This is a blog about strategies and tactics I have learned, mostly from my experience of playing 3D fighting games and reading classic strategy books. Oh... and Java.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Unfettered Mind

There is a book on my shelf called "The Unfettered Mind" by Takuan Soho. Of all the strategy books I own, this one helped me the least. But, it did have one very good lesson. It teaches you about the final stage of mastering a skill that requires reflexes. Here are the stages for a fighting game:

  1. It's your first time. You focus intensely on every little detail you're doing. In fighting game terms, this translates into learning how to use the controls.
  2. You've learned the controls and now you focus on your character's moves. You spend a lot of time remembering your possibilities.
  3. You've memorized all your character's moves, now you focus on interesting combinations of how to use them.
  4. You've learned interesting combinations of how to use your moves. Now you focus on using them at the right time.
  5. You now know when to use your combinations. You stop focusing all together. The game is now part of your muscle memory. Everything comes naturally without you having to think about it.
At stage 5, you've reached The Unfettered Mind. Many players don't even know it exists or that they'd improve if they got there. Here's why the unfocused mind is important:

Lets say you are in the middle of a battle and all the sudden you think, "He's probably going to do x". At that moment, you've focused on something. You've given yourself something to anticipate, a possibility to look for.

The problem is, when you focus on one thing, you've just biased your brain. You've told it that there's > 50% chance that x will occur. But, the reality is, there are many things your opponent can do at any time. Focusing on one thing will slow your reaction time down and, even worse, set yourself up to be surprised by anything that is not x. You never want to be in a position where you are surprised.

The best way to approach the game is to think without thinking. You're ready at all times but not expecting anything. This attitude makes you much harder to surprise and greatly increases your response time.

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