Thursday, 16 January 2014

E14 Top Tips: Juggling Your Video Gaming (Part 1/2)

Rob Wade

The other day, I got approached by a friend with a single question for me:

"How do you do it, Rob?"

I wasn't sure how to respond, so I went with my reflex.

"Are you referring to my ability to successfully juggle a budding career and an increasing knowledge of geek media, all the while cultivating a successful social life leaving me generally well-liked?"

Well, they weren't. They were actually asking about my ability to successfully keep multiple video games on the go without getting confused or frustrated regarding the controls. With that in mind, I figured it might be useful to share some of the methods I use to keep my gaming stress-free, so for the benefits of that person and anyone else who might be interested, here are E14's Top Tips for successful gaming jugglage.

Variety Is The Spice Of Life

Think of this one at a logical level, and it makes a lot of sense that it should especially apply to gaming. How much more difficult (and more importantly, how much less fun) would someone find it to play a First-Person Shooter if all they play is RPGs or driving games? It especially makes sense when you consider that the majority of driving games handle similarly.

Gamers have never had so much choice in my living memory, despite the continual protests of the vocal minority hivemind that seems to think that any gamer not wanting a modern setting FPS is halfway up Shit Creek with their paddle unequipped. The truth is that there is something for anyone in this gaming world, more so now than ever.

The first tip, therefore, is to play a broad range of games, which is good advice generally to anyone wanting to be better informed about the gaming landscape. Here's an example that might help explain this one better.

When I finished Bioshock Infinite (awesome, by the way - I'd write more on it, but I think the rest of the web used up all the superlatives at the time), you know what else I was playing at the time? I was playing God of War HD and LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7. Where's the crossover for getting controls mixed up? One's a First-Person Shooter, one's an action game and one's a more casual action game with magic and bricks and shit.

Besides which, one of them was a game I'd already completed the first time it came out, and the other was a LEGO game. Again, no crossover to be found. It's unlikely that I'm going to get pulled out of Infinite's incredible narrative because the Traveler's Tales take on the Rowling story is engrossing (love the games though I do), particularly as I've read the Potter books multiple times.

So to sum up on the first tip, choose games that don't overlap. Genre, play style, storyline. A good rule of thumb I tend to use is to have one game in your current play pile that you can switch off the audio with, whether to listen to music, audiobooks or even The Crazy Train. That's usually a good sign that you're not likely to get so immersed in it that you mess up your other games. Plus in the case of the latter option, it helps our downloads.

Sample pile:

  • Bioshock Infinite
  • God of War HD
  • LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7
Switch up your consoles (Where appropriate)

This one is a conditional tip, although it's more to do with the level to which it applies. Primarily, as any writer does, I'm drawing from my own experiences. For the purposes of exposition, here is my currently owned consoles:

  • An Xbox 360
  • A PS3
  • A Wii U
  • A 3DS XL
  • An iPod Touch (iOS 5)
  • A good spec laptop
  • An iPad 2
  • A Lumia 925 Windows Phone
  • A Samsung Galaxy Note Tab
If I were to assemble a list of reasons I would rarely consider myself bored, there'd be a few recurring from that list. Now, obviously I'm realistic to the fact that there are readers amongst you that will scoff at what in your eyes is a paltry collection. Just don't laugh at the Windows Phone, that device is the shit.

However, it's also worth bearing in mind that there will be a number who fall under that figure, and that I'm probably an average console owner among games enthusiasts. It's a fairly safe bet, though, that everyone will have a smartphone. Some will have a console, and then some might also have a handheld or a tablet (or both). Thus, the second tip is simple: Make use of your resources.

The one aspect in which all the current generation consoles (some of which have been superceded by the new wave which has recently launched) tend to differ in some way is their control scheme. Whether motion control or a "standard" controller, a Playstation 3 Dual Shock 3 controller is significantly different to a Wii Remote in how it controls, which differs from an iPhone and so on.

When I want a break from whatever I'm currently playing (which at the time of writing was the rather excellent Syndicate on Xbox 360), I switch to my phone and play some sort of puzzle game or I break out the 3DS for some Professor Layton action. Choice is once again your friend, as each system has its own respective mascots with their own distinct games series, which is always nice to shake things up.

Sample pile:

  • Uncharted 2 (PS3)
  • New Super Mario U (Wii U)
  • Borderlands 2 (Xbox 360)
  • Tiny Death Star (Phone)

Save Your Game Sensibly

We've all been there. You've gone for ages trying to get to the big boss or a particularly tough enemy, and you want to save your game just before you take on the challenge on the off-chance that you're unsuccessful and have to go back a bit further and start again. Saving here is a great tool to make you feel that little bit more self-assured before you fight.

Saving just before *that* is even better.

Hear me out. When I load my save for something like, say, Skyrim, I'm out of a combat situation and I've got my default stuff equipped. If I've been out of the game for a while, because I've been following the above advice and switching my games out, I have the benefit of a few extra moments to re-familiarise myself with the controls and go through a few motions before setting off on my quest.

It sounds strange to say, but in reality it works on almost any game now. Sports and driving games save after each race/match, FPS games save at cinematic checkpoints (and in most cases don't stick you into combat for a few seconds after loading), and RPG games allow you to save relatively freely in the overworld of whichever game you happen to be playing. A decent amount of phone games also tend to do quick saves when you come out of the app or lock the device with the game running, and even if they don't the ability to put the device on standby usually applies to the game in progress as well (as I've found to my benefit with the 3DS and folding the console shut).

Sample pile: Not really applicable here, but I give you the Skyrim example above. That's the best example I can think of, as the ability to save freely in that game is especially helpful in making this approach easier to accomplish.


Agree? Disagree? Got any other tips of your own to add to the mix or debate with Rob? Write to us Here or let us know in the comments below!

Look forward to Part 2, coming tomorrow!

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