory eyes as they are gunned down mercilessly. Escort missions are terrible, and people that design them should feel terrible. But there’s a hidden truth there: sometimes we ourselves are the Natalya. Sometimes we need an escort ourselves.

I have been exceptionally fortunate in life to have been privileged to some of the most wonderful and amazing people and relationships. They’ve gotten me through some pretty significantly challenging times. Whether it be a close friend that got me through some rough spots in high school, a tight-knit squad that got me through the streets of Iraq, or an unparalleled support system of friends and family that have seen me through the last few years of my turbulent career, I’ve never been lacking in help and support. But it didn’t happen by itself.

I’ve always made the joke that “charisma is not my dump stat.”  As introverted as I am at heart, I have always known the true value of connection. Be it striking up a conversation spontaneously, quietly observing before speaking or some mixture of the two, building relationships is easily the most important skill one can have. We are social animals, we have social needs and social desires, and while many people are introverted, myself included, we are ill-equipped to survive in isolation. Not to say it’s impossible, but it sure isn’t easy.

Think of life like Mass Effect 2, one of my favorite pieces of interactive art. You spend the entire game planning a suicide mission, a heroic assault no one expects to return from, all to put a stop to one of the most dangerous and enigmatic threats that humanity had faced to date. In the process, you recruit your team of highly specialized operators, training and equipping them for the inevitable heroic last stand. But training and equipping isn’t enough in Mass Effect 2. You have to talk to them, you have to know them, you have to understand everything that might hold them back, and help them tie those loose ends. They need to give everything they have to the mission, and leave with zero regrets.

Aside from the obvious gameplay effect from doing everything perfectly, (unless the game still randomly kills Mordin Solus in the final dash because RNG is a jerk and I’m totally not still fuming about that six years later) there’s a significant emotional impact to those actions. You survive the assault. You bring everyone home. You carry them through the crucible of an impossible battle and emerge on the other side whole and stronger. That was one of the finest, most cinematic, most touching and most impactful stories of my gaming life. The weapons and armor and experience points did not win that battle on their own. The relationships, the trust, the emotion and the will did.

I’m grateful for my support system. I’m thankful for everyone who has been a part of my life that has helped me make it this far. I’m even grateful for those than hindered it, because it made me stronger, it taught me how to persevere. I’m grateful for the tremendous charisma I have despite what I sacrificed in humility to refine it. I’m grateful that you’re still reading after that terrible joke.

So, find your support system. Find your escort. You likely already have one, and as you read this line you’re picturing who it is. Who they are. Maybe take the time to tell them, let them know what they’ve done for you, what they mean to you. You never know when you’ll lose the chance to do so, and there’s nothing worse than living without that kind of closure. Go to them and let them know, and you might be surprised at how mutual the sentiment may be.

Just… maybe not directly in the middle of a firefight.


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About Jim

Sergeant Jim Beverly is a Pharmacy Specialist in the U.S. Army, and, for much longer, an avid gamer. A purple heart recipient and veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, Jim is always looking for ways to connect with his inner gamer, despite his obligations to his country. He strongly believes that the medium of gaming can be used to help servicemembers cope with adversity, post-war trauma, and strengthen relationships. His philosophy on life, the military, and being a nerd is shared in his column "Switching Weapons."

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