Since its release, I’ve invested endless hours into the competitive game featuring nitrous-powered rocket cars. Despite how silly that sounds to the uninitiated, I genuinely appreciate how it’s exposed me to a genre that I never knew I would enjoy as much as I have. However, in recent months, I found myself struggling to really rediscover that Rocket League spark that initially reeled me in.
My gaming habits have undoubtedly changed over the years. I went from being a casual gamer to exploring genres and games completely out of my comfort zone. This was especially the case when I started reviewing games and writing about them. From RPGs to tactical titles, I feel that my preferences have widely evolved and matured with exposure from the games industry.
Scratching that competitive itch
One thing that has stayed consistent has been the need to stay competitive. I’m constantly striving to be first or battle my way to the top of whatever match I find myself in. First-person shooters, racing games, battle royales, I always find myself with a nagging need to have the checkered flag waved in my honor or rank in a top spot in a competitive match.
When the pandemic hit, I noticed my tastes changing drastically. I often found myself booting long-winded adventure games finding I had no passion to advance in them. Most purchases in my library didn’t get more than a few hours logged. I’m currently still at a stalemate with Cyberpunk 2077, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and Biomutant. As my world was changed around me, I noticed that I found more comfort in games I already knew, especially ones that scratched that competitive itch. Apex Legends, Call of Duty: Warzone, and Rocket League became comfort food in gaming form. Rocket League, above all, was my saving grace.
I still find it hard to understand why I recently began to excel in Rocket League considering I’ve been playing it (mostly casually) since launch. I don’t know if it was some sort of subliminal accomplishment affirmation that I was seeking, but, each goal explosion, topper, trail, and tire design became meaningful unlockables. I would log nightly hours and started to advance in tournaments that I usually shied away from.
A little bit of navel gazing
The world around me was still locked in pandemic-filled turmoil. Political stances, scientific debates, and societal collisions were almost unavoidable. That goes for both in the digital world and in real life. However, when I booted up and logged in, I was able to forget about those concepts for a few hours. I was winning at something, and I was playing something I enjoyed. I found comfort in that.
Much like everything in life, the adage of “too much of a good can be a bad thing” started to show its face in matches. I found myself becoming easily frustrated — at some points infuriated — during matches. It wasn’t so much how or who I was playing, rather, it was the contents of the Rocket League text chat during those five-minute spars.
Everything from “u suck” to “you’re not good, delete this game” started to populate in the live text feed. I was fearful that Rocket League was showing signs of simply not being fun anymore. I questioned, “Had my favorite game also become a burden on my mental health?” I felt deflated, and most times defeated, by something as simple as text messages in a game about cars with rockets that blast giant soccer balls into a net for points.
As this feeling started to become commonplace, I too found myself showing signs of toxicity within a community I genuinely love. I started combatting spiteful user messages with toxic messages of my own. I would reply with something snarky or spam “Nice Shot!” or “What a save!” over and over without hesitation. And, most times, the response was triggered by my own teammates.
While I could have easily ventured down this path of toxicity spewing from my fingertips at a moment’s notice, I decided to change how I was approaching each match. I started to monitor what I was saying when I was saying it. That was, until one day, I decided, “Eh, just turn in-game chat off.” So I did.
A positive change in mental health
It wasn’t so much that I couldn’t handle the scathing short messages, or maybe it was. But, for the most part, I found myself becoming someone even I wouldn’t want to play video games with. It was slowly eking its way into my playstyle and changing my perception of the game and community. As I started to reflect on it, the sometimes relentless short messages were starting to take a toll on my mental health whether I wanted to admit it or not.
To this day, I’ve accumulated thousands (you read that right) of playtime hours in Rocket League. Without a doubt, I can say that turning the text chat completely off in Rocket League was the best thing to happen to me. Smaller details, like how an opposing player is baited with certain types of shots, really started to become more apparent when I wasn’t laser focused on the top left-hand corner of my screen. I wasn’t prepping for a snappy remark. Instead, I was prepping to feed the ball to my partner(s) and contribute to scoring the next goal. It truly was a game-changer.
Now, I’m not saying that this is the right move for everyone. Sure, if you’ve got a solid team and rely on team chat to walk away with a win — more power to you. However, if you find yourself becoming discouraged or defeated by spamming messages in a match or toxicity in a games, I might suggest dancing through the menu options and turning its text chat to completely disabled. You might think you’re backing down from a fight or ignoring your problems or whatever. From my own personal experience, it has all but spared my mental health, and that’s something to really spam “What a save!” about.