Dodging Bullets

Unless challenged to think otherwise, people quickly move from “Phew! Dodged a bullet on that one!” to “I’m a great bullet-dodger.”
Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

This is not restricted to gaming, but I notice a lot of gamers are unaware when they are fortunate and instead believe that they are highly skilled. Wait, no, these are gamers, so they instead believe that other people suck because they got a worse roll of the dice. Consider the question of how difficult content is.

At a high level, most games favor certain playstyles and builds. This will vary from game to game, but if the game is designed to be beaten the way you normally like to play, you will have an easy time of it. You are using moves you have practiced in a dozen games. There are complaints about games that favor stealth, that make stealth worthless, that make melee worthless, that require melee, etc. Developers are often gamers, and if a key decision-maker has a playstyle similar to yours, you’re in business. From your perspective, the game is easy and intuitive, and you don’t understand why those losers and slackers are having trouble with the boss fight you cleared on the first try. Oh, because the end boss was easy to kite, and you have been playing frost archers since 1998, while your buddy the tank keeps getting whacked by the enemy’s undodgeable one-shot melee attack.

Sometimes a piece of content is just easier for one class or build, and you happen to have that one. Sometimes it is harder for one class or nearly impossible for that class unless it has a particular build. The Queen’s Gauntlet from Guild Wars 2 comes to mind, where guildmates reported having great trouble with some fights and the best advice seemed to be “play a Mesmer.” (I did not have enough level 80s at that time to compare fight difficulty between classes, but I definitely noticed the fights that were easy with my usual build and the ones that required me to change up my skills and weapons.) Sometimes your build becomes the flavor of the month. So you have one group of players posting about how laughably easy the content is, another about how it is nearly impossible, and neither is necessarily better or worse or even wrong. It would be more accurate to say that one piece of content is laughably easy for bunker Guardians and nearly impossible for dagger/dagger Elementalists; but you play a bunker Guardian and think of that as “you,” while he plays a dagger/dagger Elementalist and thinks of that as “him,” so it sure looks like you are better than him.

Sometimes it is a roll of the dice that comes out in your favor. That is the closest case to the original quote and a great source of heaping hatred upon “losers and slackers.” Most game content includes random elements. Balance assumes a normal distribution of random results, but the normal distribution has some pretty long tails. In a world of seven billion people, “one in a million” events happen seven thousand times a day. Someone is going to have an easy time of it because the dice were favorable. Someone is going to have a hard time of it because they were not. Few people go back to content that was trivially easy; most people repeat content they failed the first time. You win if you get a few good rolls in a row, but bad rolls can just keep happening. This stacks with the previous paragraphs: the randomly selected enemies are particularly good/bad for your class/build, or the margin of error was tiny/huge because the game hates/favors your playstyle. So someone with a good roll of the dice never looks back and wonders what is wrong with the people hitting a randomly impossible wall.

In gaming discussions, That Guy (as in “don’t be that guy”) has no deeper understanding than “I’m good, you suck.” He gives advice like “play more,” “try harder,” and “get better.” (This is not an exaggeration. Our comments here have included advising someone to be better at the game.) That Guy thinks his crit-focused build is awesome because he got eight crits in a row and killed the boss, without noticing that was a 1 in 100,000,000 chance; that boss was easy, you suck. Of course, sometimes the game sucks because he lost, and he’s an awesome player so it must be the game that sucks.

: Zubon

3 thoughts on “Dodging Bullets

  1. Jeromai

    Surely I can’t be the only one obsessed with “What is the programmed pattern of bullets that boss is spewing out?” and “If I understand that and can visualize it, it’ll be so much easier to know where it is safe to stand and when to get ready to dodge!”

    If the boss is easy to kite and does hard melee hits, it’s time to break out the ranged characters in one’s toolbox, etc. etc.

    *maps all the things and tries to formulate a universal strategy of multiple factors contributing to failure or success*

  2. SynCaine

    As I keep telling my wife, if you want to move up in LoL ranks, you need to get good and stop being a feeder.

    Advice seems to be working so far…

  3. Pingback: Fail and try again, succeed and move on | Hardcore Casual

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