Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of Team Fortress 2 jumping. It's a lot like normal TF2, only rather the shooting people the goal is to propel yourself skywards using explosively powered movement techniques on custom designed maps. Yeah, it's nothing like normal TF2.
Jumpers have tournaments too though. They've spent the past month hopping through three separate events in the Beginnings 5 competition. With the competition now over, they've settled down again - and left us with some impressive aerial highlights. I've gathered the victors' videos below, and got a couple of the jumpers to sit still long enough to tell me about why they do what they do.
Those three events consisted of a head-to-head live race, a speedrunning competition split across three stages and different characters, and a trickjumping competition. That last one's my favourite, as it just involves doing something impressive on a map of the jumper's choosing. There's definitely something to be said for the excitement of a live race though, as shown in the finale between "Boshy" and "Yeye" below.
I like that commentating style, too. It's a chill counterpoint to the machismo of the recent PUBG Global Invitational and Overwatch League, and reflective of what I've seen of the jumping scene as a whole. It's refreshing to see a competitive environment remain friendly.
As jumper "Kidder" pointed out to me, that might have something to do with the way jumping is "a single player mode at its core". "You're not asked to actually perform except for situations like Beginnings and other events", said Kidder - "jumping is almost 100% practice".
I asked if that practice ever felt gruelling, and he emphasised the difficulties faced by beginners: "It's a very very harsh learning curve, I think you need to have a certain mindset to even break into the scene in a serious way because the time investment is extreme for what's really just a sub category of TF2 ... jumping is [at] its most frustrating when you literally do not understand what you are doing wrong, and that happens a lot when you're just starting out".
Kidder came second place in the Soldier category of the speedrunnning competition, losing to Boshy by a mere second. Here's Boshy's winning run.
And here's "Starkie" with his winning Demoman run.
Within moments of chatting to Starkie, it became clear how he'd reached the top: "I find training very fun. When I come to a really hard jump and spend hours trying to pass it; I can feel myself getting better. Even if it takes 10 hours over multiple days I don't get tired of it." I confess I baulked at that, though then thought about how I've probably spent a comparable amount of time banging my head against Dark Souls bosses.
Given the demands it places on people's time and patience, I asked Starkie how he'd sell someone on TF2 jumping:
"If you're the type of person who feels dissatisfied with games that are a bit too easy; you might want to give jumping a try. The community's had nearly 10 years to design a few fiendishly difficult levels that only a handful of people have managed to best. If you've been interested in speedrunning but you've never really put the effort into it, jumping is a great way to start. You don't need to set up a timer, screen capture or any of that stuff. You just need to download TF2 and join one of the Tempus servers. There's also so much variety. With over 450 maps and 2 completely different classes to play them on, there's always something to keep you interested. I think it's the variety that keeps me coming back."
I reckon merely showing someone this highlight reel of the trickjumping competition might do the trick. Even if looking at these jumps doesn't make you go 'I wanna do that', it may well make you say 'I wanna see more'.
Here's a playlist featuring the rest of the winners, as hosted on TF2RJ weekly.