Alright, so finals have come and gone, and so has Christmas, which brought me 3 things regarding games: Red Dead Redemption, Super Scribblenauts, and some Dungeons and Dragons Essentials materials. Yes, I play D&D. It’s there in my About page, “Tabletop Gaming,” which covers a lot of things, but you can’t really call yourself a tabletop gamer without having played D&D, the original tabletop game. And to be honest, 4th Edition is basically World of Warcraft: the Tabletop Game anyway.
That’s not what this article is about, though.
While playing RDR and re-playing Zelda: Ocarina of Time this past week or so, I asked myself how the tactics these games require could translate into an article. I could have done some bullshit piece like “How to Rock Ultimate at Horseshoes in RDR” but that would have been a total cop-out. So, I got to thinking about all those general things necessary in more or less every game. So today, I’ll be talking about a bunch of considerations that can be boiled down to one simple goal: How to Not Suck.
1. Learn how the camera will fuck you over works
Years ago, back before 3D games were the norm, gamers didn’t have to worry about this. As soon as Super Mario 64 entered the equation though, all 3D games have had one more hurdle to jump over when you’re learning how to play: the camera. Now, in some cases, you can be in complete control over where the camera is positioned and how you can view the environment. In other cases, it has a mind of its own, and usually wishes for you to die many, many, many times. It would be prudent for you to learn how to best use the camera as soon as the game allows you to.
In games like Super Mario Galaxy, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, or Red Dead Redemption, you probably won’t have too many issues with the camera aside from the occasional hang-up against a wall. With other games though, like Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals or Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, the camera is out to get you, specifically by not showing you precisely what you need to see, forcing you to try to manipulate it subtly through odd character motion or simple brute force.
This will force you to attempt many stupid things to get what the game developers intended for you to obtain easily, but instead only succeeded in creating an exercise in frustration.
2. It doesn’t matter if you think the gameplay should be like X other game, this is what you have to use
It happens. The gameplay of a certain title can be somewhat shitty while everything else is pretty good, like the graphics, story, et cetera. The character might move a little funny, some of the items function horribly, or something might be straight up broken. Well, unless the game’s developers promise a patch to fix such issues…DEAL WITH IT. Learn each and every tick and adapt to them, or use them to your advantage. It’s not going to change, so you might as well take it for what it is. The faster you learn that you have to play with the video game you’re dealt,* the faster you’ll conquer yet another game in your library.
A good example is the Water Temple in Ocarina of Time. Yes, it sucks that the Iron Boots can only be equipped from the equipment menu and not as a C-button item, but NO there’s nothing you can do about it.**
3. Patience is a virtue….which NO ONE seems to have anymore
People seem to pass judgment on a game as soon as they finish the first 5 minutes of it, not counting cutscenes of course. If within those 5 minutes they start dying, they immediately throw it away calling it a bad game, or come up with other excuses. This can primarily be seen with online games these days. Well, here’s the thing: just as with anything else, video games take practice in order to get the hang of them. You’re not going to be scoring headshots like a pro as soon as you pick up a gun in Call of Duty, you first need to learn how to aim and shoot.
4. Sometimes, a video game just HATES YOU
Two words, one of which is a name: Mario Party. This game’s random events are designed to piss you the fuck off. People routinely get stars they do NOT deserve, coins get stolen from the people who have skill and win minigames, then are given to the people who don’t do jack shit. It doesn’t help that the “friends” you play with are all backstabbing assholes who will do everything in their power to fuck up your chances at winning, whether or not it’s by stealing or your items or forcing you across the board. They are in cahoots with the game’s random AI to make sure you NEVER win.
Or maybe it’s just me.
5. Try to think outside the game’s normal borders sometimes
This is more for Action/Adventure games really. Sometimes, the game gives you pretty solid guidelines with how you’re supposed to play it, but occasionally they’ll throw you for a loop by presenting a puzzle which requires you to stop thinking the way they told you to think originally. Or, you can make the game easier by stepping outside those guidelines and messing around, finding shortcuts or even helpful glitches. A good example is in Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. There’s a mask you can find called the Stone Mask which, if you wear it around town, will cause the townfolk to ignore you. Now, this would normally be unremarkable, except there’s a point in the game where you need to be stealthy, avoiding spotlights and stunning guards to pass through the area. Well, if you just equip the Stone Mask, all but the baddies you’re forced to fight will just ignore you and allow you to explore as you wish. The game gives no hints that this is a viable strategy except for the mask’s function itself.
6. Learn the move list
Obviously this is a tip for fighting games of all flavors. There will be special moves; learn them. Learn as much of them as you can, for ALL the characters. And not just the button combination needed to execute them, I’m also talking about what they do and what they’re vulnerable to. Of course, it doesn’t end there, as it’s also helpful to know things like frame data, safe moves and hitbox priority for each character, but the most basic thing you can do is learn their move list so you know what kind of arsenal you have for each situation and what the opponent can counter with. To continue getting better at fighting games, see Point 3.
There we go: 6 basic video game strategies which can be applied to almost anything. If you follow these points I can guarantee that you’ll at least be 5% better at all video games.† Of course, these are other factors that go into being good at games, such as hand-eye coordination, reflexes, and general bad-assery, but there’s only so much you can do to improve those outside of playing lots of games. And you’re probably doing that anyway, so I don’t need to tell you about it. Now, if you’ll excuse me I need to go over some things for this Saturday’s D&D game. My group is about to enter the Cairn of the Winter King, and unless they stop sucking they’re going to get a Total Party Kill…in which case I will laugh.
*I think that’s what the phrase is…
**Not until Ocarina of Time 3D comes out, at least.
† 5% improvement guarantee not guaranteed.