How To Be Better at Games

Written by Edward Noad

August 2, 2010 | 10:32

Tags: #chase-goose #game-theory #how-to #psychology

Companies: #bit-tech

The Path to Pwn

A mind capable of fathoming the best way to play coupled with raw gaming skill are two parts of the holy trinity of ultimate gaming prowess. The final part of the equation is concentration. I’m not talking normal concentration though. What I’m talking about is a state of mind akin to meditation, sometimes known as ‘getting into the zone’.

Separate from religious connotations; meditation allows someone to order their mind and to focus their thought processes. To do this the sub-conscious should be fully absorbed by the repetition of a mundane task, allowing the conscious to ponder without distraction. Many martial art forms have kata specifically designed for meditation. The most important tool of any warrior is the ability to focus on the objective – kicking the crap out of the other guy.

The first game I achieved this state with was Zuma. I had hit what I thought was my talent ceiling at level nine; I just couldn’t play fast enough to get past it. Then one day I breezed effortlessly through. My eyes flittered around the screen searching for colour groups, instantly looking behind them for gap bonus opportunities, all the while thinking one shot ahead of what I was actually doing. That feeling, when your hands seem to act on their own, is something most gamers should be familiar with on some level – Joe’s talked about getting it in SiN: Episodes, for example.

How To Be Better at Games The Path to Pwn
Skill: If you have it, flaunt it!

Achieving this wonderful harmony of mind and mouse isn’t something you can force though and maintaining it can be just as difficult. You need to be physically comfortable and mentally relaxed, so don’t expect to get there unless you know every mechanic of the game you’re playing and it has no surprises left in store.

The biggest barrier to staying in the zone is something surprisingly commonplace. As your conscious thought begins to wander, you’ll suddenly start to get itchy and find you won’t have a free hand to scratch it with. Don’t worry, it’ll do away on it’s own but ignoring it in the meantime takes superhuman discipline. Maybe that’s why Buddhists wear those scratchy robes…

Assuming you don’t dance or play an instrument, there are still a few simple steps I think you can practice to help you up your game. If you really want to knock that smug highscorer off the top spot then it might just be a matter of changing the way you play. Here are a few tips…

How To Be Better at Games The Path to Pwn
Some of those spikes will attack you in mid-air
  • Don’t Correct Your Mistakes – It takes a lot more work to rid yourself of bad habits than it does to avoid making them. It may ruin the fun, but consider reading FAQs straightaway, rather than finishing the game first.
  • Practice Makes Perfect – If there’s a practice mode then make the most of it by isolating yourself and going over tough spots a few times before you move on.
  • Get Creative – Don’t let yourself get stuck using just a few tactics or relying on certain abilities. Try new approaches out to broaden your skillset.
  • Don’t Give Up – It can be grueling and it might seem impossible, but stick with it. Nobody said winning was easy.
  • Go Outside – You can only improve so much if you stay at the PC, so don’t be afraid to go elsewhere and try plotting things out on paper or practicing certain finger movements.
If you think these simple tips can’t possibly make that much difference, here’s something to keep in mind. In his show Trick or Treat, Derren Brown spent a week teaching an OAP to play poker. She was a complete novice before she started but that worked to Derren’s advantage; she had no preconceptions about the game and could absorb everything without any relearning. He then entered her into a televised tournament game against seasoned world-class professionals. He was so confident of the abilities he had given her that he paid the entrance fee himself.

I’m sure an enterprising reader like you can find out what happened…
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