Quake Metagame Series

Article 1- Environment

Greetings, neophytes and veterans alike. Welcome to the first part in (hopefully) a series of articles discussing the metagame of Quake 2, which is arguably the dividing factor between the fraggers and the fraggees.

What is the metagame? By definition, it is the “game outside the game”. In this context, it means the game beyond how good your rail aim is, beyond how the map is built. The metagame refers to your state of mind, your focus on the game, and how it affects your ability to read your opponent's actions.

One point that will be stressed again and again is that performance in Quake, or any game for that matter, has less to do with your aim and jumping skills and more with your ability to focus on the tasks at hand, get inside your opponents head, and have the right mindset for coming out on top. I don't want anyone thinking that I'm the greatest Quake 2 player because of this, because I'm not. I just tend to spend a bit more time analyzing the metagame. As a result, this series will lay out some simple ground rules to keep your head cool and clear ingame. By taking these rules to heart, your game will certainly improve.

We will start off with a fairly simple topic: your gaming environment. This includes everything between your head and the monitor. The key here is to minimize the amount of distractions that negatively affect your game. Before sitting down to a serious round of fragging, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is my chair comfortable? Is my mouse and keyboard positioned comfortably?

  • Is my keyboard layout familiar enough to play without having to hunt for keys?

  • Am I well-fed and able to play without worrying about my stomach?

  • Am I stressed out about anything in real life?

  • Are there any annoying lights or sounds around me?

  • How tired or worn out am I? What's my energy level?

As you can see, questions such as these take into account both your physical (outer) environment, as well as your mental (inner) environment. If there is anything keeping you from putting one hundred percent of your mental energy into the game, your scores will surely suffer. Take note especially of these mental aspects, and remember that not everybody is effected the same way by these aspects.

For example, gaming after a heated argument with somebody in real life could serve as a major distraction for some gamers. On the other hand, the same argument could give a rush to other gamers, giving them an edge. We all have situations that either drain or energize us; take these situations into account prior to gaming.

During the game, pay attention to your body. Are you getting tensed up or short of breath? Are you getting angry or frustrated? These reactions can be avoided by properly preparing yourself before the game begins.

By keeping yourself relaxed and undisturbed by outside forces, you can put your full energies into the game, allowing you to focus on what matters.

If this seems like common sense, it is. However, common sense isn't nearly as 'common' as it one would think. By stating these 'common' principles in an article such as this, it's easier to understand their significance. Also, if this seems too 'serious' to any readers, these are not direct orders that must be followed every time you sit down for a casual Free for All. Instead, this is simply a statement of factors that effect your gaming ability. Follow or forsake, they still matter.

In conclusion:

  • The metagame, or the 'game outside the game', makes as much of an impact on your score as the game itself.

  • By keeping your distractions, both mental and physical, to a minimum, you can fully apply yourself to the game.

  • A large part of your performance in the game is affected by your situation prior to the game.

  • These guidelines, though simple, can make a huge impact in how you play the game.

Coming up next week:

An introduction to the bible of warfare, Sun Tzu's “The Art of War”. Within this ancient text is profound wisdom that applies rather directly to the tactics used in Quake 2. Again, it's all common sense, but we like that, don't we? ;)

Also, we will take a closer look at what it means to 'apply yourself to the game', and why it matters.

Frag on, brethren.