Thursday, 20 January 2011


  These are far from coherent thoughts, but came to me as I was out boarding this morning. Something like snowboarding (in a non-competitive way) resonates with certain types of gameplay, where both are solo, skill based, leisure activities. There is a special thrill, when boarding, of getting to a skill-level where you can 'read' the slope as you go, matching your turns to the curve of the mountain and pushing yourself to the point of almost, almost crashing out completely. Even when intensely familiar with a certain run there is a limitless potential to try out new things within a very constrained set of rules which for me is incredibly appealing. So, while out doing some of this today and letting higher brain functions free-wheel lead to a connection being made, snowboarding like this is extremely similar to how I came to play the first Halo game.

At first glance this statement is ludicrous. How on earth could snowboarding and Halo have any sort of relationship at all? Well, without thinking too hard, Halo is I think the only game where I gained a high enough skill level for the experience of playing to become akin to what I described above. I'll make it clear here also that I'm talking about the single player campaign, there is probably a comparable experience from becoming so familiar with the multi-play mechanics and improvising within that framework, but there was something incredibly special about the emergent situations springing from identical starting conditions again, and again, and again, which gripped me in the single player.

What had me hooked was the pursuit of flow, efficiency, making the best use of all the systems available, exactly the same as what I pursue when boarding. Making the slope work for you, finding efficient paths that make you feel, in no uncertain terms, like a badass, knowing where to go and when. It's not necessarily all about speed either. Fitting a quick trick into your run, a few fast turns in switch and then back as the slope drops away, sniping that Elite perfectly so you can speed past his entourage of Grunts and take to the skies in the now-vacant Banshee, all of the above give the same feeling of gratification, of mastery, of I've-got-this-fucking-down-ness. It's a feeling of building momentum, of chaining, essentially tapping into the same drive towards perfectionist gaming that is embodied in combo-meters and no-miss multipliers. Where others were dismayed at Halo's recycling of levels I exulted in the chance to become familiar with the space and it's tactical limitations twice as fast.

You know how you know you're an incurable games-geek? When your brain is making connections between winter sports and first-person shooters.

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