I don’t play Apex Legends. I haven’t since the few weeks it first released in February of this year, and I don’t plan on changing that.

That, clearly, raises questions. Why is a game I don’t play even on my Game of the Year list? That’s pretty simple if you know me: it’s that I played it at all.

I haven’t gotten into an online shooter since the halcyon days of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Learning about all the highs and lows of the battle royale format was a singular, propulsive experience, the former often masking the inadequacies of the latter. But after that, it was nigh impossible to get me back into another shooter.

A large part of that is that I realized I only play online to play with my friends. It’s a fine way to pretend that we aren’t just having a protracted phone conversation with each other while mindlessly pressing buttons and yelling at explosions. And lo and behold, none of my usual compatriots want to play battle royale games.

And honestly, who can fault them? It’s a brutal genre. If the concept of the meta doesn’t immediately strike you as intriguing, then that’s it. You don’t want to learn how the game changes as the circle changes, what weapons work at what stage of the game, how to build up tactical communication strategies, etc. You just want to get in a car or grab a gun and go.

But Apex Legends was different for me. It got me to play it on my own for weeks. And then it got me to badger my friends enough to get them to cave and give it a whirl. (They hated it.)

Apex Legends

It’s not just that it feels good to play, which seems like a given since it’s coming from Respawn. But it’s smart in its team construction options, lending you to think about your character choice. Do these two abilities work together? Do the options we have with this combination outweigh my lack of experience in this character? What other team setup are we most vulnerable to?

And of course, there’s the pinging system. Oh lord the pinging system. It single-handedly makes the game playable online. Mute voice chat and just point at what you need or what you have available. It’s mind-boggling how long it took for developers to take the lesson learned from Journey‘s positivity-only mentality toward online interactions and put it in multiplayer shooters, the highest concentration of the vilest people.

That innovation alone puts this game on my list, albeit at the very bottom. The ability to play competitively and meaningfully without having to talk to people that will take any and every opportunity to call me names is damn masterful. This isn’t a GOTY that I play; it’s one that I appreciate. And you should, too.