The Pleasure of Winning Poorly

Advance Wars

I’ve been playing quite a lot of the Gameboy Advance version of Advance Wars lately. I wouldn’t say I’m terrible at it, but I definitely don’t have the greatest military-strategic mind in the business, so I often do stupid things that get me annihilated or put me at a huge disadvantage. I also don’t learn from these mistakes so far as I can tell.

This means that the kinds of elegant victories you generally need to achieve a high rank in the game (e.g. winning quickly, powerfully, and with great technique) are often out of my reach. I get them sometimes, but it seems to be largely by mistake or because the particular map in question is kind of trivial.

For quite a while my low rankings really bothered me, because it feels (quite rightly) like not being good at the game you’re playing, being judged (quite literally) as not as good as you could be. But lately I’ve been playing the game almost specifically toward lower ranks on purpose. And oddly enough it’s felt more ‘real’ in a lot of ways. Thus I often stop worrying about speed, but rather trying to build up a marginal advantage in material assets (which I’m pretty sure the game has built in to make your life easier) and then grow it to the point where I just roll over the opponent with an unstoppable force.

It’s particularly weird because it feels like the AI doesn’t quite know how to play this, it seems tuned to respond to more elegant play than I’m offering. So it often just sits back on its heels while I grow everything until it’s far too late. That sense of just grinding out the victory feels more connected to the shitty, long-durational nature of most wars than the idea of a brilliant stratagem and minimal losses etc. does.

So when my B or C rank rolls by, I just nod sternly and turn my face to the next battle.

14 January 2016
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