Pro tip: Dealing with meaningless stats

Take a look at this screenshot from the arcade version of Tetris

Over on the right you'll see your 'stats', or a representation of the Tetriminoes you've had to deal with in Bar Chart form. My guess is that it's there if you're playing Single Player so that the right side of the screen won't be blank.

Now take a look at this screenshot from Galaga

Once you end your game, you're presented with your 'Hit/Miss Ratio', which tells you how accurate you were with your shots.

What do these things have in common?

Mostly that they don't really mean anything. It might be kind of interesting to know your accuracy, or if your Tetris puzzle gave you lots of Z pieces, but you can't really do anything useful with the data, and it won't really make you a better player.

So don't sweat it.

Pro tip: avoid using the "Death Grip" when using a joystick

Occasionally when I observe people playing games with a joystick (especially in an arcade), I'll see them grab the joystick full-on with their hand and hang onto it like it's the only thing keeping them from falling off a cliff.

Which works, yeah, but it definitely hinders your experience by requiring that you use your entire arm to play which results in:

  1. a loss of fine-control, you have to use the gross movements of your arm and
  2. increasing the rate you get fatigued, moving your whole arm over the course of a few games takes more energy than you think

      The solution?

      Grip the joystick lightly between the thumb and the index finger, using the middle finger as well if that's more comfortable for you

      You get more accurate control and don't use so much energy, which leads to longer playing sessions. It's totally win-win!

When all else fails, consult a walkthrough. Featuring Skullduggery: Adventures in Horror

In my formative gaming years, I used to spend a lot of time playing text-adventure games. You know, the kind with no real graphics that involve you typing commands to your avatar to make him do stuff? One of the ones I spent a huge amount of time with was Skullduggery: Adventures in Horror.

I spent hours and hours with the thing, but just didn't have the chops to finish the game... until I found the walkthrough many years later. (Keep in mind that this was before GameFAQs even existed, so there was no central location for help documents). Using that, I was able to get past the parts that plagued me and finally finish the game.

But, using walkthroughs is a slippery slope. If you're not careful, it's really easy to use them as a crutch and just check for the results of the puzzles presented to you instead of being thoughtful and at least trying to solve them on your own.

As an added bonus, I'm providing the game (as well as its walkthrough) here for you to download, including the walkthrough (not written by me) for your perusal. Just note that 1. this file is "as-is", I make no guarantee that it will even work for you, 2. I can't provide any tech support for it, 3. it won't work under Windows Vista or Windows 7 unless you use an emulator such as DOSBox or Windows XP Mode, and 4. I can't provide tech support for emulators either.

You can download the file here, and good luck! You'll need it!

Pro tip: Becoming an amateur cartographer

One of the games I used to play a lot was Hero of the Golden Talisman for the Commodore 64.

But, as much as I played it, I never really got very far. Lots of the passages look alike, and it's real easy to get lost.

For some reason, it never dawned on me that I should have made a map, like this one (drawn by Michael Lambert and available here).

Which would have helped me figure out where I was, where to go, and how big the game actually is.

Any time you play a game with a moderately complex, maze-like layout (Metroid, I'm looking at you), drawing a map is a great way to keep track of where things are. And, no, they don't have to look great, they just need to be good enough that you can read and interpret them.

Pro tip: Pressing buttons faster

If you're like most everyone on the planet you hold your controller like this.

Which is fine, until you get to a point where you need to press one or both of the buttons quickly and repeatedly. Like in the Wii Punch-Out!! game, where you have to rapidly press the 1 and 2 buttons to regain health. And unless you have some kind of SuperThumb(tm) you're just not going to be able to press those buttons as quickly as you'd like, at least not for very long.

That's why, when the situation arises, I quickly flip my grip around so that my index and middle fingers are on the button (or buttons) that I need

That way I can tap my fingers back and forth to press the buttons far faster than I can with just my thumb

With the added benefit that my thumb doesn't start to cramp after a few minutes of button-mashing, which is always a plus.

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