Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I've Got A ProTip For Ya

I like the term "ProTip." People use it all the time on Twitter, and it cracks me up. Sometimes the ProTips offered are actual gaming tips, but usually they're to do with food combinations or restaurant service or wedding etiquette or public transportation.

But alas, the bloom is a bit off the ProTip rose. There's already a backlash going on and as it turns out, I never even got to use the term before it became horribly dated.

Jeez, Twitter! You can take a joke from New to Popular to Meme to Played to Over in like six hours.

Anyway, all that preamble was just paving the way for my one and only ProTip. It relates to games, specifically action games. This is not an area in which I consider myself qualified to offer to many tips, pro or otherwise, so I am particularly excited to share it. Here goes:

ProTip: If a particularly difficult section of a game is kicking your ass, try it with the sound off.

It works for me, anyway. Especially lately, on some of the twitchier games I've been playing. I am... not good at these types of games. The thought of Ninja Gaiden Black makes me break out in a cold sweat. As a result, the above technique has served me quite well.

By the fifth time I'm facing down a particularly maddening boss, the pounding music, screaming enemies and stressful audio feedback loop is no longer exciting; it is a maddening distraction. For large chunks of God of War II as well as the giant scorpion fight in God of War III, several sections of Bayonetta, the egregiously poorly signposted indoor platforming sections in Mirror's Edge... I turn off the audio or take off my headphones and suddenly I am in a zen-like gaming state, finally able to think clearly. Inevitably and often immediately I master the section that had been whupping me.

The bummer is that it feels oddly like a defeat, anyway. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it's that by turning off the audio, I am removing myself from the game, changing my perspective from frantically immersed combatant to coolly detached observer? When I defeat the challenging section, it is with some sheepishness that I bring the volume up on the subsequent cutscene. I cheated! I have not earned this dollop of storytelling!

(How weird is it that videogames have conditioned me to feel this way?)

Anyhow, there you have it - my first and probably only ProTip. I hope it is helpful.
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