I never actually played Team Fortress 2 myself (time-consuming academics and all) -- I just kept up with all the comics and short videos. So I don’t have much to contribute to #SaveTF2.
At least, in terms of actual stories about playing TF2.
So I’m about to tell you Teufort Tumblrites a very, very different story about my involvement with this fandom -- back in the days when I was an undergraduate, the servers were thriving, and my friends were always ready to make jokes about this game.
This is the story of the tumor pinata.
My background is mostly in two overlapping fields: biology and bioengineering. In one of my undergrad honors seminars, I had a group project where we had to do a presentation on a paper on a topic of our choice. We chose antigen-specific cancer immunotherapy -- essentially, using the immune system to fight cancer without hurting the body with its own immune cells in the process.
Now, I love presenting, and I really like to do fun multimedia things to make my presentations more fun for the audience. In particular, I like having interactive aspects, and I like giving out food. So in this case, I decided that I should do the same thing with this presentation, to make it more memorable.
Specifically, I decided to make a big pull-string papier-mache pinata. Which I painted to look like a GIANT TUMOR.
You see, the students in the audience were supposed to represent the immune cells, and they would come up and pull the strings to kill the tumor. Which I had decided to fill with Starburst candy.
It was a massive hit with my class. Naturally, this meant I decided to tell my friends all about it.
My friends who played TF2.
I was a fan of the series already. I had read all the comics, watched all the videos... except one.
You see, because of how focused I was on my studies, I didn’t always have time to check for updates to my favorite series, whether they were games, comics, shows, or anything else. And I, pre-medical biology student and creator of the tumor pinata, had absolutely no clue that Expiration Date had come out shortly before my presentation.
It should also be noted, at this time, that I have a very obviously German surname.
Hoo boy, I got a LOT of jokes about the Medic and his tumor bread.
I ended up just kind of running with it -- he’s my favorite TF2 character, so I’d say I got a good deal out of this -- and Expiration Date quickly became my favorite video in TF2′s entire repertoire, partially just because of its legitimate quality, but also very much because of the tumor pinata. Because of this, I got way, way more involved with the Team Fortress 2 community, both with my college friends and online, and started following TF2 fandom blogs, meeting other people who liked the game, sending memes back and forth, etc. I’m even still friends with some of them, after all this time!
So that’s the story of how I made my first real connection with the Team Fortress 2 fan community. Not through fan fiction or fanart. Not via cosplay or conventions. Not even by playing the actual goddamn game.
My friendships in this community were fostered, at their core, by tumor candy.
As a side note, I stored the remains of the tumor pinata in my family’s garage for several months, until it was finally eaten by mice that decided to live in it. Archimedes might have competition.