Current Comment: How good are you at games?

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In the old days, when my world was a lot smaller, I thought I was pretty adept when it came to video games. When schoolmates came over to play GoldenEye or Mario Kart 64, I would wipe the floor with them, naively believing that it was because of my unrivaled responsiveness and pad skills. In my circle of friends, I was the Steve McQueen of the Mushroom Kingdom; a normal digital 007 that would always triumph in the end.

Of course I was an idiot too. It wasn’t long before I realized that I wasn’t a video game expert, I was just a lot more familiar with these particular games than my friends. As with any activity, the more you do it the better you get, and compared to – oh, I don’t know – my buddy who only had a PlayStation or my little sister, I obviously had a significant advantage. I had spent hundreds of hours playing these games against people who still had to look down to know which button was which.

Over the past few years, the tremendous increase in streaming of “normal” gameplay from “normal” people has helped me calm down that a lot of people are a bit of junk playing games and that it’s okay to be junk.

We’ve already written about modern difficulty settings and optional tools being nothing short of positive, and husband Chris Scullion wrote a soapbox last year saying it wasn’t a shame for pros to play on Easy. Nowadays I totally agree, although in the late 90s it was a great humiliation to give my copy of GoldenEye to a classmate so his little brother could defeat 00 Agent Facility in under 2:05 and unlock the invincibility cheat; a real wake-up call where I was actually clearly average.

Below average, quite possible. I had “my” games – games I had played a lot and was good at (it’s barely a world record, but not everyone can memorize 100% banjo kazooie in less than five hours) – but it often took a while long time to find my feet. I’ve always gravitated towards single player games where I can noodle at my own pace. As more and more footage of players performing incredible feats began to circulate on the internet over the past few decades, it became clear that it wasn’t really me.

The tremendous increase in streaming of “normal” gameplay by “normal” people in recent years – as opposed to pre-teen multimillionaires who devoted their attention to destroying all opposition, engaging in chat and sipping product-placed drinks – has helped me calm down that a lot of people are a little stupid at games and it’s okay to be rubbish.

Over time, I’ve become more comfortable with my mediocrity. I loved playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, but I was more than happy when my kill-to-death ratio was 1: 1. Much like exercising, I now understand that my enjoyment of, say, kicking a ball or going to a tennis court for a quick game set match has nothing to do with being good at these things.

I would win so hard you would blame the mighty N64 controller.  Tut tut.© NintendoI would win so hard you would blame the mighty N64 controller.  Tut tut.© Nintendo

I would win so hard you would blame the mighty N64 controller. Tut tut.

And that’s still perfectly fine. I also don’t worry if my poor online skills get worse as I get older – it really doesn’t matter. In games like the ’99 Battle Royales (Tetris 99, Super Mario Bros. 35, Pac-Man 99) I jumped in early before the competition got too fierce, played around with the mechanics to orientate myself, played until I got mine Chicken dinner and went away satisfied. I don’t have to be the master or sit at the top of the table. Ability aside, I just don’t have the time to live, sleep, and breathe these days; there are too many. I’m pretty lucky to be a jack of all trades when it comes to video games; I go git gud when I’m having fun, what else is the point?

“But wait, how can you write about games for a living and not be that good at them !!” asks forumLerka372 tearfully. Well, here’s a secret – not all game writers are good at games. Some of them are super proficient in a certain series and genre, but toss them in the deep end that they have never played before and they will be as ineffective at a monkey ball as I am. As in any job or life path, there are the lucky few who are irritatingly good at everything and immediately pick up new things, but mastering a game is not a prerequisite for an informative and entertaining discussion.

The vast expansion of the medium’s horizons – with more genres, more variety, more options, and inclusivity – means that everyone inevitably gets “worse” at gaming, and maybe that’s one factor why we’ve seen the mainstream move away from the brutal removed has troubles of previous generations. Our attention is so divided and there are so many options that the average gamer just isn’t as good as the average 8-bit gamer these days. We got to the point a decade ago where punishment became a marketing point for a select few series. They remain the outliers, however – most games trip on themselves to help you out so you don’t lose patience. And as much as Dark Souls is the figurehead for challenging, obscure games, I managed to beat it. Can’t be that difficult, can it?

Dark souls© Bandai Namco

Despite all of the years of evidence that I am actually not a “pro gamer,” there is still an exaggerated part of me that believes I would beat anyone who dares to challenge my superior skills with Donkey Kong on any battle mode on stage by Mario Kart 64. Maybe I’m really wrong, but hundreds of hours of muscle memory have to count for something, right?

How good are you at games Are you a highly skilled, cross-disciplinary game master ready to beat all players in any title of your choice? Are you super invested in a single game and a bit of green outside of your comfort zone? Or are you, like me, a brilliant happening hero who is pretty terrible in everything, but still enjoys it? Let us know in the following surveys:

Thanks for voting. Feel free to let us know your strengths and failures in the comments below.

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