5 Things I Learned From Being Bad At Shooters

Bad at shooters? So am I! But they can still be fun, if you have the right attitude.

Bad at shooters? So am I! But they can still be fun, if you have the right attitude.

I can remember when Wolfenstein and Doom first made their rounds in my college campus way back in the early ’90s. FPSs have certainly improved in that time, and my skills have… improved by a somewhat lesser amount.

That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy strapping myself into my virtual battle gear, picking up my assault rifle, and pretending I know what I’m doing. Even if my kill/death ratio is lower than my weapon caliber, I’ve learned how to enjoy myself with just an itchy trigger finger and Ol’ Reliable, a.k.a. my left mouse button, by my side. (That’s the one that shoots, right?)

These tips won’t necessarily help you play better, but they will help you come to grips with your mediocrity. And knowing you suck is half the battle. Yo, Joe!

Listen to other people…

I know, I know, you’re a badass. You’re a badass renegade cop who doesn’t play by the rules. You’re Badass McCop (or his trusty Irish partner A.K. O’Forty-Seven) and you’ll do what you want to, dammit!

That is, of course, a great way to invite a whole bunch of lead to throw a party in your gut.

If you’re playing a team-based shooter, listen to what other people are saying and follow your teammates. This isn’t just advice for newbies. Good players get that way because they know the objectives, use cover to get there, and watch one another’s backs. And when things go wrong, you can just say you were following orders.

Sure, there will be chances to freelance, and when the rest of your buddies are gunned down, that’s a perfect time to go for that heroic last stand. But most of the time you’ll be better using the same rule in FPSs that you use in swimming: always bring a buddy. Or, ideally, a platoon. Of Navy SEALs.

…But don’t listen too much

Most of the time, there’s enough going on in a shooter that it’s hard to pick out that individual people are screwing up. That’s especially good if you’re the one screwing up. You can’t hide forever, though; eventually you will be noticed, and you will hear about it.

Some people think they’re so leet/pro/über that they can’t stand the notion of someone less-skilled being on their team, and they’ll let you know about it, either via text chat or, if the game supports it, through voice chat. Depending on the community, heaven forbid they find out you’re a girl.

My advice: Ignore it all. I won’t say that I’ve been too often abused by my teammates, and sometimes you actually are making stupid errors and your teammates are “advising” you, albeit ungently, but if you’re not doing anything wrong other than failing to hit the proverbial broadside of the barn, then just ignore it and for the love of whatever god you pray to, don’t respond. Like, ever. Trust me on that one.

And if the abuse gets to be too much, just leave the game. There are plenty of servers out there, the one you’re on right now is nothing special.

Some might say that the best way to shut them up is to get better, but such logic rarely applies in the world of online shooters. Try to get better, of course, but realize that it probably won’t matter in the terminally toxic mindset of some people.

The other guy isn’t hacking

Say this with me: “Other people are better than me at FPSs.”

Say it again: “Other people are better than me at FPSs.”


See, here’s the thing: Someone is better than you. If we were to number all the FPS players in the world, from one to, say, a hundred million, you’d be somewhere on that list, probably close to the bottom. Me, I’m #78,912,806. I know because I looked it up. There’s a secret website.

Even if you’re pretty good, there are potentially millions of people out there who are better than you. Let that sink in. Millions of people are better than you. You’re not a pro gamer. You probably never will be. You’re going to get owned and owned hard, and quite frequently.

And it’s not because the other guy is cheating. It’s because he’s better than you. Well, most of the time anyway. Yes, there are actual hackers out there, but unless you clearly and unquestionably witness them doing something illicit (teleporting, shooting through walls, flying – in a game without jetpacks, of course), they’re probably just owning you like the mafia owns Atlantic City.

Ragequitting is always an option

Still, it’s annoying when that same guy headshots you 10 times in a row. Or when that lucky grenade toss fills you full of shrapnel. Or you lose a match. And another match. And another match. And another match. And…

As McCop and O’Forty-Seven say every other week, “Step away from the machine!” Sometimes it’s just the way it was meant to be. And before you start hurling obscenities through your headset or questioning total strangers’ maternal parentage in map chat, just put it all down and walk away. Trust me, it’ll be for the better.

I’ve had nights where I thought to myself, “I’ve got two hours to kill before bed,” loaded up my favorite shooter, and within 20 minutes gotten blown to so many smithereens that even Humpty Dumpty looked good by comparison. That’s when I know that the Force isn’t with me and before I start throwing things at my monitor, just quit and load up something a little friendlier. Like, say, Hello Kitty Online.

It doesn’t make you a “quitter,” doesn’t mean you’re a bad player – well, no more than usual, at least. Just like with any task, sometimes it’s best to let it sit for a while and try again tomorrow. There are plenty of games out there, and sometimes it’s better not to play one that will catapult your blood pressure into orbit.

Also, for the record, I have never actually played Hello Kitty Online.

Just have fun

Sometimes, it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how pretty the graphics are and how many things blow up. You don’t always have to be Mr. Tactical and make the most efficient choices for winning the game. Sometimes you just need to go out and have fun.

Don’t be a detriment to your team, of course (refer back to point #1), and if a control point or other objective is available, then go for it. But if you want to prioritize headshots or stealth kills or vehicular manslaughter, go ahead. It’s your game, and you have as much of a right to play the way you want as anyone else.

Sometimes, when I play Team Fortress 2, I just play a Heavy all night. Or when I play PlanetSide 2, I do nothing but drive tanks. If there are already three Heavies or someone needs a gunner for their airship, I might switch up, but unless there’s absolutely no use for my “fun” choice, I’m going to do it my way. It’s the only way to keep my sanity.

Well, what little I have left…

About the author

Jason Winter

Jason Winter is a riddle wrapped inside a burrito, smothered in hot sauce. Mmm... burrito...