Applying The Ten Thousand Hour Rule To Gaming
Many times in recent years, I have witnessed gamer friends experiencing difficulty with a game and opting to either give up, stop trying or drop the difficulty level and play on an easier setting.
This is a foreign concept to me, having never thought that giving up or simply not trying any more, was a thing that was allowed to happen. Playing on an easier setting seemed an absolute last resort, as well, since if you can make some progress, then you were already proving that you were up to the task.
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Just yesterday, I talked about winning not being everything, emphasising that it’s the mindset of wanting to win that’s important. Thus, today, I thought I might extend that just a little bit with a semi-off-topic discussion based around the ten thousand hour rule, with specific focus on how it can be applied to gaming.
For those who don’t know, the ten thousand hour rule is a very simple concept that states the following: If you wish to be successful at a specific task, then you can almost always achieve this by doing that task for around 10,000 hours. The concept was first outlined in a 2008-published book called ‘Outliers: The Story Of Success’ which you can read all about on its Wikipedia page, but I came by it only a few weeks ago, courtesy a very knowledgeable and omniscient friend. This rule, together with my column yesterday, aligned nicely with an article idea that I’ve been mulling over for a few months now.
I see too many gamers in the world who simply give up on a game, long before they’ve given it a decent enough try. I know for a fact that many gamers never got past the prologue in The Witcher 2: Assassins Of Kings, for example. Now, admittedly, that’s a very difficult prologue and even I struggled at times, but not getting beyond that point has robbed those gamers of one of the most excellent gaming experiences in living memory.
Now, you might not be a fan of the ten thousand hour rule, and you certainly wouldn’t be alone, but I’m not using this concept in a literal sense. Playing a game for ten thousand hours is borderline ridiculous. I can think of very few games where this is the case, or even acceptable. World of Warcraft and DotA are the only two that come to mind.
It’s silly to think that ten thousand hours of Dark Souls is what is required for you to master Dark Souls. Of course not. In gaming, we have certain systems in place that mean we require just a fraction of that time. But one thing is astutely clear: There is no such thing as overnight success.
So when you pick up Gears of War and decide to head online, only to get chainsawed halfway to hell every five seconds, don’t give up, quit out and call the game a shitty experience. No. Persevere. Try a little harder.
There is a directly proportional relationship between getting better at something, versus the time spent doing it.
And that doesn’t just apply strictly to gaming, either. Writing, for example. I can honestly say that while I never considered myself to be a bad writer, when I look at Facebook notes and other online examples of my writing from years ago, I cringe. Hard. Likewise, when I started writing for eGamer a few years ago, I mean sure I had my own writing style and such, but I was nowhere near as… able, as I feel I am, today.
Every single thing that we do on this Earth is a growing experience, and the more time we spend doing something, the better we tend to get at doing it.
Sure some people are born with talent, but even diamonds were once coal, and there has never been a perfectly formed stone to be found. The key is working at it.
Again, thankfully, gaming has some really neat systems in place which make it a lot easier, such that we don’t need a thousand hours. In fact, we barely need a hundred. There are some games which push this, you might call them outliers (heh heh); Dark Souls immediately comes to mind. But for the most part, if you pick up a Guitar Hero game and you’re shit, just keep practising. Challenge yourself by picking up the difficulty when you feel you’re doing well enough on the current difficulty. Don’t allow yourself to become complacent and stagnate. Don’t wait until you’re ‘comfortable’ before challenging yourself. Eventually, muscle memory will take over and you’ll find that you are surprising even yourself as you watch how good you’ve become, unfolding before your very eyes. I speak from experience on this one.
Likewise, gaming blends the collected efforts of pre-existing genres to aid things. For example, if you’ve played one first person shooter and excelled at it, then chances are you’ve got a pretty decent advantage in other first person shooters. Again, outliers do exist, but for the most part if you play Call of Duty a lot, and then move on to BioShock, while it’s a drastic change of environment and mechanics, your ability to aim will not have changed as drastically, thus allowing you an advantage over someone who’s not played as much of either. Theoretically.
What this effectively means is that if you’ve been gaming passionately for around ten years or so, then you’re already well into this ten thousand hour rule and getting better by the day. Sure, a prolonged absence from gaming is going to have you all rusty at first, but like riding a bike, watch how fast the muscle memory kicks in, and you begin doing crazy things with a controller once more.
Remember: Just because you suck now, doesn’t mean you always will. Keep at it, persevere, and it will eventually pay off.