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I would like to be friends with the Team Fortress 2 seal

Godspeed, you magnificent bastard

A close-up look at the seal in Team Fortress 2's Selbyen map.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Valve

When Team Fortress 2 finally got its long-awaited Summer Update last night, I wasted no time in ignoring its contents and joining the same 24/7 Dustbowl server I usually play on. This morning, however, Alice0 pointed out something to which I really should have paid more mind: one of the new maps has a seal. An actual, smiling, squishy seal. It’s great.

Our Liam interviewed some of the TF2 voice cast at PAX West 2022.Watch on YouTube

The map is Selbyen, a special event map based on a sleepy Norwegian fishing village, and the seal is in fact central to how it plays out. Slain mercs drop tubs of fish, which can then be collected and fed to the seal (who flops, repeatedly and adorably, from an animal control van to the nearby sea) for points. First team to 100 gulped fish wins, in addition to the seal, who wins regardless.

As the focal point of each round, the seal is almost constantly surround by gunfire, explosions, flamethrowers, and heavily accented men pouring fish into it. Despite this, it’s always wearing a happy face, bouncing along and occasionally slow-blinking like a contented cat. I love it. It might be my favourite thing added to TF2 since Badwater Basin. The one quiet gun around it tends to be mine, as I stop to admire – maybe even envy – this gigantic bean living its best life.

A seal bounces towards the sea as a group of Team Fortress 2 mercenaries form a defensive ring around it.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Valve

Sadly, not everyone appreciates the seal. For literally every other player I’ve seen so far, the allure of competitive victory outweighs the desire to stop and cherish what good is left in the world. To them, the seal is not a friend, nor even an NPC: it’s a counting machine, into which you merely dump collectibles until a win state comes out. If these screenshots suck, it’s because my time spent looking at the seal is normally cut short by some tryharding Demoman, too blinded by my fish bucket bounty to see that the real prize is shuffling along the sand.

A battle rages around a hungry seal in Team Fortress 2.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Valve

I am at least encouraged by the video Alice shared in the first place, a spontaneous celebration of the seal across team lines (and, presumably, real nations). A server-uniting dance party that both welcomes a new, permanently beaming face to TF2 and shows that some FPS games can be a laugh even when the shooting stops. The update may have taken a while, but right here, it’s Team Fortress 2 at its best.

The Scout poses next to a happy seal in Team Fortress 2.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Valve

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