A gamer’s muscle memory

I’ve been playing video games in some form for over 18 years. While the other kids spent their afternoons outside, I was usually cooped up with a video game. I blame it on being severely asthmatic growing up.

Over those years, I’ve fought with a ton of games. Surprisingly, I’m not the type to pick up a game and be good at it right away. There were too many times where my fingers just couldn’t cooperate, leading me to failure.

But this is where the hours and days of practice start to come in. Video games, especially the ones that call for lots of input from the player, can be learned.

Games have their own rules to follow. Depending on the game, they might be well explained or you may have to figure them out on your own. That’s the first step—learn how it works.

The next step is to practice it a lot. The goal here is to reduce the game’s inputs down into something that’s second nature. If this sounds pretty familiar, it’s supposed to.

Much like an athlete, a gamer can develop a set of automatic reactions to take over a lot of the work. You’ve probably heard it referred to as muscle memory. It’s not on the same scale, I’ll admit. Athletes are using their whole bodies. For gamers, it’s all in the hands.

I’ve watched high-level gamers play a variety of game genres. Their hands and fingers are a sight to behold. They combine perfectly accurate movements to control their character while reacting to instances in the games that often only last 1/60 of a second.

They maintain a flair that makes them unique. No two gamers play the same, even if they’ve learned to play the same way. The joy of muscle memory is that while it’s doing most of the work, it can be influenced.

I know I’m waxing poetic at this point and really showing my obsession with video games. But hey, I’ve never been a sports person. You might flip out when a player pulls off an incredible play—I’ll be over here watching a gamer do the same. When a gamer hits “the zone,” I’m ready to pull out the giant foam finger and air horn.

Even better are the times when I’ve hit the zone. In the rare moments I’ve played competitively, I’ve felt my brain go somewhere else for a while. It’s an incredibly weird feeling – you start playing, and then ten minutes later, you’ve won and can barely remember the game.

Next time you think about how useless games are, remember that there are talented people playing them. They’ve been practicing and learning this stuff for years, so throw a little respect their way. You’d be impressed if they could shoot goals in hockey, so why not recognize them for the talents they do have?


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