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Any Team Fortress 2 player today will tell you about the wide selection of hats and other cosmetic items in the game. Hats have been a part of the game since May 2009, and I can remember that even as early as 2010, people were already joking about both Valve's and the playerbase's obsession with them. However, I have never understood the appeal behind them.
According to my Mercenary medal, I started playing Team Fortress 2 on 31 May 2009. The original nine hats were first introduced just ten days prior, in the Sniper vs. Spy Update of 21 May 2009; the next batch of hats were released in the Classless Update, on 13 August 2009. I am quite sure that my first playing session of Team Fortress 2, which started on 31 May 2009, ended before the Classless Update came out; I probably played throughout June and into some of July of that year, but then I took my first break away from the game before the beginning of August. Thus, my first impression of the game—formed during that first playing session—was that, because there were only nine of them and they didn't do anything other than look pretty, hats were nothing more than a very minor distraction. This was the attitude that most people held at the time as well.
Of course, things have changed much since then: nowadays people will spend non-trivial amounts of real money just to purchase hats, which are and have always been purely cosmetic items! I have always stuck by my original attitude, formed during that first playing session: that hats are just distracting fripperies, not really worth my time or attention, and certainly not worth my real money. You might think it strange that I've stuck by my first impression of the game, which was formed during a month or two of regular play back in the middle of 2009. I've played the game a lot more since then, so you should think that, after nearly 12 years (as of March 2021) of on-and-off play, my first impression of the game is now outdated, and I should go with today's crowd and embrace hats. But this is a (mostly) nostalgia Web site made by somebody who tends to be very resistant to change; I definitely hold on to my first impressions of things for very long periods of time.
Admittedly, I do have a few hats and cosmetic items on my account, but they were all acquired either through in-game trading or given to me by the game. I keep their number to a minimum: all my classes wear the Mercenary medal (which is very small and hardly noticeable), but besides this, my Scout and Soldier have no other cosmetics; my Heavy, Engineer, Sniper, and Spy have only one additional small cosmetic; and my Pyro, Demoman, and Medic only have two additional small cosmetics. Valve dedicated a lot of time and effort into designing the character models without the extra cosmetics, so I avoid all outrageous-looking, over-the-top, or ill-fitting hats, and wear only those that I believe genuinely enhance the overall look of the class in some subtle way. 99% of the hats in the game don't do this, but only distract because they look so out of place.
I say with pride that the only time I ever spent real money on Team Fortress 2 was for the game itself, when I bought the boxed version back in 2009. I have never spent another penny since then—not for weapons (which, unlike hats, are actually useful), and certainly not for hats. I have accumulated a lot of Refined Metal over the years and could easily buy several hats with all of it, but I don't even bother. If I were to lose all the cosmetic items I have besides my Mercenary medal, quite honestly, I would not even be slightly bothered; the only one I really care about is that Mercenary medal, because it is proof that I am a Team Fortress 2 old-timer (nowadays, at least).
P.S. After re-reading what I have written, it seems I've neglected to mention things like paints, action taunts (the taunts which aren't specific to the weapon the class is holding), and weapon qualities (Strange, Genuine, Unusual, etc.). None of these things were even in the game when I first played it back in the middle of 2009, so you can imagine that my attitude towards them is the same as my attitude towards hats and other cosmetic items: they are unnecessary distractions, and I would hardly devote any time or effort, and certainly not any real money, to acquiring them. I have no paints or action taunts on my account because I have never cared enough to get them, and all my weapons are either of Unique (i.e., the default) quality or, if I acquired them before the Mann-Conomy Update, of Vintage quality.
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This page last modified on 29 March 2021.