Saturday, September 30, 2006

How To Be Good At Games

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I'm not very good at Halo. Decent, but not good. Watching really, really good people play always leaves me a bit green and so, while trying to make the whole thing as un-Karate Kid as possible, I always ask them what their secret is. Here's the best answer I've ever had:

Go to where the people are, and kill them.

That, right there, is the only strategy you need to unlock about 80% of your Halo potential, and it holds for pretty much any other game where there are people and killings. It doesn't matter how well you know a level, how often you can snag the best spawn, how sneakily you can tag on a plasma grenade, if you don't have people on your screen, you're not going to get kills.

And then I noticed another thing. Despite the fact that my scores are woeful in comparison, my accuracy is much higher than his - but my shots fired is much lower. It made me realise that because I think I'm not very good at Halo, I make myself worse at it by trying to be better (I guess the Karate Kid thing is unavoidable). I faff around trying to manufacture a competitive advantage by finding a good ambush spot or trekking off for the best weapon. And when I do face off with someone, I'm so determined to try to be a better shot that I shoot far less.

It's all part of a phenomenon which I saw Saurian - a UK gamer with a reputation of general brilliance - sum up very succinctly with respect to God Hand:

I ain't a legend! The only difference with me is this;

Game pwns average gamer on a forum "FUCK THIS GAME!!! It'S SO RUBBISH!!1" *throws game out of the pushchair*

Game pwns Saur "Oh man - I'M so rubbish!!" *obsessively plays to get better*

And that's it, right there. When I play a game and do badly, it pisses me off, so I stop having fun, start getting crampy and end up playing it less. When the people I think of as seriously good at games do badly - they settle in, and enjoy the process of taming it. Which means, horribly, that Peter Moore was right: there is a zen of gaming, and Bungie are my bodhisattvas.