A Fistful of Ideas #1 We Defy Augery, A Rejection of Replays

by Indiana… on Saturday, 9 July 2011

It is not often I write to dispute, especially not with Andy Graham of Frozen Synopsis since I feel he gives generally good advice, at a pace that is rapidly exceeding our own, and would recommend new Frozen Synapse players read his blog. Indeed this is less a critique of his article, rather the phenomenon his article reminded me of.

The replay, in place of the after action report, has risen to dominance and prominence in our gaming culture with the rise of video sharing on sites like youtube but what does it actually offer to a player, particularly a competitive one.

In action based, or games with a deterministic set up, you could argue one might learn map strategy, opening play—or whatever synonym is applicable to your game of choice. But the necessity of this clear delineation of the rules, in a competitive game, would seem to preclude the usefulness of replays as the players you are watching have no more insight then you, even if they evidently possess more skill. You can no more learn strategy or indeed reflex action from a video than you learn to write from reading Hemingway. You need a grasp of the underlying mechanics to understand why what you are seeing is good, useful and in anyway applicable to your own practice. So if you can learn map strategy from watching someone else play CS Dust, surely you could have more fun and learn as, if not more effectively, as watching a replay by playing the same game or even simply analysing, if insight rather than fun is all you seek to gain.

The players you watch admiringly almost certainly didn't formulate their strategies and tactics from replays but from a comprehensive knowledge of the mechanics and their successful implementation. It is ridiculous to believe that their greater watching of videos is all that separates you from them, rather than their greater involvement in for example playing the game. For whilst meta-gaming certainly plays a large part in higher echelon play of most games one must first have mastered the conceit of gaming before they can seek to take advantage, of what is self termed as a gaming above ordinary gaming.

Very few would actively claim to believe this to be the case, but the large under current of gamers watching these videos seems to show a tacit 'alignment' with this ideology in gamerdom at large, as there simply aren't that many players of a sufficient skill level for all these viewers to be really gaining anything from these videos.

Frozen Synapse is distinct in this sense with its reliance random generation and near infinite possibility of openings this presents rendering video replays nigh on useless; what can you possibly gain from watching very specific combinations of these—in the form of actual matches— other than very specific lessons.

Each game is radically different and only a knowledge of these rules will help you, as you are very unlikely to play the exact same scenario as you saw in someone elses game and indeed you also run the risk of inuring yourself (which is not such a problem in other games when things like opening plays serve a clear purpose), where you believe you can apply a specific template to certain types of scenario. Which is only likely to lead to failure of extrapolation for there are substantial differences in each and every game of Frozen Synapse—indeed that is the appeal.

Frozen Synapse is won in the mind, not necessarily the screen, for what is being tested is your decision making under limited information rather than your ability to dole out prescribed solutions to rote problems, something I've been very conscious of when writing our series of articles on Frozen Synapse. It is something I would suggest is better learnt in the abstract and mastered in the particular, through the medium of play.

Does this mean I forsake all replays as foolishness, hell no; I enjoy a good slice of Elpresador as much as the next person but I would certainly caution players from relying on second hand play over their own exploration of game mechanics. For whilst I may watch the Frozen Synapse live stream, I am not looking for a second hand panacea but light 'edutainment'.


We agree more than you may think. Replays can never replace cold, hard experience. "Edutainment", I like that.

by Andy Graham on 11 July 2011 at 19:26. #

Why is it that an article with a hint of insight just dies, and nobody reads or comments?

If you're still around, please reply. I'd be happy to discuss this game.

by Anonymous on 8 January 2013 at 08:32. #

Thank you for the compliment; whilst life get in the way of my posting regularly here or any any of the other sites I have a presence on, I'd be more than happy to chat with you :)

by Indiana… on 8 January 2013 at 08:57. #

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