Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Push Forward Combat




Doom 2016 amazed gamers and game critics alike by how good of a game it was - but more importantly by how well it captured the correct spirit of the original Doom games - quite rare for a reboot. The core concept that the game creator held above all else was "push forward combat".
In a world full of cover based shooters - where you spend much of your time hiding behind shoulder-height obstacles, waiting for the right time to get up and take a few potshots at the enemies before hiding back down - Doom 2016 tries to incentivise the player to run towards the enemies, not cower away. There is little to no cover, enemies are not waiting in ambush - they are clearly visible and often running towards you, there are special finishing moves ("glory kills") the player can perform on an injured demon that look powerful and give additional resources - but only in melee range. 
The game mechanics are not the only part of the game that embrace the push forward philosophy. Everything in the story and surrounding narrative empower the player. You wake up in a literal shrine - your frozen body is a place of worship and reverence for the demon kind - because of the countless spawns you've decimated in the past. You're their rider of the Apocalypse - you don't sneak in the shadows. For the Doom Slayer to be stuck alone in the middle of a full blown demon invasion on Mars is an "I'm not locked in here with you, you're locked in here with me" situation. 
To the demons, he is the monster.

When I was a boy I used to play chess, often with my parents. As a naturally cautious, risk averse and "cover all the angles" type of person - I usually used a slow strategy, making moves that provided gradual advantage with almost no downsides - slowly grinding out an edge or waiting for the opponent to make a mistake. One day, perhaps inspired by some chess tutorials, I tried going in the complete opposite direction. Usually I strive to set up positions where the opponent couldn't take my pieces because they were protected. This time I was trying to maintain positions where the opponent couldn't take my pieces - despite them often being completely exposed - because I was attacking even harder on the other side of the board, and the opponent couldn't afford to spare the move or the piece to take advantage of my weakness. 
It was much harder, and my victory was substantially more challenging and less clear-cut than usually - but I remember that game, while most others faded from memory. It was more complex, with more moving parts, wilder plans and predictions. Harder - yet more satisfying.
And sometimes - that's the only way to win. Sometimes putting the opponent off balance, attacking him, challenging on every turn - has a higher probability of success than edging out a victory bit by bit, especially if the opponent is more experienced than you.

When faced with challenges, pain, jealousy, fear - you have a similar decision. For most people the default is to hunker down behind cover, lick the wounds, restore the lost sense of security. I am the same. I want to run away into my warm comfort zone, in my beloved virtual worlds, where the rules are clear and there's always a second chance. But sometimes escapism is not satisfying - even worse, it becomes part of the problem. Sometimes the right thing is to push forward. To feel safe by defeating enemies, not by finding something to hide behind.
If you're jealous of someone for being better than you, don't run away from the pain. Don't listen to the bland new-age advice about "you're perfect just as you are". You are not perfect as you are. No one is perfect, and some are better than you. Choose your battles, but if this is something that bothers you enough to feel real pain - don't waste it. Don't drown it in distractions. Embrace it, let the anger flow through you, fueling the furnace - make yourself better. Never perfect, but better. Everyday.

For me living with a "push forward combat" mentality means setting high standards and fighting against compromise, against mediocrity, against status-quo, against inertia. When I want to do something, but it's hard, it's risky, it might piss people off, it requires a lot of investment - and I give up, perhaps convincing myself that "I didn't actually want it that much", and "it probably won't be that exciting/interesting anyway", or maybe "it's a rational choice (I should rest, I don't have energy, I'll get sick etc.)" - that's a personal failure. On that day I have chosen to give up a tiny bit of life. On that day I could have lived a little, but I chose to die a little. Whenever I give up on something because I'm playing a cover-based shooter - and it happens so much more than I'm willing to admit - I'm a loser. Every time I give up, the assholes win.
We have all of eternity to do nothing, think nothing, feel nothing - but so little time to do, think, feel.

Be like Doom Slayer. Don't surrender. Push Forward.


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