Games like Battlefield and Call of Duty are worst when they are played by casual fans, people who may enjoy the occasional match but who don't take the time to daily hone their skills.
I fit neatly into that category. Despite being a big fan of military shooters, I'm not very good at them. But I am good enough, I have played enough, to sense the peril I'm in the second I drop into a bout.
That's why the idea of hiring someone better than me to protect and train me in live matches has some appeal. I wrote about gamers Toby Smith and Roman Vysotsky earlier this week. Both are proficient first-person shooter gamers who hire out their services as bodyguards.
I stumbled upon the story weeks ago, noticing the online ad on a site and tracking it down to two people in Europe. I decided the best way to write about these different sorts of pro-gamers was to hire each of them and see how they did. The hiring process was very easy. Both used a site called fivesquids.co.uk. I just paid the converted $7 or so through PayPal and received an email with instructions within an hour.
I started with 30 minutes of in-game time with Smith, a 15-year-old kid from England, who guided me through Battlefield 3's many multiplayer maps expertly, giving me advice as we played. It was obvious from the get go that I was going to be a challenge for Smith. I managed to die a handful of times before our first ten minutes in the game wrapped up.
Five Tips For Mastering Battlefield 3
1. Know your load-out: Make sure that you know what every accessory to your weapon is, as well as your specializations, secondary weapons and gadgets.
2. Situational awareness: Know what's going on around you all the time. If you see skull-and-crossbones', that's where your team-mates have died. It's also a rough guide to where the enemy are. Keep an eye on the mini-map icons as well.
3. Know your play-style: Don't be afraid to try something new, but make sure you match your weapon and load out to how you play.
4. Help your team win: Talk to your squad. They're there for a reason, and the more you communicate with them and work as a functioning unit, the more chance that your team will win. Don't forget objectives.
5. Have fun: Games are about entertainment, and if you're stressed out from the game, then stop for a while.
Tips provided by Smith.
It was an odd-experience, meeting virtually a person you paid real cash in the real world to play with. It also took me a bit of time to get used to the idea of having someone so fixated with protecting and healing me. Good to his word, Smith jumped between my avatar and approaching bullets more times than I could remember. When he didn't die for me, by accident or fluke, he was apologetic. As we played he kept up a constant patter of techniques and tips. Stay aware of your surroundings, he kept telling me. Know your weapon and its limits. Talk to your squad, he said.
An hour later I met with Vysotsky on the PC version of Battlefield 3. Instead of communicating with headphones, we used text to chat. Vysotsky was a man of few words, more of a brute bodyguard than a guide and tutor. I found myself using Vysotsky as a sort of second skin, letting him take the bullets meant for me before returning fire, sort of like a living flak jacket.
I sent him ahead into buildings to scope out the area for me. I cowered in corners waiting for him to respawn before charging into battle.
Where Smith felt like an instructor, someone who could over time improve my abilities in the game, Vysotsky was muscle, a player who could help stack my stats and clear rooms for me.
While both serve a purpose, if you plan on hiring an in-game bodyguard you might want to know what you're getting from the service before you drop the $7 or so for 30 minutes of gaming.
If used right, in-game bodyguards aren't cheating, at least that's how I see it. What do you think? Would you ever pay someone to teach you how to play a shooter inside the game, or to protect you as you play?
This story starts, as so many great ones do, with a classified ad: "I will take bullets for you," it read.
And he did.
Contact made, cash transfer confirmed, Londoner Toby Smith met me on a bluff overlooking the border between Iran and Turkmenistan on an early December afternoon armed with an M416... More »