Thursday, July 14, 2016

Verdun - 10/20 hours

Over the course of my life, I've noticed a certain feedback loop that has appeared again and again - If I'm good at something, I'll tend to enjoy it more. And the more I enjoy something, the better I get at it. It's a pattern that's had a profound effect on the development of my skills and interests, and I suspect that it's behind a large portion of the diversity of human talents and capabilities. A small variation in natural aptitude, magnified by a lifetime of reinforcement, can make two people who started with nearly the same potential seem entirely different.

And just as important as the feedback loop of skill growth is its converse - if I am not good at something, I'll tend to enjoy it less and subsequently be less effective at developing my abilities with that thing. Which sucks, because sometimes you have to do things you don't enjoy and there is not a perfect match between my innate proclivities and the demands of the modern world. If I could somehow crack the code of this paradox and bypass it within myself . . . I would have the key to nearly unlimited power.

And one of the things I could use that power for is getting good at Verdun (I mean, let's forget, for a moment, the possibilities inherent in finance, athletics, or even just writing the perfect resume). As it is, I'm able to force myself to grind, but I simply can't engage with the game in a way that will lead to me becoming anything else but hopeless. And I am hopeless. I've managed to get one or two kills a match, but I can't react quickly enough. I can't aim accurately enough. I'll be in a trench and I'll round a corner and see an enemy and pull the trigger as quickly as I can, only to be a fraction of a second too late. Or I'll sit on a hill or in a bunker, and I'll see an enemy in the distance, and I'll fire a half-dozen shots but succeed only in giving my position away to an enemy sniper. It's like I'm playing the game in slow-motion and everyone else is going full speed.

And it is this lack of connection with the game that is making it so hard for me to enjoy. I have to force myself to play it, and when I'm actually in a match, I'm burdened by a lassitude born of helplessness. I can't help but view it as a grim death-march. Every time I see the reload screen (and I see it a lot - I have something like a 1-8 kill-death ratio) I wind up having to give myself a pep-talk, straining for reasons why continuing is not a waste of time. And then I go out there and crouch behind some bushes or throw myself prone into the mud . . . and get shot by an enemy I never even see.

The skill I need here, even more than a fast reaction time or a steady hand with the ironsights is emotional resilience. I need to be able to absorb these failures and move on. Verdun isn't a bad game. It has admirable attention to detail in its environments and weapons. It looks good. The controls work well. But that just drives home the fact that I am a bad fit for it. At this point something has to give. Either I will have a breakthrough, or I will simply break.

My plan is to try and marathon the last 10 hours in a single night. When I get home from my weekly tabletop game, I will sit down in front of the computer at around midnight and just keep going until 10am. The more I drag this out, the more demoralized I become. If I can just power through, I might be able to enter some kind of gaming trance-state where I brush up against an otherworldly FPS-enlightement. Either that, or I will collapse in despair.

(Alternately, it will be merely a slightly difficult, intermittently-rewarding experience that I will not be eager to repeat, but where's the self-regarding drama in that?)

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