Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (or MMORPGs as they are commonly known) have become, if you’ll excuse the expression, massively popular in recent years. From hardcore titles such as “World of Warcraft” to more accessible options such as “Neverwinter” and “the Shadow Sun”, the world of interconnected gamers hooked up across the web has grown exponentially over the last decade.
One of the main reasons these games have become big business in recent times is their ability to engage all the senses. Indeed, far from being simple games that require little effort, MMORPGs force players to plan their tactics, use their power of logical deduction and analyze a myriad of situations. In fact, because MMORPGs are more like virtual games of chess and poker than uncomplicated arcade games, a whole industry based around competition has popped up.
The Rise of eSports
Today, eSports have taken over Asia, the US and Europe, and the top players, such as Lee “Flash” Young-Ho, regularly compete for millions of dollars in prize money every year. However, it’s not all intense competitions in the MMORPG world.
Developed by Cryptic Studios and based on the fictional world of “Neverwinter”, the main premise of the game is that players are plunged into a Dungeons and Dragons style game and must choose one of eight character classes. The reason Neverwinter has been embraced by casual gamers is that it focuses more on a central story, and players are thrust into different zones fighting for spawns.
In essence, Neverwinter is more of a hybrid game that’s part hardcore MMORPG and role-playing games such as “Dragon Age”. However, the one facet of the game that has proven to be a hit with core genre gamers and those looking for something extra is the foundry feature. This is essentially a quest creator through which players can create their own characters and journeys. Although it takes some time to master the feature, once the basics are set then it’s easy to use, and players have used this to create some complex missions.
In fact, it’s because of this feature that seasoned gamers have taken to the game as much as casuals. One of the biggest aspects of gaming, especially in MMORPGs, is the mental game. Although competitive players need to be physically fit to thrive on the professional circuit, there’s no doubt that eSports are a mental endeavor. This means that players need to employ a range of tactics in order to gain an edge.
Having the ability to create quests in the Foundry is another extension of this ability to use a combination of logic, cunning and guile to outwit potential opponents. However, without a solid mental game, this wouldn’t be possible. Fortunately, the gaming world (and in all its forms) is full of theories and strategies designed to improve the mental aspect of a player’s game.
One of the natural areas of inquiry for any aspiring gamer is the world of poker. Top class pros are known for their command of logic, mathematics and psychology, and it’s through this trident of skills they’re able to get ahead of their opponents. However, one of the biggest skills successful poker players have mastered is the ability to detach themselves from any long-term aspirations and be present in the moment. Liv Boeree, a professional poker and astrophysics graduate, is known for her powers of logical deduction.
However, a recent stint as a cast member on Mind Control Freaks alongside a hypnotist helped her to see there was more to competitive gaming than numbers and theory. After a series of hypnosis sessions, she was able to forget about any long-term fears about poker and learn how to focus on the moment. Through nothing more than the power of suggestion that she could improve her results by becoming a player in the present and not the future.
Adopting the right mindset
For competitive gamers, this sort of mindset is also the mark of a winning mindset. The end goal might be to become the best player in the world, but each event is a test, in and of itself, and that should always take precedent over any other thoughts. Indeed, when creating a character inside Neverwinter’s Foundry it can be easy to look at an end goal and generate features based on this. However, using this strategy might ignore some obvious skills needed for the present conditions.
As well as poker, the world of chess also has something to offer the canny gamer in terms of mental techniques. One of the most successful players of all time, Judit Polgar, is a big proponent of the psychology in chess, and this came from her father. Described as the “growth mindset”, Polgar asserts that she was able to flourish because she wasn’t raised with any perceived mental limits.
Her father believed that if a child’s mind is left to develop fully and without boundaries, then they can do anything they choose. This obviously worked for Polgar as she became a chess champion as well as a scholar in chess theory. For gamers, the ability to absorb new information and not limit themselves to a singular mindset is crucial.
Gaming Without Limits
Indeed, when starting a new quest in “Neverwinter” or creating one, the focus should be only designing things without boundaries. Just because a certain theme is common throughout MMORPGs, it doesn’t mean you have to follow the trend. By thinking beyond the norm you find other possibilities, and it’s these possibilities that can enhance your enjoyment and boost your success rate.
The final aspect of the mental game that’s worth considering is the mind/body connection. Chris Kluwe, a former NFL player and now gamer, understands the nuances of physicality and psychology in the sporting world.
The final aspect of the mental game that’s worth considering is the mind/body connection. Chris Kluwe, a former NFL player and now gamer, understands the nuances of physicality and psychology in the sporting world. Comparing his NFL days to his gaming pursuits, Kluwe asserts that pro gamers need strong minds in order to react in an efficient manner physically. The time between thinking and doing in gaming, as it is in football and baseball, can make the difference between a win and a loss. And that’s something which Kluwe has pointed out time after time again (that anyone whom having any thoughts about moving into the competitive realm, better have a very strong mind game).
Mind and Body Gaming
Of course, this advice is also salient for gamers who simply want to enjoy the game in a more casual way. Having the ability to think and react in a more efficient manner makes the game more beatable and, therefore, more enjoyable. Removing the mental element of gaming is something that’s simply not possible regardless of whether you’re playing “World of Warcraft” or “Neverwinter”.
Building quests, creating characters and navigating new worlds takes an array of skills. From being present in the moment to thinking beyond the boundaries of what’s considered “normal”, mental techniques can help gamers of all abilities get much more out of their chosen title.
Robin Ek – Editor
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