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Alasdair Duncan avatar 5:39 PM on 03.23.2011  (server time)
Technical Difficulties: Why am I not getting better at games?

So after an initial run through of the fairly average Severed DLC for Dead Space 2, I thought to myself ďYeah, Iím going to try this on the Zealot difficultyĒ (Zealot being one harder than normal). Wow, that was a mistake; Severed is composed of two chapters that donít really test you too much on Normal difficulty, but I found myself repeatedly dying at the encounter with multiple enemies. With my tail tucked between my legs, I restarted Servered on easy purely to get some achievements, but the initial failure stuck with me. Iíve been playing videogames for at least two thirds of my life by now, so why am I still not actually good at them?

Now thereís many ways that you can judge your skills at videogames; you can look at how long it takes you to complete a game; compare gamerscore and achievements/trophies; are you top of the table in mulitplayer matches; do you always have to ramp up the difficulty level in games? Looking at all of these, I think itís clear that Iím not actually very good at videogames. I lack certain skills and personality traits that I feel have stopped me from being able to challenge myself to be better, but why?

Frustration is the main one for a few reasons: back in the day, when there was no internet and I couldnít get a gaming magazine to look at the cheat section, if I got stuck at part of a game, I was stuck there forever. I know Iím not the sharpest tool in the box and my puzzle skills are woeful (look at my progress in the first Professor Layton game and weep), so when a game poses me a mental challenge that I canít overcome, I bail. I just leave the game and move onto something else. Itís not just mental challenges; with a lot of skill based game, there comes a point where I feel Iíve done all I can to overcome a challenge but I still canít get over that hurdle. Iím thinking about games like Jet Set Radio or skate, both of which I enjoyed, but games where I seemed to be continually banging my head against a glass ceiling. There were just bits that I couldnít get past no matter how many times I tried, no matter how often I simply put the game away and came back to it at a later date, I just couldnít finish them off.

My fondness for certain genres is also a problem. To be honest, I pretty much play shooter/RPG hybrids (Deus Ex, Mass Effect, Fallout 3 etc etc) and various adventure games (Portal, Assassinís Creed, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Dead Space etc etc). Not the widest variety Iím sure youíll agree. Okay, I do dip into other genres, like the recent Telltale adventure games and the downloadable Double Fine games), but I donít touch either sports or fighting games, RTS or JRPGs or any MMOs. Playing these specific genres is no way to gain general gaming skills. Now that I think about it, surely playing games like Starcraft 2, Super Meat Boy or Lost Odyssey would help me become more proficient at micro-management, speed up my reactions and give me a better tactical mindset?

The thing is, Iím not even that good at the games I do play. Iíll normally a game on Normal, but Iíll rarely bump the difficulty up. Surely I could at least bump up the difficulty up in some of the games Iím at least fairly proficient in. I think in my mind, the difficulty level is tied to progress; why make things (artificially) harder for myself and limit my chances of progression and actually finishing the game? But surely playing at a harder difficulty would benefit me? I mean, I would appreciate the challenge and finishing a game on a harder difficulty would be an achievement worth savouring.

So whatís the answer? How do I (at least in my own mind) become a better gamer? As far as I can see, thereís three options?

1. Man the fuck up and finish the games you canít complete. I mean, other people can finish them right, so why shouldnít I? If I get to a point where I canít seem to progress, I need to just keep trying and trying until I through it.

2. Play a more diverse range of games: it canít hurt., can it? I mean I bought Chrono Trigger and The World Ends With You but have hardly touched them because Iím not a fan of JRPGs. I need to bite the bullet and play them and play them and play them all the way through.

3. Pick some games and get good at them: as I mentioned, Iím not actually that good at the games I do play, so I feel I need to pick a title and get really good at it. I was semi-decent at Team Fortress 2 for a while, coming on top of the charts for a few matches on the servers I played on. But as with life, no matter how good you get, thereís always plenty of people who are far better than you. So hereís my goal; get an awesome new PC rig this year, get Battlefield 3 when it comes out and commit to the multiplayer. I want to get really good at it, not at the sake of playing single player games

So guys and gals, what díyou think? Are there things I could be doing to help me become a better gamer?

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