When you tell someone you’re a gamer, you get a pretty standard reaction. Women inch away from you, mothers shield their children’s eyes and ears, the elderly wave canes in your general direction. You get used to it.
But tell someone your a strategist, well… that’s another story.
See, gamers are people who enjoy games for a variety of reasons. They might like the story, or the sense of accomplishment that comes from winning, or they just use it to block out the sounds of their parents fighting.
But strategists like control. They like manipulation. They like setting up the dominoes, then tricking the inanimate tiles into knocking themselves over. They don’t even need to win, as long as they learned how to better react next time. And the thought of there even being a next time gets their tactical juices flowing.
Of course, there’s always a line between genius and madness, the definition of which depends on the overall genre of one’s work. If you’re a doctor, the line may be your decision to stitch together and reanimate corpses. If you’re a strategist, there are other telltale signs you should probably lighten up a bit.
#1: You are obsessed with distracting your opponents
In its infancy, this blog covered the strategic value of taunting in online multiplayer. It’s been nearly two years (wow!) since then, but not much has changed. Taunting, whether automated or verbal, still has the power to enrage, and as long as it commands power over your enemies’ emotions, it has real in-game value.
Who hasn’t missed a combo or thrown a bad grenade due to frayed nerves or nerd rage? It would seem stupid not to stoop to some level of taunting during your online adventures. But keep in mind, taunting is just a form of distraction. And there are millions of ways to draw another player’s attention away from the objective at hand.
A well-timed friend request or direct message pop-up can obscure parts of the game’s HUD, hiding that player’s ammunition, health, or skill bar. Or perhaps while the map’s loading, you could Google your opponent’s username and then fill the chat with disconcerting facts you’ve learned about his/her life. Double points if you can figure out their phone number and give them a ring during the final, crucial moments of the match. The possibilities are endless if you’re resourceful enough.
#2: You have a strategy for your real-life commute
Everyone has a perfect route for their commute; that’s totally normal. Hell, a well-prepared person has a backup route or two in case traffic gets hairy. But if you’re outlining actual driving tactics to apply to your rush hour haul, you may have a problem.
Do you drive really slowly, generating a large following space in front of you with the sole purpose of using that space to suddenly accelerate and cut off otherwise unpassable motorists? Perhaps you’ve discovered that brake checking tailgaters isn’t nearly as effective as swerving wildly in your lane to encourage them to keep their distance?
And just ask yourself: what’s the net effect on traffic if you drive four miles straight while holding down your horn? Maybe the volume coming from your car will unnerve other commuters, causing them to cede the right of way to you. Or maybe the horn will create a sonic slipstream that will increase your overall speed. You can’t know without giving it a try.
#3: You routinely perform actions that award no points
While playing the objective is often more rewarding for your team than it is for you personally, there are plenty of abstract levels of meta-accomplishment that extend far beyond capping control points and defending briefcases.
For instance, jump into Team Fortress 2 with a Dead Ringer. Get behind enemy lines, then proceed to lead as many enemies as possible into a map-wide goose chase. While Valve won’t be awarding you any points for your efforts, you might be calculating your high score as the time you spent perpetrating the chase times the number of foes you managed to wrangle into following you. There’s no real way to measure it, but if you managed to prevent half the opposition from actually fighting your teammates for 30 seconds, isn’t that an achievement in its own right?
If you’re not of the team player persuasion, don’t worry; you can always profit from pointless pursuits by ensuring that even if you don’t win, other players lose. Next time you’re in third place in Assassin’s Creed Revelations and you realize you can’t win in the next 15 seconds, get
destructive creative. You might not be able to reach your target halfway across the map, but nothing’s stopping you from chucking your Smoke Bomb, Mute, or Firecrackers at the three or four other players in your vicinity. Just because you can’t increase your own score doesn’t mean you can’t decrease the gap by which you lose.
Accepting your inner demons
Some people would call these behaviors childish gamesmanship. Others would label them “immature,” “overcompetitive,” or “wreckless driving.” There are valid points in those criticisms. But if you find yourself nodding along and finding a few familiar sounding stories here, you know one thing for sure: you’re not alone.
Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends entirely on whether or not we end up in the same game/interstate highway together.