Teaching an old dog new tricks – why SC-2 is not just for the kids
Modern computer games are for the young, everyone knows that. After all, you need good hand/eye coordination and lightning fast reflexes. At least, if you want to be any good, right?
This is what many people think, and it is given credence by a recent scientific study: “Over the Hill at 24: Persistent Age-Related Cognitive-Motor Decline in Reaction Times.” This paper supports the argument that gaming is for the younger generation. They studied game stats from over 3,000 players of StarCraft and found that 24-year olds save 30 seconds worth of thinking time over the course of a 15-minute game, when compared to somebody 15 years older. What this means is, that the younger players think faster and can do more in a game.
Disclaimer: Some knowledge of gaming terminology required.
I love StarCraft, and play it almost every day. But as I am over 50 years old, it is reasonable to assume that I would be at a terrible disadvantage compared to my younger compatriots. Well, let me tell you just how wrong that is.
I love to play one-on-one games. For me, this is the best part of the gaming experience. I have never played the campaigns, and while, as a writer, I can appreciate the intricacy of the storyline, I simply want to face my enemy, and let the best man (me) win.
In the words of Conan the Barbarian, what is best in StarCraft? “Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their women.”
And that, dear reader, is my mission and I will achieve it at any cost.
Does that mean I cheese? You bet your sweet britches it does!
The average age of SC-2 players is the mid-20s. I am more than twice their age, and am often older than their parents! Conventional wisdom says that older people do not play video games, but if they do, they are certainly not any good at them.
I beg to differ.
The study mentioned above was performed by researchers at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. According to them, I am going to be slower than my opponent at every stage of the game.
In theory, at least, I should lose most games. However, if you check my stats, you will see that this is clearly not so. I maintain an average win rate of 50% or better, at high Diamond level.
I have a couple of builds that I know well, and I will do these for most matchups. I have a very good win ratio for Protoss and Terran, and a truly terrible ratio for Zerg. One day, I will learn how to beat Zerg, then there will be no stopping me.
With regards to speed, one way to measure it is APM (actions per minute). At the moment, I have an APM in the 150s. This has been increasing in the last years. What this would appear to indicate is that far from getting slower as I get older, I am getting faster.
Also, I am highly aggressive. From the first marine out, I am attacking. And I do not stop until I win (or lose, obviously). And no, this does not mean that I am doing one base, all-ins. I prefer to get an expo up quickly, and in many games, I will out expand my opponent. But that does not mean that I stop attacking.
I get a kick out of beating players half my age. Hell, even a quarter my age. I love sneaky attacks that leave them wondering where all their workers have gone.
My favourite tactic? When it comes to cheese, as a Terran, you cannot beat a proxy factory. The best part is that you can build it outside their base, then float it in, and produce widow mines and hellions. This is a common tactic for me, and I do it against Protoss and Terran, but never against Zerg. They have overlords that see and know all. For Zerg, I like the engineering bay block better.
If you want, come and find me. My player name is MazTer (a pun on both Mass Terrans, and Master, the Dr Who character).
But as much as I like to compete with the youngsters, there is no question that I do not have their stamina. I find it best to play in the morning, when I am more able to focus. I have discovered that when I play in the evening, my game suffers and I rack up losses at a far greater rate.
And when I lose, it hurts. Worst losing streak? Thirteen games in a row. Ouch. At that point, you are just about ready to give up. But then, that is the secret, isn’t it? Persistence, practice and patience pay off.
So, when it comes to gaming, and StarCraft in particular, can you teach an old dog new tricks?
The answer is, I think, most definitely yes.
While I do not dispute Simon Fraser University’s findings, I will say that there are ways to mitigate your shortcomings, and maximise your opportunities. For me they key is early game wins, or to out macro my opponent until they have mineral starved themselves to death. Constant pressure, solid macro and a willingness to be sneaky. It works for me.
Talk to your parents. Maybe it would work for them too?