Gaming is a popular pastime for billions of people around the globe. Unlike other forms of media, games offer an interactive experience that makes them endlessly generative and entertaining, whether you’re playing by yourself or with friends.
What’s more, while the most casual of gamers may be content with playing a game at the same level and rarely improving substantially, for most of us, the sense of progression and skill acquisition is a key component of what keeps us coming back to our favorite titles.
But how do you improve at a game? In truth there are many varied ways by which we can improve our overall skills in a chosen title. Whether you have ambitions to play a game professionally, or simply want to enjoy the process of becoming ever more accomplished, this handy guide should get you on the right track.
While many think of gaming as an instinctual act – one that requires little thought or preparation outside of the moment of playing, the truth is that a little research can go a really long way in helping you improve in your favourite title.
Researching a game can give you access to vital information you may not encounter otherwise, will assist you in linking up your understanding of the underlying gameplay loops involved, and highlight the core mechanics you can focus on improving.
For example, someone playing an open world game may benefit from researching where the best place to find certain items or quests are. It’s not guaranteed that you will discover them through exploration alone, especially if the game is particularly large. Elsewhere, sometimes it pays dividends to research some of the language and idioms that surround a given game. Certain titles, such as poker, have accrued a vast lexicon of sayings that describe each and every aspect of play. In light of this, brushing up on popular terminology employed in your chosen title – whether it’s a table game like poker or a high octane multiplayer title like Call of Duty – can be a great way to both deepen your understanding of the game, and connect with likeminded players who may be able to impart yet more wisdom that you can use.
When it comes to multiplayer esports, taking some time to learn the meta can be vital when it comes to ensuring you’re going to stay competitive. The meta, short for meta-game, refers to the sum total of the most effective strategies, character classes, abilities and weapons currently available in the game. The meta incorporates the existing game balance, in which certain abilities or items may confer a disproportionate advantage. The meta is constantly shifting, as developers roll out patches to improve game balance.
It seems like common knowledge that one of the best ways to get better at anything, including gaming, is to study and train under someone better than you. After all, more skilled players have access to invaluable experience that can guide you towards optimizing’s your own gameplay. But what many don’t realize, is that this effect works both ways.
This is known as the Protégé Effect, and describes a well documented educational phenomenon that finds that teaching another person how to do something can have a huge impact on your own understanding and ability in that given subject.
To understand why this works, one needs to think about what teaching requires. To teach someone something, you must first think about what you know about the subject, then you must break this down into simple rules, steps or maxims that can be communicated to the person you’re teaching. In effect, in taking the time to show someone what you know, you also clarify your own understanding in the process.
What’s more, teaching a new player can result in you being asked questions that are so obvious you wouldn’t have thought of them yourself. Zen master Shunryu Suzuki is famous for stating that in the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, while in the expert’s mind there are few.
This refers to the fact that when we think we know something well, we tend to make assumptions about it that can obscure our ability to recognize and incorporate new insights. By teaching another player, you not only get to take advantage of the protégé effect, but can share in the process of discovery a beginner player enjoys.