After last week's community question that asked you which game are you bad at, but still really like, we thought that this week we'd give you the chance to do some boasting and tell us about what you're really good at playing. So don't be shy. Tell us which games - or genre of games - are right in your wheelhouse!
As always, here's the USgamer team to tell you about the games that they believe that they're experts at playing.
Back in ye olden days, when the very best games were the ones that you'd have to put a quarter in to activate, I used to be quite adept at arcade games. Indeed, I held a few UK and world records for brief periods of times on games such as Pole Position, Asteroids, Pac-Man and Defender. That's when I was able to practice morning, noon and night on my favorite games, and play for hours on a single quarter - assuming the game was open-ended and endlessly clockable.
These days, with my reflexes ageing as they are, I'm not quite the dab hand I used to be. That said, I can still put up a mean score on Missile Command. At least, I did the last time I played it at the Gaming Museum that was at E3. It took me a couple of tries to get up to speed, but once I got going, I was amazed at how quickly my high-scoring tactics of yore came back to me. I also played Defender, and while I was only able to notch up a score of a couple hundred thousand, that was double the nearest attempt by anyone else. I guess if I continued to practice, maybe my old skills would come back to me?
But I digress, like Grandpa sitting on the porch, puffing his pipe, and talking about the good old days. When it comes to modern-day games, I have to point to racing games as a genre I'm still good at. While I'm certainly not the best in the world, I can still put in some pretty damn good lap times, as my various Rivals scores on Forza 6's leaderboards attest. When I go for it, I can get into the top 5%, and sometimes even a tad higher. I have no idea why racing games are my forte - but I think it's got something to do with them enabling me to get into "the zone".
I find that as I run repeated laps, the repetition gets me into a certain place where I stop thinking too hard about braking and acceleration points, and they just become second nature. Indeed, sometimes I even start daydreaming about other things when I'm lapping - but I'm still driving very consistently and very well. That's usually when I put in a best time, because I'm not nervous and over-thinking things too much. Indeed, that's the way I used to get world record scores. I'd be playing for hours, much of the time talking to people while playing the game, almost on autopilot. Then all of a sudden I'd start thinking about what I was doing, and would start doing badly until I relaxed again and got back into the zone.
I find I only get into the zone on certain action games that have repetition, but any game that has that kind of gameplay, I'm generally quite good at. I'm really interested to hear if anyone else gets into the same kind of gaming zone that I do when they play certain games. If you do, please let me know in the comments section!
I realize these aren't the hardest games out there, but thanks to when they found me, I have a terrifyingly thorough knowledge of Super Mario Bros. 3 and World. And I use the word "terrifyingly" because an incredible amount of information about these games persists in my brain long after more important data faded into nothingness. To this day, if I sit down with either one of these Nintendo platformers, finding every secret exit, power-up, and hidden block is eerily second nature, to the point where I often ask myself "How the hell do I still remember all of this stuff?" And cruising through levels is entirely effortless for me; a fact I never realized until someone who never really had a taste for platformers watched me do my stuff. I know I'm probably no different than the millions of former children once caught up in the wave of early '90s Mario Mania, but I have to admit it feels pretty badass to zip, glide, and dive with Mario World's cape like you're running a Blue Angels stunt show. As I've said before and elsewhere, that thing really is the sports car of Super Mario power-ups.
I guess the preceding stands as a sort of cautionary tale: If you have a kid whose brain is still elastic enough to remember stuff, try to jam some more important things in there before it's too late. While I value my Super Mario skills, sometimes I'd much rather remember the five years of French classes I took than be able to draw most levels from memory.
It's been a very long time since I've been able to commit myself wholly to a game and just completely master it. Being in the press means (usually) becoming a generalist. Sure, you get your Bob Mackeys and Patrick Klepeks mastering their Dark Souls and Spelunkies, but those guys are aberrations. The press is mostly a bunch of poor schlubs who have to be competent enough at all genres to get by… and sometimes not even that.
So, to get to a place where I could demonstrate real mastery, you have to look way back into the past. Back before I joined the press, and also back before I became enraptured by role-playing games and my reflexes began to atrophy through disuse. Back to the NES era, to the handful of games for which I've never lost my love... or my skills. Namely, the first two Mega Man games and Bionic Commando.
I know the first Mega Man is kind of janky, so I don't have any remorse about cheesing it at times—skipping over that annoying pit of moving gun platforms in Ice Man's stage, for example, where playing it fairly is likely to result in a death through no fault of the player's due to all that section's glitchiness. Still, I try to be honorable and never use the pause trick to beat the Yellow Devil in Wily's stage, for example. Likewise with Mega Man 2; I've beaten the the drawn-out vanishing block gauntlet in Fire Man's stage legit, and I don't need to fuss with it again. But I always play the game on "hard," like all good citizens do. I admit I abuse the Metal Blades, but that's not me being cheesy. It's not my fault that Capcom made them so damn fun to use.
Bionic Commando is the more unusual case, though, because I never owned the game back in the day. I played it a couple of times on NES, but for whatever reason it really got under my skin and I find myself returning it to again and again. I've never quite finished it on a single life, but one credit is no problem. There's just something about the game's swinging mechanic that feels intuitive, and I've never played a grappling game that's done a better job with the concept.
I was going to say the original Castlevania, also, but I tried a one-life challenge at Portland Retro Gaming Expo last week and died against the first Medusa head I encountered. Sooo… that's embarrassing.
Sports games! But you're probably sick of reading my takes on sports games, so I'll pick something else.
If I had to stake my life on playing a video game well, I'd probably pick Pokémon. I'm a bit out of touch with the current strategy, but it's relatively easy to put together a successful team, and I've always had a knack for out-predicting my opponents and setting up sweeps. In all probability I would be able to pick the cheapest, most overused team and do very well with it.
Of course, there's more to Pokémon than simply using the popular team. The truly great players are the innovators - the ones with such an in-depth understanding of the systems at play that other pros can't predict what they'll bring to the table. I bow to masters like Se Jun Park, who used a Pachirisu - ostensibly one of the weakest monsters in the game - to win the Pokémon World Championship in 2014. Even the developers are blown away by that one.
I have a lot of admiration for the people who can manipulate systems in such clever ways. My own understanding of these systems is frequently superficial at best, but I at least know enough to see the brilliance of what they're able to pull off by focusing on certain stat values, abilities, and team synergies. I probably shouldn't be too hard on myself, though. There's something to be said for execution as well, and that's something I tend to do pretty well, leveraging my understanding of what my opponent is trying to accomplish with their team, a certain amount of unpredictably, and a willingness to take calculated risks to gain an edge. At various points I've developed successful and even somewhat unorthodox teams for Ruby and Sapphire, Diamond and Pearl, and Black and White, though I've never quite been able to adjust to the current generation.
The thing with games is that, good as you are, there's almost always someone out there who's better. Even players as good as Daigo Umehara have met their match at one point or another. But I can rest easy knowing that I'm still pretty darn good at Pokémon, even if I can't win the World Championship with the Pokémon equivalent of vendor trash.