I’ve played Quake since 1996. I never played online multiplayer and I spent several years at a couple points not playing it. But it has been in my game library for most of my life. Only in the recent three years have I tried understanding it as a pro – and in the past year as a speed-runner. I have changed my mind about Quake, and approach the recent Quake spawns Quake Champions and Dusk differently than I would have five years ago.
In Quake III I loved bot matches. I’d start a match with ten or more bots, on Hardcore or Nightmare difficulty, and proceed to shoot at them, with little thought. I didn’t rocket jump or strafe jump, nor did I control any items. I did practice my aim and memorize where items were. But I was a kid with a toy. I wasn’t competing, only playing.
I have adopted a different mindset with Quake Champions. It is out of necessity – there are no bots in Champions yet. But even with bots I expect I’d tend towards live matches. I want real competitors. I want to practice the skills of Quake multiplayer and better myself. Bot matches don’t do it for me anymore. I want real challenge, not fake challenge. This is a respectable ideal, with the benefit of honing my skills and making me a better player and person. But high ideals bring high costs, and I feel like an idiot most of the time.
Case in point: armed with a rocket launcher, another player ran straight at me with naught but gauntlet drawn. I fired five to ten rockets at this opponent to no avail. Towards me the player ran, and backwards I jumped, right off the stage and into oblivion. Not even a full minute after joining the match, I had been shamed and fell to a score of -1.
Battling bots is fun if less challenge and more gratification equals fun. Fighting live opponents brings more agony but also more achievement. Under my new mindset, I want to practice skills and compete. Quake is different for me.
So too with Dusk. This game relates to Quake only spiritually. All the same I approach it with my new mindset. In this case the goal is not competition but efficient play. Used to I took my time in Quake maps, killing monsters and pacing myself. Now I want to practice efficiency by speed-running.
As I began Dusk I played how I traditionally would play FPS games. In other words, I wasn’t doing much fancy: I ran, jump, shot, and strafed. Then the temptation to bunny hop and strafe-jump hit me. I wanted to complete each level as quickly as possible: why shoot these enemies when I can jump past them?
Recently I had begun speed-running Quake levels. Some I found a way to cut out a majority of the level – disillusioning my old gamer self who thought I had to proceed down a certain path, doing all the right stuff to reach the end. Speed-running is scheming and hacking – playing a game not as intended. It’s thrilling to complete a level doing things you’re not supposed to do. A speed-runner is a gamer rebelling.
Playing Dusk, I rebelled against the typical way of playing an FPS. I wanted to scheme each level. No longer do I pace myself and soak everything in. I only calculate.
My new approach to games leaves something lacking. In my old days, playing Quake for fun lent the game atmosphere. I was lost in a world and there was mystery. Speed-running kills the atmosphere. The gameworld becomes a series of obstacles and objects to hack through as fast as possible. Any inefficient detour is illogical. I miss the old days of soaking in an atmosphere, but at the same time regret that I never learned to speed run before. Speed-running is recognizing and combating a game’s structure and system for what they are, not living in a fake fantasy where a set of polygons and textures is a world.
So, obviously, in speed-running Dusk, escapism is sacrificed for calculation. In Quake Champions, mindless fun is sacrificed for agonizing competition. I miss what I have given up, but I love the new mindset I have adopted. There is more achievement and accomplishment to be had by competing and speed-running. There is more work and, as a result, more reward. I miss the old days, but it’s time to move on, grow up, and git gud.