Microblog: Skill

The other day I was playing a console game and struggling with a boss fight. I’d been working on it for many attempts and failing miserably to get the boss anywhere close to dead.

After tolerating a half hour of raging, my boyfriend borrowed my controller and, after having never played this game, killed the boss in one try.

Now, he did have my coaching. Here’s what these buttons do, this boss is weak to fire, don’t forget to craft some potions, etc. But mostly he did it on his own, using his years of console experience to expertly control a character he’s never played before.

This made me think of video game skill, and how the difference between an expert and beginner is often hard to teach, and this extends to WoW. My boyfriend didn’t kill that boss because he knew the special mechanics of that game, he did it because he’s played hundreds of hours of similar console games and he understands console mechanics on a fundamental level, whereas I do not.

Later in the same day, I was coaching a friend of mine through Nighthold on our weekly casual run. While she’s leveled in WoW plenty of times, she’s new to raiding. I gave her the best instructions I could, trying to limit it to three or fewer mechanics she needed to know just to survive, but she still died a lot. Things that take no explanation for me, like “if my health drops, move” or “follow the raid” don’t come naturally to her (yet).

What WoW is to my friend, console games are to me. I still don’t intuitively know how to move my character or camera around, or how to watch boss movement patterns for opportunities to melee. And what WoW is to me, console games are to my boyfriend, who keeps instructing me to do things I don’t quite understand, like “hit R1”.

That’s kind of a bummer, since I’ll never play enough console games to get “good” at them, but it also means that I will at least get better as I play more. Neither of these things are an inherit skill, at least not completely, so they can be learned. A lot of the learning I did for WoW many years ago has been forgotten, though I still have vague memories of struggling with things that don’t even register now.