Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Burn Phase, or, Things I've Learned as a Geek, Part 2

In any game involving conflict, the player is given an array of options of varying potency and efficiency. This is done to add dynamics to the game, lest it end up as simplistic as tic-tac-toe. In combat-based games, these options are usually limited by certain conditions or qualities in order to balance the system. If one were allowed to use your most powerful tactic whenever one pleased, the game would quickly become one-dimensional and boring.

In World of Warcraft (for example), each character class is given certain powerful abilities which can only be used every so often. These abilities are categorically referred to as "cooldowns" due to the fact that after each use, the ability has to "cool down" before being used again. This core mechanic to the game means that, at any specified point, the combat potency of an individual or group can increase drastically for a short period of time, followed by a equally balanced cool down.

I have learned something about myself in my observations of how i use cooldowns. If the cooldown was short - say, two minutes or less - i would usually have no trouble using it as it was available since i knew that it would most likely be available again when i needed it next. If the cooldown was long, however, - which is anywhere from five minutes to thirty - i found myself stingily hoarding the ability, terrified to use it for fear that it wouldn't be available to me when i truly needed it.

I almost never use any ability with a cooldown of five minutes or more. My fear of misusing my most powerful abilities prevents me from utilizing them at all.

In my life, i know there are many instances of the same fearful behavior. For example, i'd much rather do nothing than fail spectacularly. I'd rather say nothing than cause pain. I'd rather bide my time in hopeful observation than risk getting hurt again and losing what little i had.

Such behavior is based off of a fallacy; it gains you nothing to wait for the perfect moment and so lose any advantage you might have had. Now, i am by no means saying to cast strategy and logical thinking to the wind and act recklessly. I firmly believe that a clear head and a comprehensive array of data is key to discovering the most advantageous move in almost all scenarios. Sometimes, though, fortune truly does favor the bold. Use the advantage when you have it or risk losing it completely.

Sometimes, you should just go all in.