One of my favorite game play modes that relied on teamwork was the Jailbreak mod. I played it on one of the Quakes, but I'm sure there are other variants, games and platforms that the mod is/was available on (I know there is an Unreal and Source version).



For those that haven't had the pleasure of experiencing the Jailbreak mod, it's very similar to the traditional team death match mode, only when a person dies they are transported to a holding cell (a jail if you will). If all the players on a team are jailed, the opposing team wins. However, if a free teammate is able to get to the holding cell control panel, they can open the door and everyone inside runs free. They live to fight another day, or at least until they are captured again. Also, players inside the cell could team up and work together to boost a player up into a seemingly “impossible to reach” duct in the roof. If the player managed to successfully get into the duct, they could drop down and open the door that way. It truly was more fun than a barrel of monkeys.


I know...that's kind of old school now...


So, maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm just a gullible, naive, cynical old gamer and my simple mind is clouded with unreasonable expectations and my understanding of team based modes of game play in online multiplayer games isn't the same as everyone else's.


But, truly...I don't think I'm alone in this thought...because I hear the radio chatter over my headphones and there are others who ask the same question and wonder what value (other than converting oxygen to carbon dioxide) certain members bring to the team.



And I'm not talking about players who make a valiant effort but fail due to lack of skill or experience. I am very patient with these folks because we've all been noobs at some point or on some game before. No, I'm talking about the lone wolf, who will not only watch the team fail, but then berate everyone for not doing better. While this has occurred in several games I have played, it seems to happen more frequently in Team Fortress 2 lately. Perhaps you have witnessed this player (or maybe you are this player).



They play sniper. There is no doubt they're good. Their score is 3 times as much as the next players and they are dominating half of the people on the other team. Yet, they never go for the intel, the never "push the freakin' cart" and they never try and cap a point. They sit back and hide and rake in the kills and points. They justify their role by suggesting that the more players they kill, the fewer opponents there are to stand in the way of achieving the objective.



While that sounds logical, it never seems to play out that way.


Counterstrike was the same way. Counterstrike was so easy to win if you had a team that worked together towards the objectives. The greatest battles were always 2 opposing teams that had their ducks in a row. They had a plan. They implemented the plan. And the round often came down to skill, not catching the opponent with their pants down. But really, that seldom happened. Too many lone wolfs off doing there own thing and next thing you know, your team is getting rolled. Again. And Again. And Again.


Modern Warfare 2. Same thing. A team could potentially dominate most maps if they worked in unison and locked down certain chokepoints while providing cover fire to their squad mates. Yet too many people are more worried about their own score than the team winning the round, so they leave their battle buddy behind. Next thing you know, both are dead.


While I have no first hand experience with World of Warcraft, I am reminded of the hilarious shenanigans of Lee Roy Jenkins and his decision to throw caution to the wind and move out now, even though his fellow team mates were still strategizing their plan of attack. If you've seen the video, you know the ensuing chaos didn't bode well for that merry band of adventures. If you haven't seen the clip, you should. It's quite funny.


I have briefly dabbled in EVE Online (before I realized I was way in over my head). Clearly it is a game built on teamwork and alliances, but I'd wager any remaining ISK I might have that there have been cases of team abandonment by the token lone wolf resulting in disastrous consequences...for someone.


I know this is one of the problems that have plagued Sony's exclusive title, MAG - which boasts a whopping 256 player count. Without a little teamwork, I can only imagine the ensuing chaos that would result from a roster of that magnitude.


The only Battefield game I've played (prior to Bad Company 2) was Battlefield 2 (and the expansion packs). It had an interesting approach to encourage and promote teamwork. If you were part of a squad, you could respawn on your squad leader (I will, however, acknowledge there are some who hated this feature because of its lack of realism and the advantage it provided to those who utilized it). Battlefield 2 also let you use voice with just your squad or with your whole team, which was pretty nifty. While I've only played Bad Company 2 a couple of times online (I'm trying to beat the SP first), it appears there have been some modernization and updates in the squad mechanics, which is a good thing.


Teamwork. It is a proven concept in game modes that require it. Players that work together and support the team effort will almost always prevail and will often defeat their opponent with little to no resistance. I don't think anyone would say they enjoy getting defeated so quickly or easily, so why is it so hard to get players to see this, much less do it?


I don't know either. I'm baffled by it.


How do we encourage teamwork in games from a gamers’ perspective? And perhaps a better question, how do game developers promote and reward teamwork by making it a component of the game?


Unfortunately, there is no simple solution.


I've heard some people say that's why they only play with people they know, but really, that's not a practical solution that will work for everyone.


My only advice, which usually yields mixed results, is just be the best teammate you can. Use voice comms or in chat to talk to your fellow team players. If your squad leader tells you to do something, then do it. Don't elect yourself to be the team leader just to boss people around and don’t try and tell everyone what to do. If the team has a need, fill it. If you're short on medics, be a medic. If a point needs to be defended, defend it. If your teammates are taking fire, help them out. Make sacrifices that help the team. Teamwork isn't hard to comprehend but can be hard to implement. In reality, the only thing you can do to support teamwork is be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem.


Even if you do all of this, there will always be those who don't appreciate your efforts and could care less about the team. Regrettably, there isn't much you can do about these people. If friendly fire is off, I suppose you could shoot them, not that I condone TK'ing. If you’re able to muster up enough support, you might be able to vote them off the island. Chances are though you'll just have to deal with it. If you get stuck with enough of them on your side, then be prepared to get rolled. It’s inevitable.


So, what can game developers do?


Well, first…I’d hope they do something because I think it is going to take a component of the game in order to promote better teamwork in games.



I’m not a fan of penalizing or having an adverse affect to players just because they don’t play nice with others, so it has to be more reward or incentive based for players who go above and beyond to promote teamwork.


I don’t know that achievements or perks are enough to encourage players to squad up and actually make that mean something.

So, what could it be…well I have an idea (actually not my idea) that I would like to see incorporated into more games. It’s already been used before and it needs tweaked a bit. Perhaps given a bit more power to address unruly players, but nothing major.


(Purely my opinion – which I’m sure won’t match everyone’s opinion)


The Commander function in Battlefield 2 was truly innovative and downright amazing. Not only that, teams that had a Commander who took the role seriously were a force to be reckoned with. They could manage artillery strikes and supply replenishments; they managed surveillance and troop location. They could praise squads who were supporting the team and following orders. It really did help promote teamwork.


I think most online games, especially First Person Shooters (FPS), could benefit from a team leader position that possessed special “tools” to oversee, direct, lead and manage the team (and even discipline those who deserve it). Certain requirements or restrictions could be instilled to ensure only qualified candidates were selected to fill the position of Commander (x number of hours on a squad, x number of hours as a squad leader, x number of matches played, x number of wins, x number of positive recommendations by other players, etc).


Bah…what do I know though…I’m just a cynical old gamer with a simple mind. But I’d still love to hear any ideas to promote or encourage teamwork that you all might have.