Critical Hit: The Problem With ‘Git Gud’

By Ian Soltes 22.04.2017 6

We've all heard it at one time or another. You will be playing Perfect Dark and, suddenly, from out of nowhere a bullet flies at you through the wall to hit you right in the head and cause a kill courtesy of the Farsight. It's a common enough saying, found everywhere from Dark Souls to Minecraft… but is it a good one?

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'Git Gud' is a saying anyone will have heard if having ever played a multiplayer game, and possibly even if you have played a single-player title. It seems like such a simple statement. Enter into an online Pokémon match with a Bibarel that wasn't even super-trained and got thrashed. You walked out into the line of fire of a Bastion in Overwatch, or you couldn't stand up to the top-geared player in World of Warcraft in PvP. You go out to do something, anything, in response. Sometimes it's a cry for help, other times it's a cry of outrage, or just frustration at a mechanic that seems unfair. Then this response comes from some smug kid. It answers nothing, is used as an insult as if the reason why you lost was obvious, and irritates you… yet, is it ever right?

Spoiler: the answer is 'no'.

Before moving on, let me make myself clear here. There is a huge difference between 'getting good' and 'git gud.' There are many fine points but, simply put, the difference can be boiled down to this: in 'get good,' the game is already fair and balanced and something only seems imbalanced due to a lack of skill and improvement will result in this issue vanishing. In 'git gud,' the game is not balanced and the way to improve is to exploit the imbalances in it in order to create the illusion of improvement. One is good, the other is not.

That sounds nice but, playing 'college professor' a bit more, what does that actually mean? Can any examples be provided? Well, yes…yes they can.

For every game there is a distinct power-curve. Think of player skill as a spend-able resource and then a power curve may end up looking like this. For one 'unit' of player skill entered, one 'reward' is earned. For two player skill, two reward is earned, yet players need to be a bit more willing to opt for the harder experience, so it's 2.1 reward earned. For three units, it is 3.2 earned, yet players should be willing to invest just a bit more skill and effort to learn the harder method, so they get 3.3 reward instead. This can go on and on and, for the purposes of this example, will serve just fine.

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Things, then, follow a power-curve like that. What happens when you get something, though - a weapon/character/skill/play-style - that results in something being above the curve or below it? If a weapon, for example, only takes about two character skill to use, but instead of giving back 2.1 reward it gives back 2.8 - only a select few will even bother putting in the effort to use the more difficult three-cost weapon, while anyone using a one or two weapon that doesn't break the curve will be at a serious disadvantage. Likewise, if a weapon costs three skill but only gives 2.6 reward, why bother investing and expending the extra effort/skill to learn it when a two skill weapon is almost as good? Of course, there will be weapons that don't perfectly fall upon this line, like a weapon that rewards 1.1 for an investment of one, but there is a difference between something being an outlier and outright breaking the curve.

The result of this is that the game can end up being determined not by a player's actual skill level so much as who is willing to exploit the advantage first. Using Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl will result in a near-automatic win, so the game becomes less about being skilled at 'Murican football, or even Tecmo Bowl, and more about who can select his team first. If someone picks Oddjob in Goldeneye, the game stops being about trying to outwit and outgun your friends and, rather, about trying to desperately aim low enough to hit him while he runs circles around you. In short, their existence changes the very core mechanics of how the game functions.

Here is where 'git gud' comes in. Say you either have a team of Pokémon that follow the meta perfectly and is idealised. While some would say skill came in with breeding and the like, are you actually a better player? Did the effort of going online to read up actually improve your understanding of the game, or are you merely copying what others have done? If you go in with a team of your favourites that are not idealised for the meta, when you lose to the former, is it because he was more skilled than you or because he went online to make a pre-built team while yours, even if you knew the game inside and out, was not optimised for such a thing?

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Here is where the underlying problem comes in. No amount of 'getting good' can overcome such a discrepancy in skill to reward. This isn't to say that you should be able to ignore the meta and do just fine (you never should) but, rather, that the game has come to revolve around a few pre-set ways to play that deviate heavily from how it's balanced. If, in Magic: The Gathering, Red gained an overpowered spell while all other four colours followed the curve, 'git gud' wouldn't mean improving so much as it would mean either including the overpowered spell in a red deck or putting the few counters to said red spell in your deck if you don't use red. If, however, such a spell had enough common/instinctual counters, and failing to block it did not result in the opponent gaining a massive and unfair edge over you, then said spell, while an outlier in terms of power, is not game-breaking.

By now, the issue should be clear, as well as what the problem with 'git gud' is. However, at the heart of the issue is, simply, a massive attitude problem. It's the notion that things are never imbalanced but, rather, anyone who complains lacks skill - the notion that your skill comes from hours of practice, knowledge, and understanding, and not exploiting a game-breaking flaw. That the person is not being inhibited by an artificial cap on their play method that ensures it will be weaker than it should be but, rather, that they merely lack skill. In short, it's about you. The other person is merely a whiner seeking to disrupt an established order and flow, one that would disrupt your own skills and capabilities. Does the Zerg Rush in StarCraft need a nerf? Does it matter if it's one of your primary strategies? You know its strength, its flaw, and how strong it is, so how difficult exploiting the flaw is doesn't matter, only that your strategy shows that you are skilled.

There is a huge difference between 'getting good' and 'git gud.' One is a player being presented with a challenge and learning how to overcome it, while the other is simply reactionary backlash, usually to protect an imbalance in the game that is ultimately self-centred. There is nothing wrong with wanting a hard game. There is nothing wrong with having people improve, as opposed to having the title cater to people who cannot expend the energy to improve. There is everything wrong with an elitist attitude, though, especially if it comes about not by actually being elite but, rather, through arrogance and exploits.

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git gud or die tryin'

Definitely a phrase I never was a fan of seeing online. But for every nobhead spouting it, there are usually helpful players on forums equally helpful to get you better. Not something I'd like to see in a game chat tho.

Marzy said:
...pretty much every game I go into it's just people being mean, trolling or super angry and getting swore at.

That's like every online game ever.

I don't think anyone doesn't want chat disabled. They just want options. People might credit Nintendo for not using chat (voice or text) so that they don't have to put up with the kind of abuse/trolling you see online, but I at least want the choice of using it or not. That's when Nintendo should get credit imo.

However, forcing a chat (voice or text) is just as bad, tbh. No one should have to be made to put up with shit chats.

( Edited 22.04.2017 23:00 by Azuardo )

not giving players an option sounds like a bad idea.

Haha, this was a fun article. Reminds me of the wc3 DOTA days, literally the most toxic community online probably EVER given censoring these days. New players got beat down (and flamed into near suicide) until they 'git gud'. Ahh the days...

git gud is just trash talking and shouldnt be taken seriously.

trash taking has always been the cornerstone of gaming since teh days of the ye olde arcades.
it was the ribbing of just how much you can rub it in your opponents face.


*Farsight not Farscope Smilie

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