Playing Team Fortress 2 is like a flashback to high school, when I first saw the original being played on Quakeworld at a friend's house. I was hooked. But I was also torn apart every time I tried to play. It was a hardcore crowd, that game. And the Classic version that came out a few years later wasn't any easier.
So it's nice that TF2 is not really being made for the hardcore, as the developers confirmed lately. The classes are more cleanly defined now, so that the supporting roles actually support, instead of being hidden offensive classes at the hands of crazed obsessive players. I'm looking at you, Medic.
But it is still possible, even in the limited beta, to get wiped out by better teams--usually not better players, although that happens, but actual teams that are obviously linked up in either a physical location or by voice. In a game like this, that communication is deadly. There are several classes--the scout, the pyro, and to some extent the spy--that I don't think come into their own until they're really used as part of a team effort. To their credit, Valve has built a voice system into Steam that should make this possible even in pickup rounds, except for one little stumbling block: it weirds me out to hear other people talking when I'm playing video games.
Actually, I think it's more that I don't like hearing strangers online. People I know would probably be more palatable, maybe. But either way, it's a new experience, having someone's voice in my ear. And the vast majority of gamers--strike that, the vast majority of people--are not mouths that you want to imagine in close proximity to your head. It may be that turning them down, so that they blend in with the soundtrack a bit more, would get me past the discomfort.
Optimally, I join a clan with Gina Gershon and Shingai Shoniwa. Barring that, I'd probably prefer voice-to-text options--less lag, faster messaging. But maybe I'm looking at this the wrong way. Perhaps there's an opportunity here. Speech training for gamers: who's up for a class?