Git Gud, Git Planning
Welcome back to our Git Gud* series! We work our way through some tenents of how to git gud and apply those gaming techniques to real life.
This mini-series will be broken up into the following parts:
Thanks to Fern11 for the idea!
It’s said that man proposes, and God disposes, but that doesn’t mean that never having a plan is much better. In fact, planning ahead, and planning for what to do if the first round doesn’t work out (even if that plan is “regroup and try again”) is one of the most important predictors of success. This can be for gaming goals, finance goals, social goals, or life goals, so it’s no wonder that games challenge us to think ahead and prepare.
And how lucky we can use those skills in the physical world…
Resource management is a term most of us will be familiar with, even if it’s not always something easy for us to do in practice. After all, our brains are wired for immediate gratification, which is one of the reasons video games are so appealing sometimes. Interestingly, in video games sometimes players have the opposite problem: those who enjoy RPGs know that using inventory is both art and science, and sometimes items are held for the duration of a game to be used in “the right moment,” only to be never used at all as we put off its use again and again.
If you’ve ever played Demon’s Souls or Dark Souls, this is kicked up a notch because if (when) the character dies, their inventory doesn’t reset to what it was at the last checkpoint, forcing the player to adapt to new resources to solve the same problems as before. It seems that here, too, it is advantageous to ration which resources are used, and when.
But how? Having a plan can help. While we as game enthusiasts can’t always predict what is coming next in a game, we can plan ahead as best we can. Under what situation would X item be useful? Think of a scenario of two in which the item/resource could be used, and then if that instance comes up, use the resource.
But what if you need it later? Well, as games like Dark Souls show, sometimes you make a good plan, and then need to get creative and adapt. With a little forethought, we can break down any problem in a game into smaller pieces and then systematically address each one.
It’s the difference between taking on an entire dragon, and breaking it down into different parts, a la Dragon Age: Inquisition or The Witcher 3, for examples. When you know the smaller parts to focus on, the enormous task suddenly seems a lot more manageable.
Often, a little careful planning can be more effective than raw skill. Assessing a battlefield in a shooter will keep you alive longer than running in guns blazing without any clue as to what comes next.
Unless you want to become a meme.
In the physical world, we usually don’t have to manage things like health potions and bandages and arrows and weapons, and we usually aren’t in situations where poor planning is going to get us killed, but that doesn’t mean that the planning experience from games can’t be used outside of epic virtual adventures.
Often, the resources we most often have to juggle are time and money. Games With Coffee recently wrote about being a Mature Distinguished Gamer, and the art of setting priorities, which directly informs making plans. To make plans, you need to know what’s important, and if there are a number of things to plan for, sometimes it helps to know what should be a higher priority, or what would be a “first step” for a multiple-step goal.
My mother would repeat over and over whenever I was cleaning my room growing up: “Only touch something once.” The sentiment is, essentially, to plan what you are going to do before you do it. To pick up an item and simply put it down again, only to pick it up later to put it away, wastes time and energy. Making a plan for each step along the way enables you to go through a task in the most efficient way possible.
Plan for Next Time, or, Being Systematic
How many times have you played a game, beaten a mini-boss, and then found that you had to beat the boss’s “big brother” a little later? Maybe the boss was resurrected, or had more help. Or, maybe, the skills you picked up from one boss needed to be transferred and adapted to the new situation. Knowing that the skills and abilities you gain in a game will come around again is a great step to developing a plan for the future. With this knowledge, it’s harder to be taken by surprise, because you already knew you’d encounter a similar situation, or would be in a place that required skills you’ve honed before. You could say you planned on it.
If a gamer knows that they skills they build will come up later, then it makes sense to hone the skills as much as possible within a safer or “easier” area before moving on. So, don’t be afraid to practice. Sometimes grinding can seem like a chore, but by planning ahead and knowing what skills you perhaps need to develop, you can set challenges for yourself to practice those skills in places that don’t demand them.
For instance, there is a portion in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty that requires the main character to use a sniper rifle. While not a timed section, accuracy is very important, and the first time I played through it… it was pretty bad. There is also an option to call in backup if it gets too hard. But I figured this was something I’d have to do, so I made a plan on how to tackle this section, and replayed it over and over again until I could get through it without calling in any help.
There’s no shame in learning a new character skill, and certainly no harm in practicing it, either. It seems strange that we expect ourselves – or others – to be instantly good at new skills, when we would hardly expect someone to be an expert surgeon or musician or graphic designer or teacher or anything else without many opportunities to practice.
Planning ahead is a skill that directly translates from gaming to the physical world. After all, each of us has had a goal that has required a little forethought. The difference between games and the physical world, though, is that games will sometimes show you the steps toward reaching the goal, and the physical world often does not. In games, you can also go back and try the exact same situation over until you get the satisfactory outcome you desire, and, again, the physical world rarely – if ever – allows for this time of clean-slate second chance.
So how can we impose this structure for ourselves and maximize our chances of success? One suggestion comes again from our Mature and Distinguished Gamer friend over at Games With Coffee and his first post on how to be a Mature and Distinguished Gamer. What is comes down to is something called task analysis, which is when a person looks at something to be completed – a task – and goes through every little step it takes and writes out all the steps in a clear and organized fashion.*
It isn’t until you break down a so-thought “simple” task (think of explaining opening a jar to someone who has never seen a jar before. “Open the jar”… Bang it on the table? “Twist the lid”… clockwise? counterclockwise?) that you realize just how many steps go into, say working on a project for your job. Being able to clearly see all the steps helps the end product become much more easily attainable – or at least will provide a clear path forward.
Planning is such an important skill to have, but it can often seem daunting. Feeling overwhelmed and like there are too many places to “start” on a task can stop the most well-intentioned projects from ever getting started, or halt a job halfway through. But by employing tactics we subconsciously hone during our gaming sessions, we are on our way to creating a better plan for anything life throws at us.
Do you find yourself planning things in games more than IRL? Have you ever used a skill you learned in a game for something in the physical world (and realized it) or vice versa? Let me know in the comments!
PS – Speaking of planning, that t-shirt is still in the works….
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you soon!
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