I have been playing computer games from as far back as I can remember, rocking games like Prince of Persia and Super Mario on the now ancient Amstrad System and the very first black and white Gameboy. And I still avidly play till this day, of course when I find time to tear myself from my work schedule (which is quite frequently, I just unlocked the “How are you still employed?” achievement in the procrastination awards). As a result, I tend to be more confined to the quick, often online, form of games that aren’t too time consuming and I can quit on the fly if my office door opens. One notable example is online poker, with which I have fallen in love with for the past couple of years. And as a social and caring person I try to get my friends more involved in these type of games, poker in particular. This is mostly for my benefit so I have more people to play with, and often to the detriment of their social life.
After having successfully convinced a couple of friends to join the online poker community (with online sites offering play in nearly every country), I have noticed that the people who have a background of online multi-player gaming, seem to improve much faster in their poker skills versus the people who generally don’t game online. Could there be some acquired skills that were crossing these platforms?
Now the most popular online games are first person shooters like CounterStrike, Halo and Call of Duty. One can successfully argue that these games specifically teach you how to be a bad poker player as these games tend to breed trigger-happy players who act on instinct and destroy everything in sight without a hint of foresight. While this may be true of a complete noob to poker who is signing on to his first poker site, the long term player will actually benefit from skills passively learned through games such as Call of Duty. Here are some examples;
Knowing your weapon
If you want to win in any game, knowing your arsenal and how to utilize its maximum potential is key. Pro CoD players are able to tell you the ammo capacity and the exact recoil value of any weapon there is available on the fly. “But what does this have to with poker?” you ask. Is the guy going to start to throw cards around the room like a makeshift Gambit to incapacitate his opponents? Not exactly, if you keep in mind that your chips stack is your main arsenal in poker. The biggest skill that beginner poker players will usually lag to learn is to keep control of the stack sizes. This can be the case for instance when a player gets demoralized after losing a big hand and not realise that he still has 60% of his initial chip stack intact. This can be a major factor when determining your next play. CoD players know this scenario all too well and once they realize that chips equal ammo, they will learn to memorize and keep count of their and their opponents’ stack size as well.
Patience, Patience, Patience
Wait what? This is not possible you shout! We all have seen way too many videos of online players losing their shit as they spring off to attack the opposing army head on in a bout of frustration (LEEEEROY!!) to players smashing their monitor with their keyboards to sore losers calling an actual SWAT team to the building where their opponents are playing. True but this is not the type of patience I am talking about. It’s the patience to get up from the floor, dust yourself off and get back in the saddle after losing a game. And trust me you will lose a lot in the beginning. CoD players know all too well that you do not become a good player overnight, and it takes a lot of practice and training to actually make a dent in the rankings, or if you even contemplate taking it to the next level and playing professionally. This skill is almost literally branded in these players, as they will progressively improve in their tactics, both in CoD and poker in general.
I recently had an argument with a CoD enamoured friend of mine as to whether it is possible to teach someone to be a better player at first person shooters. Although he argued that mouse skills and reflexes cannot be taught, there is a skill that can be imparted on inexperienced players which he calls war sense, or in other words, traits that through repetition become instinctual, of what to do when you encounter specific scenarios, enabling you to surmise your opponent’s tactics from subtle hints in the gaming background or your opponent’s behavior. Now this fits in perfectly in poker’s dogma of always staying one step ahead of your opponent. This in particular is a very good skill to have in online poker. Online poker players can quickly get accurate reads of how strong or weak your hand is by how long it takes you to make a move when the turn falls on to you. If you learn to immediately do the appropriate play when it’s your turn, regardless of whether you are at an eight player table or heads up, all your plays will look the same to an online opponent, effectively disguising your every move and keep them guessing all the time if done correctly.
It may seem to the uninitiated in both worlds that Call OF Duty have nothing in common. In practice though, they do, and in fact share a lot of common ground. Both teach you how to wage war on your opponents, and the similarities in war play start to pile up if you deign to notice them.