Who Is The Real Expert?

By David Skjutar / November 9, 2011


As Seth talked about in So you want to be a dominator? Part 1 execution is extremely important. I'd even go as far as saying that people shouldn't even bother playing 5 on 5 games in Counter-Strike before they've spent at least three years roaming public servers and worked on their movement, recoil-handling, reflexes, and of course their aim, aim, aim, aim, aim and aim. (Also, their aim.) But while having superior execution often is enough to win, it alone doesn't make an expert on the game any more than winning a fist fight by being physically superior makes someone an expert on boxing. Freddie Roach isn't a reigning world champion, but he is an expert on boxing.
   The real expert on a game is he who understands it the best. SlayerS_`BoxeR` is a great example of this, and it's also why he is great. His innovations were a result of understanding the game better than anyone else. It's often easy to copy strategies however, and everyone will simply do so, which makes this skill quite weak in the long run, as when the strategical possibilities have been exhausted ("mapped out") all that is left is mindless execution. (Physical skill + Mental skill = Total skill.)
   If practicing execution takes an overwhelming amount of time it is common to bring in coaches, like they have in the Korean pro teams (or traditional sports, e.g. football and basketball) who focus on the strategy. With proper explanation most strategies can be understood quickly, but master-level execution takes years (if not decades) to develop, which is why this is the most effective method.
   My point is that whoever is the best (i.e. wins) at a game isn't automatically the one who understands it the best and is the most qualified to change rules. It can even be impossible to come up with such changes while one is actively playing a game, as imagining anything different than the current rules is basically running away from them. At least that's how it was for me when I played CS. I had ZERO ambition to change anything. The game was perfect. Any change was blasphemy. [See also Nietzsche: "The world is perfect" — thus speaks the instinct of the most spiritual, the instinct of the man who says yes to life." -Ed] A few years after quitting however I started to realize changes that would make the game better.
   I'm not trying to hype being a faggot standing on the outside and pretending to understand shit. If a game is complex enough there simply is no other way to understand it than to actually play the fuck out of it (Freddie Roach did box). What I'm saying is that having superior execution doesn't mean one understands the game better unless the strategical aspects change at higher levels of execution (as often is the case with good games). After a certain point having better execution doesn't hold any weight in a discussion.
   If I'm going to argue that Counter-Strike desperately needs new maps I would do so by pointing out how the current ones are basically exhausted, how everyone has mastered them, making the game more deathmatch-like, i.e. losing focus of what makes CS great in the first place. There are better games for playing deathmatches. Dominating someone with my godlike aim and reflexes (my motivation for developing them in the first place was to prove my tactics superior) doesn't automatically make it a good idea to introduce five new maps (that are more complex and DIFFERENT than the current ones) each year.
   In games that are "execution-light" whoever understands the game better always wins (e.g. in turn-based strategy games). In games that are "execution-heavy" this isn't always the case.
   Winning is often a result of superior understanding, but winning alone doesn't make an expert. Superior understanding of the rules does. Moreover, players who rely on superior execution might not even want more complex strategies as they know instinctively that this would be to their disadvantage. The same goes for brainiacs who don't want higher level of execution. It's not about right and wrong, it's about taste, but since the margins are small at the highest levels one has to expect top competitors to argue out of self-interest.
   Koreans rape the rest of the world when it comes to execution in RTS games, so naturally it's bad for them when it is simplified, as is the case with StarCraft: Brood War -> StarCraft II. The "technique cap" has obviously been lowered with the introduction of bigger control groups, multiple building selection, etc., but if this isn't compensated with added strategical depth then the game as a total will allow less skill, making the game worse, which is probably the case. However, as long as differences in technique is enough to decide who is the best there might not be any strong incentives to improve the strategical aspect of the game, so this might actually be for the better long term. I do miss 1a2a3a4a5a6a7a8a9a when I play StarCraft II though.
   Still, someone can understand technique without being good at it, but you can't understand a game without understanding it. Some people even have good technique without understanding the consequences of it.
   Understanding the game weighs heavier than having good technique.