How to win games with the power of your mind

Gaming skills only go so far in competition. As undoubtedly uber-pro as you are, every so often you're going to go up against someone better than you. But should you quit in these situations, admitting defeat and gracefully handing the plaudits to the better man? No, of course not. You should take the game off the screen and into his head, eroding his ability to play with a succession of mental tortures and psychological trickery.

Online or off, there are plenty of ways to manipulate your opponent's brain into game-failure, ranging from the simple to the downright devious. You don't need anything so uncivilised as trash-talk or griefing to put your opponents off. You just need tactical psychology. And here's how you do it.

Give the immediate impression that you’re amazing

First impressions count. Before the game even starts you can instill fear into your opponents simply by the way you present yourself. The trick though, as is the case with a lot of these points, is to not go overboard. A screen-name like ‘Apocalypse teh noobeater’ might seem like a good idea, but in reality it just smacks of trying too hard. Real video game hard-bastards are quietly confident and don’t over-compensate.


Above: The sort of aura you want to create 

Instead, use any tools the game itself gives you in order to convey an impression of leetness. Any titles, medals, badges or unlockables the game gives you for extended online play should be combined into an intimidating calling card, and you should especially pay attention to any that relate to specific achievements or the mastery of certain styles of play. If people think you’ve got a badass niche, they’ll either recommend medical advice or be very wary of you. But probably the latter.

Remember, the game doesn’t start in the game. The game starts in the lobby. Use that time to create a subtly imposing presence. Or alternatively you can…

Give the immediate impression that you’re shit

All of those titles and medals you’ve accrued? Throw them in the bin and strip your online profile back to the bare start-up minimum. With a little editing of your achievements it can be very easy to masquerade as a first-timer, at least to begin with, and you can compound the effect with a little faux-noobish talk and pseudo-naïve questioning about the game.


Above: Imply incompetance in any way you can 

The effect? No-one sees you as a major threat at first, so unless they’re the sort of 400lb bully who likes to shoot newborn kittens using a Sherman tank, they won’t bring their A-game to you. Then you can reveal yourself to be a nuclear-capable cyber-kitten and redecorate the walls with their bone marrow. Leading on from this, it’s also a good idea to…

Hold your real skills back at first

If you can’t create a persona in the lobby, do it in the early games. You have to be at least part-way decent at the game to spring this trick, but if you can spend the first couple of rounds deliberately playing like a noob, once you start playing properly you’ll take everyone by surprise. Obviously this works better in games with less players, as your opponents will build a clearer idea of who you are and what you can do, and it’s an absolutely ideal tactic for fighting games.


Fight like a broken-hoofed gazelle during round one. In fact if you plan on repeated re-matches, do it during the first couple of full fights. Use obvious, basic patterns to let your opponent naively think they’ve learnt your game and have all the right responses. Then pull out the big guns and smash their unprepared faces off. The real beauty of this one is that by taking your play down a gear at first you’ll actually make it easier to observe and learn your opponent’s play style, making the eventual turnaround a hot dish of violence served with a side order of bitter, char-grilled irony.

Pick a less popular weapon/character/vehicle

Using this trick is one time when you should definitely show off all your ranking booty to full effect. Every game has weapons and characters that are known to be the tactically safest meat-and-potatoes of mainstream competition, so a player pulling out one of the overlooked options is either a total noob, or confident enough in their ability to be a major threat.


Back your choice with proof of your experience and you’ll instantly set everyone you play against on edge. And you’ll have the inherent advantage of putting them up against something they don’t see very often. Like an alligator fighting an angry badger. You don’t necessarily need to have world-class skills; you just need to be good enough to capitalise on the element of uncertainty you bring.

Just don’t pick Dan. That’s way too obvious.

Remain aloof and don't talk much


Unless you’re choosing to masquerade as an excitable noob, don’t say much. Remember, real pros don’t enjoy games. They’re too focused on being awesome at them. Don’t whoop with celebration of your headshots. Don’t hand out tips or banter to the fallen (unless you’re playing a team-based game, in which case you’d be shooting yourself in the foot by not doing). Just be the silent killer, moving efficiently from victory to victory. No-one would fear Jason Voorhees if he stopped off for a cup of tea and a chat in between the guttings. Well they would, but only because he has a machete. You won’t have a machete.

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  • noobeater - March 16, 2010 9:53 p.m.

    not to kiss asses but GRUK and david houghton are producing by far the best and most interesting articles here. He needs a promotion damnit!
  • GoodGuyWithACrappyJob - March 12, 2010 12:08 a.m.

    I think I might try some of these out, especially the fifth and last ones.
  • phan7ompain - March 9, 2010 7:59 a.m.

    "Remember, real pros don’t enjoy games. They’re too focused on being awesome at them." LOL funny stuff. Remember guys this stuff is soooo serious.
  • AElli - March 8, 2010 7:21 p.m.

    As it would seem, a good player is always unpredictable.
  • CAPST3R - March 7, 2010 3:41 p.m.

    These are actually tips to make yourself worse. You should always try to stick to the same weapon loadout, to familiarise yourself with it. The best technique is not to change how you play, or what with, it's where you play that must change. Always learn where the enemy is before they see you, and flank appropriately. Basically, you can't shoot what you can't see, and neither can they. (With the exception of noob chutes and campers, which is why I sold MW2.
  • hardcore_gamer1990 - March 7, 2010 1:56 a.m.

    There's something very satisfying about being a mystery killer in online games, no? :D Yes, I use quite a lot of these :)
  • sleepy92ismypsn - March 6, 2010 11:48 p.m.

    @raxafrax is that a pic of you. just wondering some of these tips wont really work cuz its not like you can trick people into thinking your a noob and then showing your true skills cuz your not going to look at the name before shooting them so you wont even notice who youve killed or who killed you
  • Ottacon45 - March 6, 2010 5:57 p.m.

    Per say, Lets say i did have a machete.......^,^
  • philipshaw - March 6, 2010 12:57 p.m.

    Good tips, might try some of these next time I play MW2
  • raxafrax - March 6, 2010 5:32 a.m.

    that tattoo is the worst think ive seen in a while. no wonder the dragon punch wont come out! lol
  • aion7 - March 6, 2010 4:36 a.m.

    Killer yomi. Sandbagging gets mad hype.
  • Silentboy - March 6, 2010 2:29 a.m.

    I strategy of mine in MW2 is that if you do IMMENSLY GOOD, leave when the match is over. You will seem like a powerful, mysterious drifter who shows up to kill then leave.
  • DriveShaft - March 6, 2010 1:09 a.m.

    Lol, I love going into games and being like 'How do I reload?' so they think im out. come close and FIRE ZE MISSILES
  • GodofPS314 - March 6, 2010 12:56 a.m.

    Was this literally made to make people better at MW2? Ha great article though.
  • D0CCON - March 5, 2010 10:20 p.m.

    As soon as I saw "Give the immeadiate impression that you're shit," I knew they were talking about me. Love doing that.
  • soccerclownking - March 5, 2010 9:04 p.m.

    My game can now only improve...
  • Pocotron - March 5, 2010 8:45 p.m.

    So, will I even have to pick up the controller? Oh, I just read the article...never mind.
  • Cyberninja - March 5, 2010 8:40 p.m.

    when i play soulcalibar online if someone does something cheap to win at the last second i always hunt them down until i find and kill them
  • GoldenMe - March 5, 2010 8:10 p.m.

    Meh. I only chuckled at the Jason. And only 3 of these would probably work.
  • El_Hombre11 - March 5, 2010 7:14 p.m.

    lol this can be read as a satirical piece fairly easily. aka, I love it haha. and supersoakers ftw!!!