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How to be good at videogames

Updated: Jul 24, 2021

A comprehensive guide from decades of being a top player

*The summarized list of tips is at the end of the article

Usually it's no secret when I start playing a game. My gamertag adorns the leaderboards. You might also even hear some rumblings on whatever server I play on. I was a sort "Ninja" before Ninja as there were no pro circuits back when I started gaming. What's my secret? Well I honestly never took the time to think that much about it so here's my attempt at trying to provide at least some insight into the 20+ years I've been playing games on a high level.

Here's a brief list of some of the things I've accomplished:

Age of Empires - PC - MSN Gaming Zone - Top player - clan was "Rise of Rome" [RoR], the top clan at the time

Everquest Online Adventures - PS2 - Top player - Known as the "Party King" because of using my knowledge to have the top grinding parties using non-standard party makeup, making 6x the normal exp

FFXIV - One of the richest players on my server

Iron Blade - Mobile - Top 10 player on leaderboards & events

Knight Online - PC - Top player - Continuation of my "Party King" years

Madden 2004 - PS2 - #1 ranked player on Gamebattles

Madden 2005 - PS2 - #1 ranked player on Gamebattles

Metal Slug Infinity - Mobile - Top 10 player - Top 3 Clan (Notsoidle) Top 20 clan (Metal Gear)

Mobius FF - Top 10 player on leaderboards

Pirates of the Carribean: Tides of War - Mobile - #1 clan on server (Deathhunters), top 100 player on server & globally

Runescape - Self-proclaimed "Lobbie King" back when lobsters were the top food item. Was at one point of the richest players in the game. Friend of "Bluerose13x", the first player to get to 99 Smithing

Socom 1 - PS2 - Top 30 player on in-game leaderboards - Singles, Doubles, Squads, Clan champion on Gamebattles & NGGC. I was apart of the clans "Tagless Legends" & "Sons of Christ"

Socom 2 - PS2 - Top 100 player on in-game leaderboards - Doubles, Clan champion on Gamebattles & NGGC

Socom 3/CA - PS2 - Top 100 "Instant Action" mode player - Formed a random clan with Socom 1 veteran players & took the #1 clan on Gamebattles to a 5-6 round loss on the fifth map even though none of us had interest in actually playing the game

Street Fighter Online - PC - #2 ranked player during the game's heyday (2004-2006)

Vagabond's Quest - PC - One of the few players to achieve "GrandMaster" ranking

Yu-Gi-Oh Virtual Desktop - PC - Top 20 player - clan was "Rarehunters" [RH], the top clan at the time

Throughout my years I've also written guides (yes you could say I'm one of those "Gamefaqs" people even though for some odd reason I never made an account on Gamefaqs.) I tend to lean more towards PVE if it's not a shooter or real time strategy game. While I don't remember exactly every game I've been a top player on, if you remember me feel free to let me know. Some of my gamertags were Darkness_sleeps, Darkness_kills, Carrion, Bonemane, Mercy_Slayer, Hone_Jinmu, Rising_Sun, Songoffire, Nike639, DragonX_Krillin, BoNeLesS_DigGeR, etc. Due to my willingness to help while also providing knowledgeable feedback I've also been invited to privately test numerous games with my ideas being implemented in order to improve said games overs the years.

Disclaimer: I'm not particularly "proud" of any accomplishments. These were simply fun times that I enjoyed immensely & learned skills that I still use to be successful in life (I manage my own IT consulting company as well as IT for multi-billion dollar corporations now.) I actually find bringing up "I am/was a top player in [insert game or whatever here]" pretty cringe worthy if not outright making you look like a douche-bag in most cases. The reason I list them here is simply to show as to why people might listen to me.

How it all began, the Age of Empires years:

Age of Empires: The Rise of Rome Cover
Age of Empires: The Rise of Rome, a beautiful game

To give some backstory about myself & these games. My competitive career started first with Age of Empires. It was 1999 I was about 10 years old & had been infatuated with the original Age of Empires: Rise of Rome demo for some time. My step-dad stepped up and bought two games for Christmas that year, Monster Truck Madness 2 along with Age of Empires 2. Immediately I delved into it, learning everything about the different civilizations from their troops to special skills, etc. My skills were pretty sharp from a year or so of playing the AOE:RoR demo so on the 2nd day I decided to dive right into multiplayer. From there history begins with me dominated every single deathmatch no matter if its 2v1 or even 3v1. Things were fantastic with some of my best matches lasting 4+ hours. I had multiple clan invites, but decided to "lone wolf" it, especially since it seemed no one could really hold a candle to me anyway.

Age of Empires Rise of Rome battle
Rise of Rome made the original Age of Empires a much more enjoyable experience

It was then that I met this guy (I can't remember your name sorry), whom I later found out to be the leader of "Rise of Rome", AOE's top clan. At the time I had no clue who they were although I noted they were some pretty good players as I wasn't into the clan or competitive scene. As soon as he entered my lobby the other people instantly left which caught my eye, but I didn't think much of it as when I entered lobbies people left all the time. I tried to talk a little smack to throw him off, but he was calm & simply told me he was adamant against trash talking as he'd rather show off his skill on the battlefield. That statement is what made me take notice. We waited about 5-10 minutes before deciding to just do 1v1.

Age of Empires II battle
Age of Empires II had vastly improved graphics & mechanics

From there our deathmatch begins. I start my usual tower defense strategy, erecting an seemingly impossible huge number of towers in a considerably short amount of time. From there I start sending out my troops, war elephant & catapult after war elephant & catapult in an effort to stomp him out quickly, but things took a sharp turn. In a classic "Nani?!?!?" anime moment my troops were immediately met with an even more impressive array of towers and an seemingly infinite number of enemy troops. Keep in mind this was all within the first couple of minutes. After he annihilated my initial wave of troops he came for my head. I managed to endure the assault for about 15 more minutes before it was game over. All I could say in chat was "How in the hell did you do that?" to which he lol'd & said "You're pretty damn good, that was the longest match I've had in forever. Tell you what, if you join [RoR] I'll teach you." I thought about it for a few days before ultimately deciding to join.

It was a grand time while I was there then the leader stopped logging in entirely. After disappearing for a few months he randomly came back & told everyone we were changing our clan name to "Dragon X" (he became Dragon_X_Goku) at which point he started handing out names to those who couldn't decide (I became Dragon_X_Krillin.) You see he had become obsessed with Dragon Ball Z which was taking off in America around the time. Eventually we went back to "Rise of Rome" & he once again disappeared. After that I decided to leave too as I started getting into shooters like Unreal Tournament & eventually Socom. In the later years I tried to comeback, but Microsoft had already started phasing out things & eventually got rid of MSN Gaming Zone entirely to the dismay of a huge amount of people.

Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings
At times Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings was breathtaking with it's landscape

What I learned:

- Master the fundamentals

- Know every ability & feature like the back of your hand

- Hotkeys are a MUST

- Keep track of any timers such as cool downs, building time, etc. so you can calculate your next move

- Anticipate your opponents move

- Always have a backup plan or multitask (IE: send scouts to search for an enemies second base while assaulting their main one)

- A lot of cool things about history

The Socom years:

Socom U.S. Navy Seals logo

August 27th, 2002. The day that changed my entire life. This was the release date of Socom 1: U.S. Navy Seals. I stumbled upon it by sheer accident as I was at Gamestop earlier in the year looking for Kingdom Hearts after just trading in several games when the employee when they recommended I get the network adapter & the newly released SOCOM: U.S. Navy Seals. I remember walking away with Army Men: RTS, Kingdom Hearts, Spider-man, Aggressive Inline & a pre-order for Socom: U.S. Navy Seals not knowing I was about to embark upon the journey of my life. When the day came to pick up Socom I was also talked into buying Dead to Rights, another game I immensely enjoyed along with Madden NFL 2003. My 12 year old self gleefully went home & initially popped in Dead to Rights. I spent the entire first day beating that game before moving onto Socom.

It's hard to believe it's been over 8 years since the last SOCOM. I dedicated years of my life to this series, 4-8 hours a day every day, mastering every gun, every map, every tactic, dominating my enemies. To this day no game comes close to the multiplayer in this series. This series is what started Socombattles which turned into Gamebattles & inspired MLG, WCG, etc. There really wasn't a competitive shooter scene before SOCOM (some would argue Unreal Tournament, but there wasn't any serious competitive edge, websites, or tournaments as Unreal Tournament leaned heavily towards modern COD action than tactics or strategy.) Halo didn't have online multiplayer at the time nor was it on the Xbox when it initially launched so SOCOM was IT.

Desert Glory Socom U.S. Navy Seals
Desert Glory in all its...glory!

Immediately I was hooked with the fluid strategic gameplay. Sneaking behind enemies and rifle butting them while I commanded my A.I. teammates to flashbang & cleared other rooms became a favorite past time of mine. After beating the campaign mode in a day I moved on to multiplayer & proceeded to play for 7 straight days non-stop before school started (school started on September 4th back then if I remember correctly.) Running home from school, dodging gangs, drug dealers & guns that infested the Chicago streets to play Socom was my life back then. That 7 days helped me tremendously as I noticed I was one of the best players in the game very quickly averaging 20+ kills & 4 deaths a game for years on end in a series where respawning wasn't a thing. After awhile it seemed no matter what team I was on, we won. My two favorite maps were Desert Glory & Rats Nest which found me frequently in the "Desert Glory Masters" & "Rats Nest Kings" lobbies where the respective masters of those maps resided. In those rooms competition was fierce with my teams barely always winning or losing by 6-5 every single time. The players themselves might not have been the most skilled, but they knew every single spec of dirt on these maps which lead them to outplay even the best competitive players such as "Teknetic." In the later years I would form a clan with some of these players & we never lost a match on these maps.

Frostfire, a rather close quarters oil rig map was the one I used for warm ups. If I didn't feel like immediately jumping into sniping on a night map like Nightstalker, I'd jump into a Frostfire lobby for about an hour to get the blood flowing. This map was perfect for quick, easy matches & had a little bit of everything from warehouse that featured of ton of crates to hide amongst, to underground tunnels with which to set traps for unsuspecting enemies, to open areas with no cover which was perfect to sniping or testing your pure reflexes/accuracy. Me being a natural rogue, I loved taking a stealthy approach to shooters. I remember at times annoying my teammates by following a few feet behind an enemy for literally several minutes before they noticed me.

I remember around these years setting several records such as the highest number of kills on a map (62-11 on Nightstalker with just a .50 sniper rifle, my trusted .50 Desert Eagle & claymores set up in my "ultimate defense" formation.) A quick note on the ultimate defense. It was a claymore defense I would set up using all 4 claymores placed in a way that they wouldn't all detonate at once. I would place each claymore so that each of them were just outside of my detonator's range by 5-8 feet so all I had to do was take a few steps depending on where there enemy was coming from and "BOOM!"... enemy down. I don't think anyone ever did this, but me as over my 8 years of playing & tens of thousands of matches not once did I see setup claymores that way. This is however one of the many things that makes a top player. Know your equipment & think outside the box. My gameplay eventually was rewarded when the Socom 1 community themselves got together on their own & awarded me the "Best Pub Player of 2008" (thanks Candygirl!)

After years of holding out I eventually accepted a clan invite & got into the competitive scene for Socom 1. On Gamebattles I took over leadership of "Tagless Legends" which were a ragtag group of veteran players that didn't want to change their gamertags (back then you had to actually change your name or create a new account to include the tag.) Under my leadership they went from a 7-11 record to 54-15 & a championship. At one point we were on a 42 win streak. I also was the longest reigning singles & doubles champion (1 loss in singles & still undefeated in doubles.) Eventually I moved over to Socom 2 where I became the doubles champion there with Kong, who was also my doubles partner for Socom 1. Towards the end of the Socom 2 ladder on Gamebattles my clan also took the crown. Once Gamebattles got rid of all of their old ladders including SOCOM, a new website was founded called the Next Generation Gaming Community (NGGC) (later renamed to Gaming Ahead after it was sold.) We continue dominating the #1 & 2 spots in clan, doubles, & singles reign over on the new site until I retired in 2009. Shortly after I retired there were several players popping up pretending to be me of which caused people to message me. I simply told them I didn't care since I'm retired & let them know I had no intention of ever coming back to SOCOM so if they see my's not me.

I met a lot of good people & amazing players during those years all the way up until when I officially retired in 2009. The Socom years molded me into the player I am today. Thanks for the memories!

What I learned:

- In shooters, a quick controller sensitivity while not necessary in public matches is a MUST at higher levels. In modern games with everyone having pro level equipment it's a MUST even in public matches. This allows you to move your cursor faster (aim faster) similar to high DPI on PCs. It also helps you be able to instantly turn around & kill those behind you

- A cheater will not beat a top tier player unless they have invincibility. Me & my crew outplayed thousands of cheaters. I remember specifically headshotting cheaters zipping across the map with 20x speed cheats & making them rage quit

- Warming up is necessary. Don't just into high level clan matches without putting some work in first

- Learn all there is to the game, weapon firing rates, keep track of equipment usage such as grenades, bullets, etc

- Learn the maps in their entirety. I've seen plenty of players with skill get outplayed on maps. Also, I've been in plenty of situations where I'm outgunned, but disappear into tunnels or nearby buildings. From there I begin picking off my enemies one by one like the Dark Knight himself

- Stay away from trash talking for the most part. You just end up cringing at your old posts/videos later

- Always have a plan. No need to rush in without thinking. Have a plan, a backup plan & a backup plan for your backup plan

- Master every aspect of the game so that you can switch it up no matter the situation

My venture into MMORPGs, Everquest Online Adventures:

Everquest Online Adventures Halas Barbarian City
The Barbarian city Halas in Everquest Online Adventures

2004 was a great year. I was fully involved with SOCOM still & was at Gamestop to pick up Socom II shortly after it was released (I wasn't paying attention to release dates as my family was extremely poor.) I didn't know about Socom II until somebody told me why a ton of people left the game in Socom 1 chat one day. The Gamestop cashier recommended Everquest Online Adventures. At the time the only real MMORPG experience I had was Runescape which I loved & the cashier was willing to throw EQOA in for a minuscule amount of money so I said why not? I walked out with Socom 2, EQOA, Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits, Dynasty Warriors 4, Tony Hawk's Underground, LOTR: Return of the King, Legacy of Kain: Defiance, & Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds. All of which turned out to be amazing titles. Lucky for me I had just come off of a Summer job where I made a decent paycheck for a kid which enabled me to buy such amazing games.

EQOA was an great game with a huge, immersive world. I loved the hell out of it, even more so that it was my first experience with a real modern 3D MMORPG. The graphics were great at the time and the only PS2 games to even come close as to world size were the likes of Grand Theft Auto. It was this game where I first created the moniker "Bonemane" which was the name of my Barbarian Shaman. Eventually I became tired of leveling normally and started experimenting with party makeup outside of the typical "Holy Trinity" (Tank, Damage Dealer, Healer.) I started making parties consisting of 3 damage dealers & a healer/buffer forgoing the tank in-order to achieve 30%+ more damage output. As a Shaman I could also use my pet bear/wolf for additional damage or to tank. What I found was that while we couldn't slay the usual epic beasts that were 5-10 levels higher than us and get higher level gear or epic items, we could instead opt to kill slightly lower level mobs, but at a much faster rate. So let's say you, a level 42 adventurer kill an Orc Giant lvl 50 that grants 100k experience normally. Instead we'd kill an Orc Lesser Giant lvl 45 which grants 50k exp...except we can kill 12 Lesser Orc Giants of them in the time it takes to kill one normal Orc Giant for a whopping 600k experience. Keep in mind I don't remember the exact monsters as I haven't played in 15 years so the numbers are most likely off, but the principle is the same...we made 6 times the experience than normal parties.

Needless to say once word got out about me my friends list was full (I believe the limit was 200) & I was constantly getting DMs from people requesting party invites. Still, I was persecuted as a whole due to the nerds who refused to part ways with the "Holy Trinity" or think outside the box. If I didn't invite someone from my friend's list quite frequently I'd get the "find a tank & I'll consider joining" or "you don't know what you're doing" responses from people who ironically...didn't know what they were talking about. In one memorable experience I remember inviting a rogue during midnight hours when hardly anybody was online & got an emphatic "NO! GO FIND A TANK YOU IDIOT!" I simply waited about 15 minutes as I knew at this hour the guy couldn't find a party then messaged him again. He was more willing to cooperate this time although he whined, complained, & said "I'm leaving the moment we get wiped."

Everquest Online Adventures Battles Kobold
A Kobold whacks an adventurer across the head

We arrive at the hunting grounds & of course this Captain Douche-bag asks "What's your charisma?" I tell him & he responds "You don't know what you're doing. That's too low, reroll your character." At time the there was no way to "re-roll" your character in-game so he was simply telling me to start a new one entirely & put in months of time again. Offended by this we start arguing before one of the other party members calls him an idiot for being so rude & me one for stooping to his level. The other party members vouch for me & me still knowing Captain Douche-bag has no where to go wait for him to finally say "alright show me your heal & if it's enough I'll stay" We start attacking a mob & immediately Captain Douche-Bag is surprised by my heal amount. He asks me "WTH? What kind of equipment do you have?" to which I show him my legendary gear that boosts my Charisma to the point where it's on par with people who min/max charisma. The reason I built my Shaman the way I did was so I could solo if need be as I tend to adventure on my own a lot. Looking like a fool he says "Fine... that's a good heal, but could be better (just couldn't win with this guy...) Let's start."

We ended up grinding for 6+ hours, gaining numerous levels (he still occasionally whined about things like me grabbing mobs using my pet since he was woefully slow when it came to pulling mobs at times as he clearly had never run with the likes of the "Party King.") He tried standing his ground at one point, demanding that he be the only one to pull mobs. I almost acquiesced as he stopped our grind until the other party members who had gotten tired of his crap spoke up. Not only did they not mind me pulling mobs, but they figured we could pull double duty. So we ended up doubling the mobs with me pulling the next mob about 11 seconds before the previous died. This started a nice continuous chain as by the time the mob reached us the other one just died which lasted until somebody ran out of potions, forcing us to take a quick break. We had a close call as well when Captain Douche-bag wasn't paying attention to the nearby griefers & pulled an extra mob even though I told him not to just as they set their eyes on us. The griefers brought in a higher level mob which we could've handled easily if the Rogue didn't pull the extra mob. We ended up surviving, but barely. He ended up complaining, blaming the near death experience on us even though it was clearly his fault.

Still, it was an amazing time & the other party members were extremely happy they decided to join my party. One guy even expressed that he only meant to stay online for an hour, but the experience was so good he wanted to stay up as long as possible (it was nearing time for him to go to work.) However, tragedy struck as the griefers pulled several even higher level mobs. Once again the Rogue wasn't paying attention & after I gave the command to run for whatever reason... he ran the wrong way, leading the mob that was following him right into me & the other mob I pulled in-order to save the rest of the party. The other party members saw what was happening & even though they had their own mob chasing them...rushed over to save me. We all ended up dying & losing a level.

Everquest Online Adventures Battle
Battles in EQOA were pretty epic

Captain Douche-bag of course immediately cried, cursed us out (once again telling me to "re-roll my character") & left the party. I DM'd him & reminded him that he literally only lost one level out of the 5 he gained. Normally 6 hours of grinding would net you 1 & barely even 2 levels. Captain Douche-bag started to say that he could've done better with a normal party, but realized what he was saying was well beyond delusional so he posted a half-finished sentence followed by a "thanks" before logging off, never to be seen again.

Later in the year while I was playing EQOA someone mentioned that there was an MMORPG titled Final Fantasy XI that was pretty damn good, but hard. I bought it on PC since I didn't have the money for the Playstation hard drive. We could only afford 3 months of game time, but I played hard & solo'd my way up to level 45 as a Galka Ninja despite people's constant complaining about how difficult the game was. I was planning on writing up a guide, but with no way to play the game I gave up on it & returned to EQOA.

NordVPN 78% off two year deal with phone in hand

In EQOA I spent my last days grinding on an island in the middle of nowhere that was added with the expansion before running out of money for game time. I ended up taking my services to many different free MMORPGs the years to come including, Knight Online, 9 Dragons, Dransik, FFXIV, etc. all while having epic adventures in Runescape. Years later I ended up buying Everquest II, but never got around to installing it. To this day I still have the two unopened boxes of Everquest II.

What I learned:

- Know your limits, how much you can heal, how much damage per second you can dish out. Know everything there is to know about your character including cooldowns

- Always be on the lookout for stronger mobs that you can easily take on for more exp or epic loot

- Learn proper etiquette which includes no loot stealing, not taking items you don't need & definitely not taking all the loot for yourself

- DON'T BE CAPTAIN DOUCHE-BAG. That old toxic, elitist, arrogance has never had a place anywhere & nowadays will quickly get you either muted or banned in a lot of games. Even if you are more knowledgeable about the game...keep it to yourself unless you're asked for help especially since not everyone is trying to be a "pro" player. Some people just want to enjoy the game & have fun. It only serves to turn away potential players

That year in Yu-Gi-Oh:

Yu-Gi-Oh Virtual Desktop Version 10
The last version of Yu-Gi-Oh Virtual Desktop

Around 2003-2004 I become involved in Yu-Gi-Oh Virtual Desktop (later renamed to Yu-Gi-Oh Virtual Dueling), a PC simulator for the increasingly popular Yu-Gi-Oh series while recovering from a surgery. Players had access to every single card in-order to create custom decks as they saw fit. The game (now defunct) was rapidly gaining popularity & I was very interested. After creating 4 different decks I hopped online in an effort to see how well they did against other players. 3/4 were pretty much trash, but one showed potential. After some tweaks to that deck I was duking it out with the most seasoned of players.

Eventually once I gained enough experience I created other good decks & became known as a sort of "decksmith" with people even offering to send me money in exchange for a peek at the makeup of my various decks. My main deck consisted of very few monsters, opting for a host of boosts & traps instead. With the traps I delayed the inevitable, which was the eventual monster draw at which point I could boost it's attack or defense to well above the already insane number of 15k, effectively creating a god on the battlefield.

Yu-Gi-Oh Virtual Desktop's Deck Building System
Yu-Gi-Oh Virtual Desktop's Deck Building System

One day hanging out in the chat one particular player who I noticed had a high rank challenged me (I believe I was ranked between 11-30 at the time.) Through my computer monitor I felt the aura of my former clan leader in Age of Empires, making me uneasy so I declined. He persisted & eventually I gave in to a friendly match. The match starts & I wasn't off to a great start (card draw didn't go my way and my main deck was a very "lucky draw" dependent deck.) In an odd way he notices it & agrees to restart the match. We ended up restarting twice until I got a decent hand (don't even know why we bothered as this was totally not the norm.) In a battle of wits we both immediately go to work & at one point we set off a sequence of just countering traps for 3 straight minutes (counter for a counter for a counter for a counter for a counter.) We paused for a minute & just said..."wow that was amazing." He eventually bested me within about 12 minutes.

Afterwards in the vein of my AOE days, he noted that it was the best match he had in awhile & that I had an amazing deck that just needed a few tweaks. I'll admit, I wasn't acting my best at this moment as I was pretty bummed & made up a few excuses for losing which I saw annoyed him. He introduced himself as the leader of the "Rare Hunters" [RH], which at the time were the best clan in the game. This also was a pattern in the early days online games for the best clans to coincidentally get their names from the material the game is based on. He extended the same offer of me joining & him teaching me the ropes which I humbly accepted. I only played for a short while after that since I found out a problem with YVD was that it exposed your IP address due to it's peer to peer connection. This lead to me getting hacked in the middle of the match & the hacker somehow disabling my PC after somehow displaying a message on screen that read "I Own You." Immediately my power shut off as if the power cord was pulled & never turned on again. It got sent to a repair shop & a few weeks later I got my PC back with a reformatted drive. By the time I had got setup again there had been hundreds of new cards introduced into the Yu-Gi-Oh collection. My interest quickly waned with me having to go through what seemed like a thousand different cards to make a single deck. Every single match resulted in the same sequence of never ending counters that I had with my clan leader...except these duelists were nowhere near as good. Annoyed with what the game had devolved into, I took my leave, never to return again.

What I learned:

- It might seem overwhelming to learn the game, but it's worthwhile in doing so

- It isn't necessary to try & win as fast as possible. Stalling tactics are perfectly acceptable in combat & if your enemy quits because things are "taking too long" then that's on them

- Pour over all resources available to you and make different sets of equipment for different occasions. Don't put all your eggs into one basket

- Once you figure out your opponent's plan, immediately start working on a counter. Information is valuable, use it

The Street Fighter Online years:

Street Fighter Online Character Selection
Street Fighter Online's Iconic Character Selection Screen

In the late 2004 I became aware of an online version of Street Fighter aptly named "X-Men vs. Streetfighter" & later renamed to "Street Fighter Online" after a copyright dispute with Marvel from what I remember. The game seemed to be a port of the X-Men vs. Street Fighter arcade game with some things changed around & a revolutionary online mode added. It was something my high-school classmates & I played religiously during computer class or breaks. Eventually the amount of hours I put into the game paid off as I had mastered Ryu & eventually Wolverine once he was added becoming the #2 ranked player in the game. I spent my days ignoring the dozens of fight requests I would get every few minutes & fighting the #3 ranked player at the time, QUIET KILLER. Sometimes for fun occasionally we would say something in chat which lead to people going nuts seeing our ranks next to our name. I remember QUIET KILLER beat me on the 4th match we had, effectively seizing the #2 rank at which point he didn't log in an ignored me when he was online for about 1-2 weeks in an effort to "savor the moment." At that point I vowed to never let him win ever again (he only won maybe once in the many matches we had after that.) Taking my Age of Empire clan leader's first words to heart I never engaged in trash talking. Me & Quiet Killer also agreed to never comment on each-other's skill (at least negatively) whether it be to one another or other players.

We also spent our days waiting on the #1 player to login (he also rarely logged in so that he could keep his rank as long as possible.) When he did, he would start a lobby with a rather arrogant or crude title like "come get your butts kicked." Of course Quiet joins & just gets stomped within what seemed like seconds. Me, missing the chance to spectate ask Quiet "what happened?" to which he just responds "don't go in there dude, it's a massacre." I heed his warnings and go warm up for an hour or so, but the temptation was too great. I join the #1 player's lobby and we start the match. To my surprise a big yellow "#1 CONTENDER MATCH" sign pops up at the beginning of the fight. We both pick Ryu & start going at it.

Street Fighter online combat chun-li ken
The iconic 8 bit shines

At this point I see what Quiet was talking about. The champion was lagging like hell, with his health never once going down the entire 3 or so minutes we fought. This was because due to the lag he was actually never in the spot his character was on screen so my hits were meaningless. He laughs at me and pretty much insinuates that I suck so I call him out on the lag and challenge him to a tag team match (at the time I knew of an rather unknown, unbeatable strategy with Ryu & the newly released Bison.) He gloats, ponders for awhile then says no. I pester him for the next couple of days before he finally accepts, but not before gloating & saying he's going to pick a character he rarely plays. We start the match and I build up my 3 power bars within about 20 seconds while skillfully dodging all of his attacks with the grace of a modern ninja. I unload all at once, activating the special tag team feature where you can do unlimited specials for a short amount of time. Thing is, Bison's special last a few seconds longer that Ryu's which leads to you being able to literally do an unlimited tag team special loop as the timer doesn't expire as long as a special is going. At the time I was completely wiping people out in about 10 seconds using this admittedly cheap tactic, but alas the #1 ranked players lag was just too much. I was able to knock out his first character after an immense amount of time, but he broke our combo using his helper, ending the feature's timer before once again going back to systematically destroying me with seeming unlimited health.

After that I challenged him maybe once or twice over the course of two weeks. At one point he took on Quiet Killer & I in a 2v1 tag team match (Quiet Killer wanted to see the "#1 contender match" sign.) After losing the match both of us decided to just be contempt with our current ranks, never challenging him again. Eventually I left for greener pastures as Socom & Everquest were more fun to me. 4 years later when I was 21 & had a much better connection (DSL internet was released at this point) I tried making a comeback, but the game had changed quite a bit & my reflexes weren't as sharp. It didn't help that almost everyone seemingly had the lag problem the #1 guy had. Out of my first 6 matches I barely won 2 of them, losing the rest to "invincible players."

The unlimited special dimension in Tag Team Mode Street Fighter Online
The unlimited special dimension in Tag Team Mode is devastating

Street Fighter Online never got the credit it deserved nor backing from Capcom or Marvel due to the copyright issues. As far as I know it was the first Street Fighter game with an online mode and was the inspiration for series like "Marvel vs. Capcom" that later took the competitive fighter world by storm. I always thought instead of trying to get the game shut-down that Capcom or Marvel should bring the developer onto their team as they were ahead of the times.

What I learned:

- Anticipate your opponent's movement

- Be unpredictable

- Huge special attacks don't win matches, it's the minor punches, kicks & combos that can make a major difference in the end

- Learn the rates of things such as how much energy you build up per attack or defense

- ALWAYS account for lag when playing online

- Don't be arrogant, don't cling on to your ranking as if it makes you a god

- Don't disparage other players as it creates drama in the community, even more so if you're a top player. Your words matter and your fans will use your negativity as an excuse to rally around you & attack other players

What I do nowadays:

After retiring from SOCOM and refusing to play any of the newer SOCOMs after Combined Assault as they strayed far away from what SOCOM was I transitioned over to Xbox 360 to play Call of Duty & Battlefield. Eventually I got real good at both COD & Battlefield even though I never really got used to the size of the controller, the different layout & the input lag of wireless controllers. I tried to find a replacement for SOCOM (Max Payne 3's multiplayer came close, but it was not popular enough.) Eventually the entire third-person tactical shooter genre fell by the wayside entirely until they were recently revived. I enjoyed watching competitive gaming grow exponentially through Call of Duty & Halo with the formation of MLG. Life happened as well. I developed a career which made my life too busy for videogames. Eventually I took a break and reignited my passion for games when I played the MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV.

Within the past few years I've gotten into *gasp* mobile gaming due to my lack of time (although ironically I end up putting in several hours a day into these games anyway.) Due to them being crafted for casual players I automatically dominate the leaderboards in every game I touch. In one of my recent adventures I played "Pirates of the Caribbean: Tides of War" where I formed the #1 clan on the server & personally became public enemy #1 to the Korean players (check out this kid's drawing of my adventures with his mom, TexasChick.)

Pirates of the Carribean Tides of War Bonemane Texas Chick
My adventures in Tides of War as illustrated by the child of Texas Chick who apparently thinks I'm a girl with a fabulous head of hair

The landscape of competitive gaming has changed so much. At this point I'm an "old man," but do still hope to one day be able to get back into shooters & compete at a high level once again. Currently I'm getting into Black Ops 4, Escape from Tarkov, For Honor, GrandChase, Lineage 2: Revolution, etc. I also stream on Twitch ( & upload to to Youtube as well. You can also catch me doing reviews on this very site!

Overall there are several things you must do in-order to be good at anything:

- Be willing to invest a ton of time. Typical competitive players put in at least 4 hours a day into a game with at least 1 hour of "warm ups" (public matches.) We also invest a lot of time in learning the best strategies, equipment, etc. Practice, practice, practice.

- Learn the fundamentals. If you jump into an FPS & expect to be good without knowing things like how far you can throw grenades then you'll fail miserably

- Look for patterns. At high levels depending on the game there's typically patterns you follow as everyone generally uses the same strategies & equipment. Identifying patterns makes it easy to counter

- When playing online account for lag. Whether it means pre-shoot or never assuming your enemy is going to die, always account for lag.

- Be unpredictable. If you're always running down a certain path as it's your best strategy, switch it up. A good player isn't predictable and can do more than one thing. Running & Gunning isn't working? Take on an over-watch role. Sit back, support your teammates & snipe from a high point surveying the map. Your opponent building up defense in an RTS? Instead of slowly building up your main forces then assaulting their base, zerg rush with the cheapest & fastest available units. I once had a 2v1 match last 8 hours in "Age of Empires" & it ended with me spawning hundreds of Light Calvary as they only required food. I rushed the last enemy's base, slowly chipping away at his defenses & stopping him from building further. Once I took his castle down I started building a castle in it's place so that I could simultaneously attack & spawn troops from. He was now split between trying to stop me from building my castle & fending off my onslaught of Light Calvary which gave me time to finish building my real army & send them in to finish him off. He was totally expecting me to build up an army of war elephants, catapults, etc. as he thought I had enough gold & stone which would give him enough time to build a proper defense.

- Know the game like the back of your hand. It's easy to counter an enemy when you know exactly what abilities it has, equipment it uses, & its movement/patterns. Learn them & commit this to memory even if it means having to memorize the entire moveset of all 35 heroes in "Street Fighter V" or 25 heroes in "For Honor." Not doing so means possibly never achieving the status of top tier player. Even if the DLC is newly released & there's no info on it your previous experience comes into play. This is how players like me who write guides or are the "first to clear" operate

- Be willing to accept advice. If someone has advice, especially a better player than you, listen. I've taken countless lessens from people other the years & always learn from my defeats. Don't make excuses, get better

- Have a plan, a backup plan & a backup for your backup plan. Always be 10 steps ahead of whatever you're planning to do. I've been called a cheater over a million times online from SOCOM alone. I might not know exactly where you are, but I guarantee you if I throw a grenade into a room or make noise you're going to investigate. When you go to investigate there's probably going to be a claymore sitting behind the door which if you notice might lead you to quickly hop over the ledge to avoid the which point either me, another claymore or a grenade will be there waiting to be your pillow

- Be a positive influence in your community. Skills aren't the online thing that matters when it comes to being a top tier player. Online anonymity brings out the worst in people. Don't ruin the game for other players & don't be Captain Douche-bag. Respect your peers by not commenting negatively about them

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