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How to win games with the power of your mind

Anything you do say should be designed to emphasise an over-familiar ennui with the game. The idea is to give the impression that you’re so au fait withit that it holds no surprises for you. You’ve played it so long and so hard that you know every secret and idiosyncrasy, and the exciting, discovery-packed glory days of your early blossoming relationship have long given way to apathy, mundanity and arguments over the washing up.

Mention the level design detail. Mention the technical aspects and flaws. Mention the intimate pros and cons of each gun. Don’t be overly negative (if you were really sick of the game, you wouldn’t be playing it); just treat the game like the friend you’ve known the longest. You know everything they’re going to say, but you like the comfort of having them around regardless. The details of what you spout don't really matter. You can be vague, and even make them up as long as keep it brief and convincing. Chances are most people won’t know.

Switch up tactics constantly

A noob sticks to one or two tricks in every game they play, but a real uber-pro-master-leetzorz will have every aspect of the game nailed down. Don’t worry though. You don’t really have to be that good. Once again, you just have to look like you are. This is another ploy that’s all about making people think you’re better than you actually are.

All you need to do is learn a wide range of different moves and weapons to a passable (or evenjust-about-competentlevel). It’s not about being amazing with all of them, it’s just about being amazingly eclectic. Once a lobby spots a player repeatedly using a favourite approach, that player is dead. By constantly mixing it up you’ll not only make your play harder to read, but you’ll also give the untrained eye the impression that you’re an all-seeing, all-knowing, omniponent master of all. And the player attached to that eye will be on the panic-stricken back-foot every time they go up against you.

And taking this one to the next level, from time to time you should certainly...

Toy with your opponents

We’re not talking about griefing here. That’s a wanker’s trick, and much more about ruining other people’s games than improving your own. It’s certainly not the sort of thing we’d ever dedicatea whole featureto laughing at. Oh nosireebob.

No, what we’re talking about here is playing in a way that’s fair, but riles up your opponent something rotten. Fighting games are full of ways to taunt and irritate (outside of the official taunt moves in SFIV, repeatedly dashing out of unnecessary focus attacks with different timings and directions makes you a bugger to predict), and driving games are surprisingly rich in this area too.

Briefly changing your racing line at the last minute is a great way to throw off closely-trailing opponents, and in contact-heavy racers like Burnout and Dirt 2, it’s great fun to screw withanyone trying to slam you into the outside of a corner by steering away from the bend just before committing to the turn. Your cornering might not be perfect, but they’ll scoot messily past you, ideally slamming the track barrier themselves. Double-braking during contested turns is also a great head-messer. Basically if it’s fair but mentally-jarring, do it.

Delay the game

This one’s as cheesy as Neil Diamond in a fondue bath, but it works. For years professional sportsmen have known the value ofwasting time checking their bootlaces whilebeing paid inordinate amounts of money, and now you can get in on exactly 50% of that action. The logic behind the trick is of course to make your opponents wait around before playing, ideally for just long enough to get them impatient and twitchy. They’ll lose their focus, and through their irritation won’t be able to play their best game.

Above: Any excuse will do

There are loads of ways to do this. In an offline fighting game, pausing to check your button configuration and moves list can waste minutes at a time. Online you can spend ages pretending to decide on your character and poring over which of your pivotally important fighting threads to wear.

It’s trickier in online lobbies that have a set timer leading into each game, but if you’re hosting, go crazy with indecisive map selections and game modes. And sports games are practically designed for this sort of thing; for example tossing up and catching the ball when you’re supposed to be serving in Virtua Tennis (just don't do it for so long that your opponent gets annoyed and quits out).

And above all...

Be enigmatic and mysterious

With so much of the psychological approach to gaming based around the impression you create rather than your actual play level, knowing when to quit is vital if you’re going to have your dark legend live on. Maintain a good run for as long as you can, but as soon as you suspect someone’s getting wise to you, get out of there.

Your priority is maintaining your intimidating façade, and you can’t do that in a lobby that’s unmasked you as a mind-gamer. Get out before you start losing, find another one, then sweep into it with a swish of your cape and begin anew. Given the random matchings in the likes of Modern Warfare 2, the chances are that you won’t run into any of your previous victims, but in a game like Street Fighter IV it’s entirely possible to find the same players over and over through custom game searches. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t, under any circumstances, set up a second fight with a player you’ve already scammed.

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Long-time GR+ writer Dave has been gaming with immense dedication ever since he failed dismally at some '80s arcade racer on a childhood day at the seaside (due to being too small to reach the controls without help). These days he's an enigmatic blend of beard-stroking narrative discussion and hard-hitting Psycho Crushers.