It all started when the free beta for Marvel's Avengers hit the PlayStation Store. The other Couch Soup community members I frequently played games with had already been playing it all week long. Meanwhile, I was stuck at work and couldn't find any time to get involved like I wanted to. Then, finally, my time had come… on the last day the beta was open.
I started the download process in the morning before I left for work to be sure it was ready when I got home. My internet service was expensive, but big downloads were still slow (a problem I would make sure to solve the following month by switching services). "At least it'll be done when I return from work," I thought, except no… the download didn't take because Call of Duty was taking half my storage space for some god-forsaken reason. So, I started it manually after making space by deleting the games I forgot I had, then resumed the grueling process of watching the minuscule bits etching towards the ready point. It says it'll take just under 2 hours.
In an attempt to edify my basic need for companionship (but not in that way), I put on my headset and joined the team chat with all my wonderful friends. As is typical of a group of friends, I was adorned in an adulated "LOUIE," before being prompted with the question, "You getting on?"
My heart leapt into my throat. I would have to tell them. They deserved the truth.
I tried to formulate the words, as I do. Commanding the most concise and coherent cohesion of convoluted consciousness coming together to communicate my cock-up. What followed was a stream of profanities at how "my stupid PlayStation didn't do it right!" After everyone was done laughing at my expense, the chat would go abruptly quiet for several seconds, followed inevitably by something along the lines of, "Holy shit! Is that the Hulk Buster!?" or "Duuuude that was sick, Amelia!" But the one that got me was Aaron saying, "Hold up, check this out," followed by everyone yelling at once in amazement. I asked what happened, but Aaron said, "No, dude. I want it to be a surprise."
My anticipation was so palpable you could smear it on a bagel. I looked back at the download time remaining: 4 hours… How? Why? What happened? My thoughts mixed with my emotions. It's been 30 minutes since I got home. It shouldn't be possible that this time went up instead of down. That's not how time works! Unless I've been lied to. Was I? What else haven't you told me!?
"Dude, don't worry. We're gonna be on for a while, man. Just put the PlayStation in sleep mode and that usually makes it go faster." The sweet, calming voice of Ash brought me hope in my existential crisis. Aaron, Candace, Josh, and Amelia chimed in words of affirmation. I was still upset but warmed by my friends. They care about me. They just want me to be happy. Their comfort ebbed my vexation, pulling me into a more docile state. I began to appreciate my friends even more than I already had. I tried thinking of the words to tell them how truly humbled I f- "OH MY GOD DUDE THAT WAS SICK!"
I turned my PlayStation to sleep mode.
I had time to step away and treat my anxiety with a warm shower. The warm water against my skin was soothing. Almost therapeutic. There is no need to rush anything. Soon, I will be online with everyone, and we will frolic gaily through the streets of whatever the hell the game sends us to because I have no idea what it's like since I haven't played it yet. We will beat the hell out of whatever stockpile enemies a superhero video game throws at us with a cohesion the likes of a real team of badasses can do. All the while yelling things like, "My dude! Hell Yeah!" and "Sweet" or even a classy "Brooooooo." Only, this time, I would join in the clamor. Alongside my friends.
It's been a little over an hour now. I have taken out the trash. I have fed all my pets. I have showered and cleaned up. If the time frame fixed itself, it should only be about 30 more minutes. I turn on the PlayStation. My excitement and concern rolled into a single emotion that there's no word for (I Googled it). I opened the notifications. My heart beat faster. I scrolled to the download section. I uttered a small prayer to the gaming gods: "Please!" The bar is blinking… it's loading the loading bar so I can see how much of the game is loaded, and I give a small chuckle at how funny this redundancy sounds in my head.
Finally, it tells me how much is loaded…. and I may have cried.
Twenty-five percent... left to go! I quickly put the system into sleep mode again. I would finally be able to get on with everybody soon! The final stretch was a blur. I don't know what I did or how it happened, but it finished downloading. I get on the chat. "LOUIE! You getting on?"
Celebration! Everyone is excited. I started it up. Aaron says, "Ok, there is a level you have to play first. Well, a couple. But it's all good. It goes by quick." This was not my experience. The opening was incredible. Ash and Aaron listened to me as I gawked in awe of the stylish fight mechanics, the wonderfully performed acting, the perfectly timed humor, and, most importantly, my fan-boi-like scream I ululated at the sight of Taskmaster.
Then that promptly fell to nothingness when I had to play as the Hulk for an ungodly amount of time since my stupid ass had to put it on Hard mode. I watched as the version I played just minutes ago was completely nerfed from a literal tank to the equivalent of an actual nerf gun, complete with squeaky-sounding darts.
The minutes ticked away with every checkpoint restart, and I gradually crept closer to the deadline when the Beta would close. Finally, I reached the end of the level! Now I just had to look around the secret base, solve mundane puzzles that ultimately don't do anything, do ANOTHER level, then fight a robot horde, and finally, I have unlocked the multiplayer!
I jumped into the server and looked for my friends… nowhere. They started looking for me, too, but, apparently, I didn't log into the account correctly. I don't want to repeat the words I said at that moment but, yeah, they were worse than what you are thinking. Everyone laughed.
After several minutes of logging into my accounts from both my computer and my phone, I was let into the community. I was ready to play!
My friends had all the practice they needed to master most of the skills. They knew who they preferred to play as and had formed a union of pure cohesion when combatting together. They moved as a single unit.
And now I can practice and fight alongside them. I played as Black Widow, and she was awesome. Aaron showed me the thing that made everyone yell in awe from earlier: a Hulkbuster suit that I can wear as another character. I may have cried in joy here. My friends were supportive of me and held my hand through initiation. "This is wonderful," I thought, "I am happy to be here and play with my-"
The servers shut down, and we all got kicked out of the Beta.
Everyone laughed. My tears of joy turned to tears of sadness. That said, I was already so burned out at this point that it didn't affect me as harshly. It was at this moment I said it, the words that are now a slogan among my group of friends every time something like this inevitably occurs and prevents me from gaming with them. My adult catchphrase:
"I just want to play with my friends."
Can you relate? What kinds of experiences have you had having to wait to join your friends near the end of the party? Let's commiserate in the comments!