In gaming, it’s very easy to play follow-the-leader. Sometimes the learning curve in a game is hard and you just want to know what to do, so you don’t feel lost. It’s especially hard when there’s a skill hierarchy and certain players tower above the rest. Developing your own unique style of play is much harder than just copying what others do and getting easy success.
Developing your own divergent gameplay takes a fair amount of imagination. Often, it’s inspired by bits and pieces of games/gamers we’ve seen before, with our own ideas mixed in. Playing your own way means performing certain actions, making certain decisions and developing strategies. A lot of people share unique traits in gameplay styles, but sometimes you’ll find people who play in radically different ways.
The question now is: are all playstyles viable? That’s tough to answer, because the nuance surrounding that concept isn’t set in stone. In the first place, there isn’t a universal standard of achieving goals in games. Speedrunners and modders always find creative ways of utilizing a game’s core tools and making them do extraordinary things. A game doesn’t discriminate against a player’s method of playing (for the most part), it merely requires us completing the objective. So it doesn’t matter if you jumped and ran your way through Halo campaigns, or killed every enemy.
Indeed, all playstyles are viable, but not all are optimal. One of the biggest debates people have within the FPS community is to do with -‘camping’-: when a player stays in one spot without moving. Some find it to be a mild annoyance, others get incredibly and unreasonably mad about it, and some gamers don’t care either way. The classification of camping isn’t even clearly defined: some might call it staying in the exact same spot, some say it’s remaining in a particular wide area. Heck, some might accuse players of camping if you just decided to wait for a brief moment when you suspect someone is turning the corner.
Ultimately, the narrative surrounding camping is absurd and it misses the main point: camping is viable, but it’s not always optimal. Camping can help you get kills, but depending on the map, players, and other circumstances, it might not get you the most kills or help you win the match. For example, camping is useful for defending objectives or holding a vantage point. However, it’s not as helpful for getting tons of kills or playing modes such as Kill Confirmed in the Call of Duty series, which require you to pick up your fallen opponent’s dog tags to score points. Point is: different playstyles are subjective opinion-wise, but how good they are within context is constantly in flux.
A unique playstyle is effectively an extension of a person’s ideas on how to complete goals within a game. If you’re passive and believe in letting things happen, your playstyle might involve being careful and using observation. If you like to tackle objectives aggressively, then you might be a player that is constantly on the move and making fast plays.
Everyone is different and celebrating that difference is what makes gaming exciting, especially from a viewer standpoint. One of the best aspects of watching high level play in fighting games is seeing all the diverse playstyles, not just between character usage but between players. That is to say: different players might play the same character differently, and it’s identifying these differences that makes matches intriguing. This applies to solo gameplay, let’s plays, speedruns, glitch runs and so on. Unique playstyles are a major part of what makes gaming intrinsically fascinating; everyone can have a different experience from each other.
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