22 November 2013

On Video Game Tactics as an Old Man

In honour of the new Xbox’s release this coming morning, I dug out an old blog post I never finished writing, and thought I'd chuck a rough version of it up here.

I have become quite addicted of late to the hand picked articles over at Longform, and today I read a great article about Obama’s actions in Libya, which it got me thinking, of all things, about how I play video games.

The article is a profile of United States president Barack Obama, in which the author seeks to explain Obama's leadership style through an analysis of a few key moments in the first half of his presidency. Its main focus is on the very public decision for the United States to intervene militarily in Libya. However it intersperses this with another angle of the presidents approach toward tackling complex situations by discussing his strategy going into the weekly game of basketball he organises with other members of his government.
In the lead up to the article proper, the writer goes over Obama's explanation of how his style of play has had to change over the years as his abilities reflected his age. One paragraph in particular stuck in my mind:
“What happens is, as I get older, the chances I’m going to play well go down. When I was 30 there was, like, a one-in-two chance. By the time I was 40 it was more like one in three or one in four.” He used to focus on personal achievement, but as he can no longer achieve so much personally, he’s switched to trying to figure out how to make his team win. In his decline he’s maintaining his relevance and sense of purpose.
This line of thinking reminds me of how I play games like Halo or Battlefield. In particular why I like playing team oriented games, rather than the helter skelter frenzy of a free for all.
Let me explain.
Though I may not be that aged yet (It seems that as the average gamers age has increased each year, so has mine; so things work out nicely), I nevertheless do feel that there is an immense advantage for the youth when it comes to playing video games. First of all, they have more time to play. I remember fondly spending hours and hours with friends perfecting every possible circuit in games like Super Mario Kart, or stealthily stalking opponents on GoldenEye, to the point that tense stalemates ran into hours of rigging proximity mines, or sniping the sharp edged polygons of a crouched individual, trying their best to remain in the small shadow profile we had each mentally mapped.
We've come a long way baby
In addition to this extra training time, the younger gaming population is also able to capitalise on their apparent quicker reflexes, and as a result, an uncanny ability to hone their aim when compared to mine.
Now I have never been much of a long distance fighter as it is (give me a shotgun and melee any day), but I can still sense the disparity in aim, and thus accuracy, when a battle gets going.
So a while ago I decided that I would not let this asymmetry get me down. Whatever I may now lack in youthful spry, I can more than make up for in guile, strategy and determination.
I may not be able to stroll through a battlefield picking off my enemies with uncanny headshots as my opponents often do. However these days when I burst on stage I can assure you that, though I tend to go down in a hail of bullets, when my charge is complete and the dust has settled, the opposing team is well aware of it, and generally worse for wear because of it.

There is no I in team, and thus there should be no ego on the battlefield. More often than not I notice younger gamers tend to be glory hogs, they go for the highest score for themselves, regardless of the team's situation. They grab whatever weapon they desire, and assert that they are the best at whatever endeavour they are undertaking.
More often than not this comes to mind..
I pick team based games because I like the strategy. I like looking at what is happening in a game, and figuring out the best plan of attack to turn the tide in my teams favour. Perhaps someone needs suppressive fire, or maybe just a charge into the open to distract the other side. Either way these actions are rarely major points getterson their own, but add up these plays as an overall game plan, and you soon find yourself rising to the top of your teams leaderboard, and aiding the overall probability of a victory.

This is the kind of maneuvering that doesn't see as appealing from a single player point of view. But harrying one's opponents is just as important as taking them out, or capturing the flag.

They always say know your enemy, and what enemy truly hits home more than one’s own weaknesses? At the end of the day it is about knowing your own limitations, and accepting that though the playing field is not even, the bumps and troughs it provides can just as easily substitute for cover as they do for hindrance.

Coming full circle this whole thing reminds me of my own days playing basketball.
I remember the emphasis always on who got the baskets, especially as our coach’s son was the tallest, and thus the officially sanctioned team strategy was ‘throw it to Matt’
After games my mum would always compliment me on my movements on the court.
“You're always where you need to be”, she would say; “they just don’t pass it the way they should”.

These days at least I know where I need to be, and the initiative is on me to make the most of this position.

Twas the Night Before Xbox….

I have that giddy feeling that I associate with memories of waiting up for Christmas, or my birthday to come. That odd moment when you seem to be distanced somewhat for the reality of the world, and look at it from some third person view. Excitement flows through your veins. Tomorrow is coming; the event you’re waiting from is almost here. Other worries empty from your mind, and your thoughts are consumed by that one slowly shrinking time period between now, and when the big moment finally comes.

Tomorrow I get my new Xbox One.

These days however I can also notice a slight twinge of pessimism seeping in. My adult mind can't sustain the same childlike idealistic view of the future. I keep on thinking about what will go wrong. About how the moment I am looking forward to will never come as smoothly as I imagine it, nor will its eventuation truly match my expectation. 
Perhaps it will pull a next generation version of the red ring of death, or maybe the games will have sold out. Best not to get too carried away and to stay realistic I think to myself.

But all that being said, I still feel like a kid on Christmas eve.

For years I have been fortunate enough to live my life slightly below the average gamers age. I am just over 29 years old, and the average gamer is around 32. So as I have grown, and the gaming world has grown around me, I was always at the cusp of the ‘right’ age to capitalise on games. When I was young, there were simple games. They slowly got more complex as my mind followed suit. As I became more mature, so to did game content.
Yet I can't help notice that this is a trend which cannot be kept up forever. Gamers will continuously be added to the lower end of the age spectrum with far fewer taking up controllers on the higher one. One day the number of gamers younger than me will outnumber those older and I will find myself on the opposite end of the burgeoning wave of new gaming experience.

But at the end of the day that isn’t really anything to complain about.

So here I am, waiting. Waiting for my new Xbox.