Before your pants get too twisted, let me clarify with some italics and nuance I couldn’t fit in the headline. I mean Roller Champions is the best game to play at E3. As in, the best game to play in a context where nobody has any idea what they’re doing, can all physically see each other, and are up for a laugh. I finished half an hour ago (as of writing this), and I can’t wipe this grin off my face.
I played three games of Ubisoft’s Roller Derby sci-fi nonsense. I was with two strangers, and we were playing against a team of Chinese journalists who we could hear cheering and whooping and hollering in a language none of us could understand for the whole 27 minutes. Nobody scored until minute 27. It was magical.
Playing Roller Champions at all felt a bit pointless, after Ubisoft had already gone ahead and given everyone access to the alpha. But my slot was already booked, so I rolled up anyway.
We started about ten minutes late because one person on our team had trouble finding the room. This wasn’t his fault, but time is as precious as diamonds at E3 and we all couldn’t help but hate him a bit. I mention this because by the end I wanted to give him a big hug.
I’ll never again have the opportunity to sit down at a Roller Champions game where everyone is still figuring out the controls, and that sucks. It started with me easily doing three laps, then realising I didn’t know which button the shoot button was, instead dropping the ball, and ruining everything. If you do three laps and score, then you earn the five points needed to immediately end the game.
After that, people figured out how to tackle. Our enemies were ferocious. Time and time again I’d fall to the floor and hear them cackle, only just picking myself up before another would hurl into me when I didn’t even have the ball. It was brutal, and in another context I’m sure I would feel little but frustration. Here, when I could stand up and peek over my monitor to see my opponents having a wonderful time, it was still frustrating. But I’d sit down smiling.
If the timer reaches ten minutes and nobody has scored, the game is declared a draw. This is despite the way that scoring a single point in the last five minutes will immediately end the game.
We all got better, see, but at almost exactly the same rate. They learnt out how to group up such that there was no way we could get past them. We learnt how to pass. More importantly, we started talking to each other – excitedly warning each other as the bruisers swept up from behind. We reached the goal a few times, but we’d always miss. Given the situation, each ill-fated shot was exquisite.
By the 25th minute of our last game, each team had only ever managed to do one full lap before having the ball wrested from them. By the 27th minute, due to a a series of terrible shots and failed passes where we just about managed to keep control, I was skating up to the hoop with the ball in hand. I passed to my pal, moments before being tackled to the ground. My pal passed once more, avoiding the same fate – and then finally, FINALLY, our third teammate scored. We erupted.
I laughed aloud again, typing that out. It was joyful in a way I can’t properly convey, and I’m positive I’ll never be able to replicate. When Roller Champions comes out next year I won’t be able to warmly shake the hands of my opponents as we all struggle to stop giggling.
In the middle of E3, with all the hype, the anger and the stress, it was a moment that reminded me why I play videogames.
But I bet playing alongside online strangers is going to be awful.
See our E3 2019 tag for more news, previews, opinions, and increasingly surreal liveblogs.