[GUIDE] Stress, your brain, and you.

Written by Agoat

Emotions are very tricky to understand sometimes. I still find it remarkable that a game, built to be fun, can be a source of frustration. However, these feelings can not only be conquered, they can even be used against your opponent.

Pressure is a word used in fighting games to describe using your moves and attacks to keep your opponent on the defensive. These strategies are practiced ahead of time, and are very deliberate. Being the aggressor and putting pressure on the opponent will involve using carefully chosen moves to eventually break your opponents guard, and get in for big damage. Having to defend against strong pressure is very stressful. In a worst-case scenario, strong pressure may end up tilting you and having you completely fall apart. It’s not unlike a rough game of Halo.

Pressure in Halo is often similarly applied in two ways: 1) Grenades and 2) Positioning. Grenades have an insane amount of applications, and will soon have their own guide here at Anchor 9, but we’ll be focusing on positioning for now. Positioning factors not only into movement, but is also how you create a strong defense in a first-person shooter.

Let’s take a look at the Pit, a map from Halo 3. The sniper structures on each side are great examples of strong positions that allow you take engagements on your terms.

This position is strong for a number of reasons, it’s up above most of the map, it has a Sniper Rifle spawning underneath, and you have plenty of cover and escape routes in case of trouble. Your main challenge will be the opposing team’s sniper in most cases, but if you win that encounter you are in a strong position to support your team.

This new “power position” gives you a direct advantage over most players looking to frag you. Not only is it good to be up here, but it feels good. It’s easier to hit people down below, you get easy access to a power weapon, and you can engage on your terms. This feeling of power is going to give you confidence in a match, and you don’t have to worry about being shot from every angle. You choose the angles of engagement, and that will help keep you on target, as you can focus more on the task at hand instead of worrying about being shot from a random direction.

This is something you can do on offense, too. By checking one angle at a time when taking a corner, even if you’re just doing a brief check, you can help dictate the terms of your engagement. This is called “slicing the pie”, and it’s very important. I mean it. If I catch any of you blindly running out and getting shot after reading this I am going send you a VERY sternly worded tweet.

I’m trying out these new gameplay methods, and I’m doing worse! Why??

Any time you make a change to your gameplay, you are likely to perform worse early on. There’s a few reasons for this, the obvious being the change you’re trying to implement is new, and you need time to practice it. The less obvious thing to consider is how much mental energy you need to expend to remember your new tech. With less mental energy to devote to the rest of the game, you may slip up along the way.

A great way to mitigate these problems is to practice with friends of a similar skill level that respect the learning process. Having training partners makes everything easier, and gives you a way to practice and learn without having to worry about your performance.

Muscle memory does not equal skill!

You can expect me to drive this point home every chance I get going forward. Jumping in and grinding out matches doesn’t make you a skilled player. A deeper understanding of yourself and your opponent does. Anyone can be lethal with a sniper rifle. How are you using that knowledge to your advantage? Are you baiting out that guy on the other team that keeps running for sniper spawn? Are you positioning yourself favorably with your own team’s sniper? Have you even considered that the other guy might have the same read on you? Map features are far more than just an objective to sprint to, and the sooner you understand that your opponent has just as many options as you do is when Halo will really open up for you. (Yes, we will be exploring these ideas another time!)

A great way to see this in action is to just leave a fight. If there’s a team fight happening elsewhere on the map and you find yourself in a mid-range engagement in a 1v1, just leave and join the team fight. That guy you left all alone? I guarantee you he’ll sit there confused long enough for you to turn the team fight around. The theater replay is always hilarious.

The Power a Loss Gives You

When I first started playing Halo, I was deathly afraid of losing. It never felt good, and I felt like I was letting everyone down, including myself. I took me well over a decade to learn this very personal lesson, and I’m sharing this experience with you in hopes you’ll learn from my experience and kickstart your learning much faster than I did.

In 2016, I played on stage at CEO, a fighting game major out of Florida. I had no business on that stage. Despite enjoying the fighting game scene, I wasn’t good. I ended up on stage against Kenny Omega, yes, pro wrestler Kenny Omega. I went on that stage scared out of my mind. I couldn’t find my friends, and when I sat down to play I literally got so nervous I forgot everything I knew about Street Fighter V. I lost, looking like I had never even played before.

I got off the stage and… nothing happened.

The weekend went as well as it could, and I had fun. A few people recognized me from my stage match, but they were so polite and understood completely how it felt to be so far out of your comfort zone. My friends were supportive as well, more disappointed that we weren’t able to link up before my match. I can’t even find footage of the match anymore.

Suffering such a high profile loss (at least for me) taught me that losing is entirely what you make of it. Five years later, I seek out losses, looking to learn from players stronger than myself. This isn’t some bizarre desire to get blown out, either. A light amount of stress can enhance your ability to form memories and learn. This varies from person to person, and while my tolerance for this might be different from yours, it’s still worth testing yourself so that you can ascend to a higher level of play. Whether you win or lose, I’ll be here cheering you on. ♠️