Big Pic­ture Mode

Industry is­sues given the widescreen treat­ment

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Fail­ing, says Nathan Brown, is a sure-fire way to sweeten suc­cess

My Street Fighter IV win record on Xbox Live is a shade above 50 per cent. A large num­ber of my losses fol­low a sim­i­lar pat­tern: I take the first round com­fort­ably, start the sec­ond well, de­cide I’m the bet­ter player and re­solve to fin­ish the match with a flour­ish. In my des­per­a­tion to send an op­po­nent pack­ing with some tricksy combo or other I fail to no­tice as my health bar slips away – un­til it’s too late, at which point panic sets in, the fin­gers stop fol­low­ing the or­ders of the brain, every­thing falls apart and I lose first the round, and then the whole match. De­spon­dent, I will pon­der what I’m do­ing with my life for pre­cisely as long as it takes for the match­mak­ing menu to load, then I jump straight back in, learn­ing noth­ing from a mis­take I have al­ready made a thou­sand times.

The prob­lem, you see, is that I am ob­sessed with the no­tion of play­ing games

prop­erly. Not as their de­sign­ers in­tended, or in ac­cor­dance with ac­cepted best prac­tice, but what I think is the cor­rect way to play them. In Street Fighter, I would rather be Arse­nal than Chelsea; I would pre­fer to play with style, and lose, than win by bor­ing my op­po­nent off the pitch, my fail­ure a lit­tle eas­ier to stom­ach from my seat on my lonely, imag­ined moral high ground. This, I sus­pect, is why 25-odd years ago I be­came a Ken player, not a Ryu. I am the blond, flam­boy­ant, style-ob­sessed loser: the mag­nif­i­cent pink cow­boy, the eter­nal run­ner-up. I will never top the Xbox Live leader­board; they will never put me front and cen­tre on the box. It’s prob­a­bly for the best.

I don’t get to play Street Fighter that much any more, partly be­cause of the baby-wak­ing sound of an ar­cade stick, but mostly be­cause

Street Fighter isn’t Destiny. But that same ethos – that in­sis­tence on play­ing in a cer­tain, Nathan-proper way – is as im­por­tant when my pre­tend space­man is shoot­ing aliens as when my pre­tend mar­tial artist is try­ing to set up that EX Tatsu jug­gle combo on a D-rank Zang­ief. But while it’s to the detri­ment of my win/loss record in Street

Fighter, in Destiny it’s an as­set. What I like most about Street Fighter is its skill ceil­ing. There’s al­ways a setup or combo that’s just out of my tech­ni­cal reach – some­thing I can hit ten or 20 per cent of the time in train­ing mode, but that feels like magic when you land it. If I just played it safe ev­ery time, I might have a bet­ter win record, but I’d have had far less fun along the way. The new Destiny ex­pan­sion, The Taken

King, adds an item that boosts the chance of a boss fight yield­ing an ex­otic – the rarest, most pow­er­ful class of weapons and ar­mour in the game. The minute the Three Of Coins ap­peared, play­ers set to work on find­ing the most ef­fi­cient way to abuse it. They found a story mis­sion with a check­point right be­fore the boss fight. You’d spawn, pop a coin, snipe the boss to low health, then run up to him and fire a rocket at your feet, killing both of you. You respawn just out­side and any loot drop would be there wait­ing for you.

OK, so you’ve got a dozen of the most pow­er­ful bits of gear in the game in less than an hour, but what hap­pens next? Hours of play lev­el­ling them all up, and any fu­ture drops of a sim­i­lar rar­ity likely to be du­pli­cates of what you’ve al­ready got. A lot of this is Bungie’s fault – not just for in­vent­ing Three Of Coins, but for mak­ing a game that, in its early days, was so tight­fisted with its best gear that it has coached a sec­tion of its player­base into break­ing its rules wher­ever pos­si­ble. But to me, it raises a sim­ple ques­tion: why do we play games?

Game de­signer Dave Sir­lin once wrote a guide to com­pet­i­tive videogames, Play­ing To Win, in which he ar­gues that if a repet­i­tive tac­tic works on an op­po­nent, you have no rea­son to change your ways un­til your foe shows you it’s no longer go­ing to work. That, no doubt, is the path to an 80-per-cent

Street Fighter IV win record and a Destiny vault full of su­per­weapons, but it sounds like a long, bor­ing road to mad­ness. In­stead, I’ll carry on fail­ing to hit those de­li­cious com­bos nine times out of ten. I’ll keep shoot­ing at the boss with my weedy pulse ri­fle, hop­ing to see an ex­otic’s yel­low glow when the fight is over. Be­cause I be­lieve games are as much about the losses as they are the wins, the fail­ures of the former strength­en­ing the magic of the lat­ter. Sir­lin can stick his repet­i­tive path to the podium. The Destiny break­ers can shove their lit­tle ex­ploits. I’ll keep on fail­ing with a smile, con­sol­ing my­self with the knowl­edge that suc­cess, should it ever come, will be all the sweeter.

Games are as much about the losses as the wins, the fail­ures of the former strength­en­ing the magic of the lat­ter

NATHAN BROWN

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