Where Rage and Zen Coexist

Rita, aka Karaya, in a comment on my last post:

I definitely agree with your assessment that I work in that rage-to-master realm. Though I think there are two sides to that coin, and you and I each represent a side. This is really just an amusing brain-tangent; obviously the world isn’t so categorical as this mental construct:

When I used to play Soul Calibur games all night with my friends, two of us were clearly the best players: Foley and me. For those who don’t know, Soul Calibur is a console fighting game series, like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat (Though far superior to either, imo). I was unequivocally regarded as the best player in the group – the one to beat. But once I got into my groove, Foley still had a chance of beating me in any given fight. He was the only one. And everyone else pretty much dreaded having to play either one of us.

There’s a huge psychological component to SC when you know your opponent as well as my friends know each other. You really get insight into the way that person thinks in a high-pressure, fast-paced contest over the course of milliseconds. You develop an instinct for anticipating her/his next move. Not to mention, we played so much of that game that our respective characters became extensions of our own limbs, really. So it was all about the mental game.

Now, as the night went on and we played battle after battle against each other, we’d get warmed up and start thinking and reacting faster. And faster still, to keep up with each other.

At our peaks – in our grooves, if you will – we each had a distinct method of mental processing.

Foley’s method we called “Synapses”, following a battle during which he commented that his “synapses [had] to fire faster to keep up!” His processing during our battles would take place consciously. He had to focus on my movements and keep his knowledge of my idiosyncrasies in mind, and make constant active decisions to counter my actions.

My method we called “Zen”. Once I got in my groove, my processing mostly seemed to take place subconsciously. In fact, at times I had to be careful not to actually focus on anything, as I’d risk “thinking too much”. I would tend to stare *through* the screen and watch both our characters in my peripheral vision. I would act and react instinctively.

Somehow I see a bit of a parallel when I compare you and me in the role of MMO enchanter. And I think it’s most visible in DDO, illustrated by our choices of Wizard and Sorcerer, respectively.

You tend to study the situation at hand and try to consciously choose your tools and strategies to match it. When you fail, your reaction tends to be “I brought the wrong tools” or “I had the wrong plan”, and you adjust accordingly.

I go into a situation with the same set of tools every time and no real plan. Because my tools (spells) are always the same, they’re practically extensions of my body. I don’t do much planning ’cause I hold myself to the standard that my skill should be sharp enough to handle any situation on the fly. When I fail, my reaction is “This is a worthy foe” or “My skill is lacking and must be honed further”.

So in our approach to the spider cave, I see you focusing on the spawn cycles, the wandering patterns, the placement of mobs in that particular situation. Then you consider your tools and draw up an over-arching strategy (subject to adjustment, of course).

I, on the other hand, focus on my reaction time, my awareness, my instinctive understanding of myself and the fundamental mechanics of the game. In my mind, if those items are sharp enough, I will be victorious.

Now regardless of where each of us *focuses*, obviously there is overlap in our experiences. And both of us failed many times and then eventually succeeded. It’s just interesting to consider the contrast of styles between the two high elf enchanters of Glory ;)

The difference she describes is real. I’ve played Soulcalibur a bit. Mostly I played Xiang Wa. I would never try to beat anyone with speed and reaction time, but rather with “timing” or what is called “meiei” in many martial arts. I would look for “gaps” or opportunities and hit them.

This involves some cognition. But it needs to go down into the “fast path” of the brain to execute. So I wouldn’t make too much of the differences, we’re more the same than different.

The graphic at the top is the Zen Mistress’ keyboard layout for DDO, which she shared with me a little while ago, as described for her cleric. It is wildly remapped from the “out of the box” layout. I adapted this for my DDO characters, and it’s starting to work, though it’s a strange position to have my hands in relative to the keyboard.