How Me Getting My Virtual Tukkis Kicked Can Make You a Better Writer

How’s your week been so far? Mine’s been going well.

I’d like to jaw today about a subject I’d actually heard on a podcast–the dude called it “conscious competence,” but I’d like to take a cue from my last post, put a spin on it, and call it “The Four Stages of Videogame Mastery.”

(These steps apply to any type of thing people normally do that takes awhile to get good, but I’ll explain it in a way that makes sense to me, based on my experience).

On a side note, I’ll be referencing games like Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and a couple of the Street Fighter/Soul Calibur type games as I’m going along (especially since Number One below is what partially dragged me down as I got back into Return of the King over the past several weeks).

All right, here we go:

Number One: This is the total noob stage. You’re a beginner. You know the general concept of the game (bump off the computer/other virtual opponents), but you keep getting hit/killed a lot, and can’t really figure out why, or when you do, you’re not able to react fast enough to your opponent(s) (especially if he’s your brother or friend), and get hit anyway. The idea of combos are a mystery because you keep getting hit and interrupted every time you try one.

Number Two: You’ve learned punching, kicking, and slashing, and you can block so you’re not getting killed every five seconds. Now you start to build on that to learn basic combos. You can pull off a simple one every so often, but you retreat to the basics after you get knocked around after you duff a few, just to be safe.

Number Three: You’ve moved beyond basic combos to the more advanced ones, but still keep getting your butt kicked by others or the computer guys because you may resort to advanced techniques at the wrong time or situation. And you’re still getting your butt kicked as you master figuring out timing, spacing, and things like that (because some characters are slower than others), but it’s way less than in Numbers One and Two.

Number Four: Near total mastery of everything. You know every combo, angle, and what-have-ya. Any damage you take is minimal or short-lived because you’ve blocked almost any attack before anyone or anything even thinks of touching you. And if anyone does connect, you know how to counter and make ’em pay, because you’re outside yourself now…you can study the patterns of your friends and opponents and learn how to defeat them because the game controls from your end are second nature.

(And if anyone’s curious, I’m basically high Number Three/very early Four with the games I mentioned above).

This is like writing actually, both fiction and copy. They work on certain principles and concepts (characters, plots, problems, or prospects/problems/offers/solutions) and if you don’t know what’s what, you can get lost or not know why something isn’t working (if I want to do some foreshadowing in a story, but I’m not clear on my character or what specific issues he/she is going to have, for instance–then I’m at the wrong spot way down the line and foreshadowing won’t matter).

Writing can be different than a lot of games (depending on their depth) because a lot of writers come to writing at different points in their lives, and can start out with a higher comprehension of different points than others…or some things can be easier or harder to grasp for one reason or other. With a head-to-head fighting game, for instance, you can have some idea of what the goal is, but going in, even if you’ve played a lot of them before, because which controller buttons do what move varies depending on the game, every player starts more or less at zero.

In writing’s Number Four, you keep a pad by your bed for writing dialogue in your sleep, another one by the shower, and bedrock writers like Schwartz, Caples, King, and your favorite genre authors are second nature. Number Four is where you start breaking the rules, because you can look beyond the actual writing itself. You can pull away from the magic that it’s creating and analyze HOW those things are being done.

Everything has basic building blocks that build into the advanced stuff. Taking it any other way, if you don’t realize why/how things are the way they are, is a recipe for failure and floppage.

Next post should be Triple F. Be sure to swing by for that.

Until next time,



About Ty Mall

Thanks for stopping by. I've almost always been interested in writing, among other things. Along with discovering pop culture, I've uncovered a lot about the craft over the past 10 years. And whether you're a fiction writer or email copywriter, I'm here to pass on what I've found out. And have a ton of fun in the process.
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