Pandemic Survival Guide for Gamers

I miss these guys.

Waking up this morning I sat down with a cup of coffee and booted up LAN Mob 1 to visit the Teamfight Tactics subreddit. I've been reading on Twitter about all these brand new comps named Willy Wonka and Candyland and I have no clue what they stand for. I glanced down at my calendar and realized - it has been 7 weeks since the LAN was last open. That Sunday in mid-March before a single case of that 'rona had reached Oneida County, when we had put CLOSED signs on every other station to enforce social distancing, and thermal scanning every forehead that walked in the door. The next day the statewide closures began and now nearly a full two months have passed.

Say it right.

I wouldn't say the time has flown by, but also it's a significant amount of time that has passed being holed up. This is normally a time when us Upstate NY residents transition from the long winter of being indoors, to moving about more outdoors, so staying inside for a few more weeks has been a little rough but also something we've trained our whole lives for.

This is especially true for gamers who spend large amounts of time inside. In some ways it could almost be like nothing has changed for us - one could just keep playing and ignore everything happening until things return to normal. It's perhaps not so easy with friends, family, and social media persons that are struggling to get through this period of isolation.

There are three truths that are good to keep in mind in times of panic and desperation:
  1. Humans Overreact - In times of fear humans have a tendency to overreact, and this gets amplified by social media. This can work in good ways - like people staying home and being extra careful who they interact with to fight the spread - and other ways, like packing together in tight spaces to protest. It's part of our nature to blow things out of proportion.
  2. Media is a Mess - Most people are tuning into one station that reinforces their own worldview and accepting it as truth. Others are trying to digest large amounts of media that's often contradictory and filter out for themselves right from wrong. Some have just given up and tuned out entirely. There is too much information.
  3. This shall pass - The virus will move on and we'll get back to our lives again. Don't pay too much attention to estimates, it will be solved when it's solved.
Alright that said here it is:

Pandemic Survival Guide for Gamers Version 1.0

  1. Take care of the people you love. We might find ourselves really deep into a game right now, but don't forget about all your friends, family, neighbors, coworkers. Pay a compliment. Make them something. Give what you can give. Even a smile can go a very long way. You can help make someone's day better.
  2. Take care of yourself. Eat well. Shower. Change clothes. I know these sound straightforward but sometimes in long gaming sessions we'll forget the essentials. Try to find ways to get out of the chair every couple hours and stretch. Maybe tie a fitness challenge to your game, for example 1 pushup for every death per League of Legends match. If you can't do a pushup try a squat instead. You may be surprised to find yourself dying a lot less!
  3. Play more than 1 game. You'll need a break from your primary game, and it could be a mobile game but you'll want something easier and in a different genre. Myself I've been spending a little time every day in Clash of Clans to balance out my time in Teamfight Tactics.
  4. Play to learn. This means you may lose a bit more in the near-term, but you'll be a better player long-term. Winning is always the goal, but if you focus on learning the losses become more acceptable as they are lessons in improvement. By playing to learn you'll discover new strategies and new ways of understanding the game. You also may stumble upon a new meta nobody else has discovered yet and end up cruising through ranks.
  5. Study from the best. We live in a golden age where anything you want to learn has nearly unlimited video and written content. If you want to climb rank, go find the best Twitch streamers and watch what they're doing. Set aside an hour and write down three things you've learned at the end of that hour, then go apply that knowledge.
  6. Don't worry about your follows. A lot of gamers trying to build a brand focus way too much on their follows, to the point of even tying their own self-worth to their social media following. You're worth way more than your follows. Focus on being yourself, put out content, and connect with like-minded people. The follows are just a function of time, don't worry about them.
  7. Take breaks. When you start to feel tired, burnt out, or frustrated, take a break. You could be going too long on your current session, or too many days in a row. A simple 24 hour break can do wonders. Shorten your sessions based on how you're feeling.
  8. Optimize your workspace. Make sure you have comfortable chair, and good ergonomic setup. You shouldn't be straining to reach mouse/keyboard or see your screen. Are you playing on wifi? See if you can wire up your connection, your performance will improve. Are your in game graphics settings optimized? You want the best graphics possible without any stutter in game. Is your mouse, keyboard, controller and monitor slowing you in any way? These are the main inputs & outputs to games and the bottlenecks for many players. Play around with different mouse speeds/DPI settings to see the fastest you feel comfortable with. Is your headset optimized? There may be sounds you are missing in-game that can help your play, or you may be better able to optimize your mic in team game settings. Maybe invest in some new peripherals if yours feel dated or are not performing.
  9. Focus on the present. Being mindful of what's happening at the very moment in-game is crucial to performing well. If you're thinking or talking about what happened 5 minutes ago, your mind is not in the present. When you have a break during a game, that's a great time to think ahead towards planning for the future outcomes. And only after the game concludes is the best time to stop and look back and consider what you learned from that game, pack that information away, and move on to the next one.
  10. Review your own content. For games that have built in review/replay this is a great way to catch your own mistakes. Let a game sit for 24 hours then go back to review it. If your game doesn't offer replay, try recording your own footage and playing it back the next day. The truth is everyone makes mistakes, even the very best pro gamers, so it should be your goal in review to discover a handful of mistakes in play or decision making that you can improve on.

That's it for now! I hope this guide is helpful for any aspiring gamers looking to double down during the pandemic. In closing I wanted to share a thought on CNY and Romans in particular.

Our town has been kicked around a lot throughout the years. We've lived through the gutting of our manufacturing heritage, the destruction of a beloved downtown, and the closure of Griffiss Air Force Base. Throughout all of this two things I've learned are Romans never quit, and Romans are tough. Real tough. A lot of towns and cities throughout the US likely have some struggle ahead of them now, but I know that Rome is ready for this. We've survived much worse than coronavirus and I know we're going to bounce back from this better than before. Let's get that bread.
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