ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

On the Other Side —

I am positive I used to be a better game player.

I was very good, I think. I was certainly pretty good at video games that required me to learn a few basic rules and then apply myself towards a bunch of simple sprites who worked in a fairly predictable manner. My control was a joystick and a button, or maybe a spinning knob, or even smattering of large buttons. I could play the games for some time, although I never would call myself a world champion. But I knew, in the grand scheme of the population of the world in raw numbers, I was in sight of the top.

Those days are over.

I play Halo 3, this newest game of newest manner, and I have my ass handed back to me with a side of potatoes. I am not being exaggerative, when I say that I play the part of the tree branch and the other players play the part of the wood chipper.

I know I can punch the person in the head and win, and I run towards them and I am dead. Half the time I don’t know why. Another half I don’t know the rules, or where I am, or who is killing me. Sometimes I don’t know what team I’m on or what weapon I’m carrying. And many, many times, I have the same general resources as someone else and yet in a person-to-person showdown I am a pancake.

Oh, sure, I could claim that I “have a life” or that there’s something genetically or mentally wrong with my opponents or I am in some way superior in some other measurements. But come on, that’s lame. The fact is, they’re better. They want it more. They practiced. They got good.

I play these multi-person melees like I do a lot of things; scooped with a dollop of humor, talking incessantly, lackadasically running through the rules and ignoring most of them, and hoping that I have some sort of golden boy luck that lets me finish the assignment having done none of the homework. So guess what. I’m not the leader of the pack. I’m not even the hunter. I’m the rabbit scurrying into the super-obvious burrow with his white tail sticking out the hole and I’m someone’s dinner.

We all want to be the hero, all want to be the person who comes in, unexpectedly, and turns into a Mozart before the very shocked eyes of our colleagues, friends and family. But it doesn’t always work that way. Here’s one case where I will not hide behind my successes of a quarter-century ago, my advancing age, or my priorities. I play this game and I am a wall mural, over and over. If I concentrated more, I might do incrementally better. But I will never be a champion, never be the top of the heap.

And so it’s up to me to be willing to not be the lead dog and still want to be on the run. And I do.

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  1. Andrew says:

    Urg, I couldn’t abide playing a shooter like Halo online, controllers and all 😉

    But anyway, Halo is “hardcore” and immensely hard to play and practice, it might be you’d be much more willing to invest lower amounts of time in another easier to play game where you can get your skill up in a matter of a few hours, not a few hundred hours.

    Actually, Team Fortress 2 seems to be like this – if you know basic FPS traditions and can take the visual clues, there is no need of a tutorial, only the tips/hints that are displayed as you play. Being team based too, means a lot less pressure, and you get help – and don’t win “for yourself” but as a group, which is much more satisfying and tactical.

    You also get a deathcam meaning no “I died, but I don’t know how” situations 🙂

    Okay, so I find it fun and am getting pretty skiled after a week or so of play. I just say there are even FPS’s which can be fun without being tedious to learn and having a steep learning curve like Halo.

  2. Kizzle says:

    I consider myself a very decent video game player, and Halo online multiplayer completely owns my ass. I can hold my own against my friends but the internet is brutal.

  3. Jim Leonard says:

    You’re not alone. I played Halo 2 deathmatch the other day after a half-decade hiatus of playing ANY FPS, online or not. At 0 and 22 (yes, that’s 0 wins, 22 deaths) in FIVE DAMN MINUTES I decided that, yes, my reflexes are shot. Either that, or I don’t have 8 hours a day to practice.

  4. Ryan says:

    I’m glad to hear i’m not the only one who suffer from IDS (inexplicable death syndrome) while playing the Halo games. I gave Halo 2 an honest try when it came out a few years ago, and found that it was just not the right game for me. After 15 minutes of gameplay, I had died more times than Superman. I gave it up then. I’ve considered going out on a limb and giving Halo 3 a shot, but I have an odd feeling the game hasn’t gotten any easier…