Monday, December 7, 2009

Cross-Genre Skill Ups

Lately, I've been playing a lot of massive multiplayer online first person shooters (MMOFPS, or specifically: Modern Warfare 2).  If you've ever seen The Guild, then you may know that there is definitely a difference between the MMOFPS player and the MMORPG (you should know this acronym by now) player.  Yet, as I've been playing, I've been wondering just how different those players really are.

In The Guild, Riley (the FPS player) and our red-headed heroine (Felicia Day aka Codex) are portrayed as having almost nothing in common (except maybe Zaboo, but this isn't a gossip blog, now is it?).  Personally, I've always been a fan of both styles of games.  Ever since grabbing three of your friends for a night of Goldeneye on the N64 became socially acceptable, and yes, even popular (dare I say it), the FPS genre has been a staple in my gaming diet.  In fact, I'd almost say I'm more social about FPS games than I am about RPG games.  I mean, FPS games are a blast to play with friends and often dull on the one-player side, whereas RPG games are usually quite stellar as a one-player but can lose some of the epic-ness as a multiplayer game.  Not that I don't love myself some MMORPGs, but the truth of it is that some of the story is lost in the process of making it an MMO.   And story, while pretty much optional in an FPS, is quite necessary in an RPG. 

In any case, my polygamerous (#iblamesyrana) nature led me to question the accuracy of the portrayal in The Guild.  Now, I love the show and so I have to point out that the relationship wouldn't be nearly as funny or entertaining without the extreme characterizations.  After all, that's sort of why we all watch it, right?  Not because we actually identify with any of the characters.  Oh no, never that.  We're all quite healthy and balanced individuals.

However, despite the publicized differences between the two gamer sub-types, I believe they actually have several things in common, especially when you look at PvP players within the RPG world.  I would even go so far as to say that there are skills that are transferable across the different genres.  Unlike the timid Codex, many of us are quite comfortable with a controller in our hands.  It may even be that controllers were your first introduction to gaming and the keyboard/mouse combination came later in your gaming life.  For me, I think they sort of came in at the same time: I played on battle.net just as much as I coerced gaming-newbs to let me ricochet grenades off three planar surfaces around a blind corner only to explode at their feet.  All while running around as the diminutive Oddjob (or the second moonraker person.  Not the first mind you, the second FFS), taking golden gun potshots at your waist-region.

So what are these transferable skills?  Let's take a look at my top-ten:
  1. Situational Awareness - Topping the list, this is a highly sought after skill for any game type.  If you know what's going on around you, you're gonna live longer, and aren't all these games really about trying *not* to die? 
  2. On-The-Fly Thinking - Or OTFT as I call it.  In a good FPS, you're required to adapt to changing situations and make the best of what's presented to you.  This is great for an RPG raider, even better for a PvP'er.
  3. Snap Decision-making - This goes hand-in-hand with #2.  What do you do when there isn't a clear-cut "right" decision?  It's one thing to just be able to judge on the fly.  Here I'm talking about being given a 50-50 choice and having to choose one.  After all, as Rush says: If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.  Fail at this in an FPS and you're done for, with someone tea-bagging your dead body.  Fail at this as a raid leader and you may cause a wipe.  Fail at this as a PvP'er and you're getting "kek'ed".
  4. Honed Reactions - Or practice-makes-perfect.  Any good FPS player can tell you how hard it is to switch FPS games.  Go from say Resistance 2 to MW 2 and you know what I'm talking about.  I pwn'ed ass on R2, but I can't freaking target people in MW 2 before I'm face down.  Targeting is ever so slightly different between games and when you pick up a new one, you realize you're going to have to train your fingers a bit before you can get back to doling out dirt naps.  I think a lot of RPG'ers really downplay the value of trained fingers.  If you have 2 and 3, but not trained fingers, you're going to be throwing your keyboard at a wall (or the infamous controller through the big screen).  
  5. Learning The Maps - One of the earliest complaints you'll hear during a LAN party: "But you know this map!"  An excuse used to explain why you just got pwned by your little brother, there is some validity to it.  It won't restore your tea-soaked pride, but it will inspire you to learn the maps yourself.  Any good PvP player can pick out the newbs from this alone.  This is also the ability that will help you set up ambushes and net easy HKs.  It doesn't hurt in PvE either, as it can really help you plan your pulls or retreat to fight another day.
  6. Teamwork Prospers - God I'd hate playing those clans with their snazzy [TAGS] and team headsets.  You'd kill one of 'em and have three more hunting you down.  Free-for-all is one thing, but if you can get a group of similarly skilled friends together, you'll roll roughshod over the general FPS populace.  FFA/PuG teams just don't know how to work together.  It's sort of like the despair you might feel when someone calls out "premade" five seconds into your favorite BG.  The bottom line here is that these games are designed for you to work as a team.  The sooner everyone figures this out, the better.
  7. Death Defying - You learn real quick in an online FPS that dying is No Big Deal.  Sometimes you just have to run in, guns blazing, and kill three to your one.  After all, that's a small victory right?  Plus, maybe you're breaking up their Maginot Line for your team's blitzkrieg.  Sure you could flank it, but subtlety costs time and time is something you don't always have.  This doesn't translate well to PvE, but PvP could definitely demonstrate this one.  Sometimes you just have to be okay with dying. A lot.
  8. Patience Under Pressure - It's easy to lose your head when you've just been knifed from behind twice in a row only to spawn looking a Harrier strike in the face.  It's easy to then not notice the convenient nearby doorway you could duck into and avoid the barrage.  It's easy to become a free kill for someone.  If you keep your head under pressure, however, you can greatly extend your life in any game. Clutch players aren't born, they've just seen a lot more action than you have.  Michael Jordan was special, sure, but without having experienced some tense situations early on in his career, he might not have become so great later.  You learn from having "been there".  You get confidence from facing challenges.  Success breeds success.
  9. Game Format Familiarity - Capture the flag is capture the flag, no matter how you dress it up.  Maybe you're playing PvP, maybe you're in an FPS, maybe you're running through the neighborhood with paint guns and bandannas.   It's tough to play a game well if you don't know the rules.  However, if you've played any capture the flag before, you can probably wing it.  Same with other types of games, if you've seen 'em before, you're probably going to be a little better.  Not to mention being able to adapt strategies to different genres of the same game.
  10. Language Insulation - I'm not sure if this last one is a skill.  Is "selective hearing" a skill? Is it an art form?  If you've ever thought Barrens or Trade chat was bad, get on any FPS and hook up your headset.  Not for the faint of heart.  WoW is like family programming when compared with MW2's Howard Stern wannabes.  Sometimes you just have to block it all out and play.  After all, someone can only insult your entire family so many ways before it just gets repetitive.  It's not like any of these folks are all that imaginative anyways.  What I wouldn't give to hear a new "your momma" joke...  At least I might get a good chuckle of that instead of twenty-seven-different-ways-to-say-the-F-word-so-I-can-prove-I-know-how.  
That's the top ten I can think of.  Got any other ones?  I think the main point to take away here is that no matter what game you're playing, there are always redeemable gaming skills.  Even in different genres.  FPS games may bring a host of different personalities than an RPG, but at the end of the day, good gamers are the ones that can bring the skills they've learned from the past to prevent the tea-baggings of the future.  Also, experiencing a variety of games could potentially help increase your WoW skill level.  Sometimes what you fail to learn in an MMORPG may be taught better in an MMOFPS.  

At least, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

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