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10 tips to become a better gamer

10 tips to become a better gamer
Jeremy Milliner

Jeremy Milliner

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Games are hard. That’s the not-so-secret reason a YouTube channel like LetsPlay has 3 million subscribers, or why Fortnite tournament champions can bring home millions of dollars. Sure some games are easier than others, but you can usually tell the difference between a novice and a veteran gamer no matter what title they boot up or what controller is in their hands.

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Even if you can win every Fortnite match, dominate the Mortal Kombat leaderboards, or build Minecraft castles in the sky, you still might not be the greatest when it comes to beating Riddler in Arkham Knight, winning races in Forza, or leading a nation in Civilization 6. Gaming has grown into a huge umbrella, and it covers a lot of ground. No matter what game you pick up, though, there are some universal tips that will always start you off on the right foot. Here’s our list:

1. Save often, use different slots

Mostly gone are the days of classic Sierra-style point-and-click adventure games like Quest for Glory or Gabriel Knight. You know, games that punish the crap out of you for forgetting to save your progress. Most games use auto-saves or checkpoints nowadays, but take it from a guy who grew up with the classics: If there’s an option to manual save, do it often. It can save you hours of having to replay the same territory.

Quern Undying Thoughts save game menu
Use multiple save slots to set up a safety net

Saving in different slots is also smart. You may make a decision that you regret, like overspending your resources, killing a character, entering a place before you were ready, choosing a poor team for the job – the list goes on. We recommend having at least three saves that you go between. That way you have a safety net in case you royally screw something up.

2. Everything is rock, paper, scissors

Rock, paper, scissors is the most basic game of all time (besides maybe Pong) and yet it permeates everything. Hilariously enough, it’s usually even praised for making games complex. The idea is that for everything there is a counter. We can’t stress how important it is to take that into consideration no matter what game you’re playing. It’s the foundation for RTS titles like Total War or Battle for Middle Earth (spearmen –> horses –> archers –> swordsmen –> spearmen), but rock-paper-scissors can apply to practically any genre.

Look at fighting games (who’s the best match for Braniac in Injustice 2?), RPGs (when should you use ice spells instead of fire in Skyrim?), and even shooters (when will an SMG beat a shotgun?). If you find that your usual tactic, your favorite character, or your best weapon isn’t getting the job done like you expected, it’s time to consider a new tactic.

3. Read the manual

We know what you’re thinking. ‘I don’t need to read a manual! That’s for wimps!’ Well then it’s time for a personal story: One of the first games I ever played was Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II. In the sixth level (ugh, I still remember every detail of this game) there’s a room with a bridge that has to be manually extended in order to progress through the room. The catch is that the extension controls are quite far from the bridge itself, and the bridge doesn’t stay extended long. Bottom line: You have to run across the bridge really quickly before it pulls back in again. It went something like this:

I was stuck at this part of the game for seven months because I kept trying to walk across it as fast as possible. Because I didn’t know there was a ‘run’ button. Call me dumb, but since this was one of my first games I didn’t know that was standard practice. If I’d read the manual I would have known this right off the bat and saved myself months of frustration. It pays to know the tools in your toolkit. Read the manual. Don’t be like me.

4. Hotkeys are your friends

If you’re a console player this tip isn’t quite as important, but for all you PC players looking to up your game this is huge. Any level where you’re on the clock (and we’re not just talking about racing games like Need for Speed. If you’re playing a shooter you need to react quickly.) you need to be able to do a lot of things in a short amount of time. Hotkeys might take some extra memorization, but trust us; it’s worth it. You’ll be able to do so much more, so much faster.

DOTA 2 hotkey menu
With a bit of practice and the right hotkeys set, you can operate as fast as you can think.

Some games let you set the hotkeys yourself, which means your experience will play as intuitively as you choose. You can even look at a new console game like Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3. If you’re having trouble adjusting to the gameplay (like we did) you can change the control scheme right in the Options menu. You can also re-assign powers to different buttons if you don’t think it makes sense where they are. If the controls don’t make sense to you, look to see if you can change them.

5. Re-position, reacquire

If it feels like you’re running into a brick wall, it might be because you are. How could the game designers be so cruel? Why would they make a level unwinnable?? Odds are, that isn’t the case; you’re just not approaching it the right way. Attacking from a different angle can make all the difference. A melee brawl with a tough opponent might spell death, but a sniper shot to the back of the head? Can’t argue with that! Sometimes it’s like Sam Fisher instructs, you’ve got to “re-position and reacquire:”

This doesn’t just go for single-player games either. If another player in an FPS game seems untouchable, try and undermine him. Go at him with strategies he doesn’t expect. Use equipment that your teammates discarded. Get around the obstacles, flank him, and hit him where he least expects you. Be patient and, to quote Napoleon Bonaparte, “never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”

6. Everything is min/max

Remember when we said that everything is rock, paper, scissors? That only works if your rock is heavy, your scissors are sharp, and your paper is … uh, it’s not a perfect metaphor. The point is that when you’re trying for an specific build, strategy, or angle in a game you need to push it to its fullest extent. There’s an important balance you need to consider: Do you want to create a loadout or character that’s a jack of all trades? Or would you rather make a specialist who’s unmatched in one category, but vulnerable in another (a la rock, paper, scissors)?

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Pugilist perk unarmed
Don’t even TRY an unarmed Skyrim playthrough without investing in this perk.

While it may be tempting to raise the HP of a weak character, or beef up someone who’s not doing much damage, remember that teamwork makes the dream work: Operating as a cohesive unit of properly min/maxed characters ensures that no matter what you go up against, you have a solution for it. In RTS games that means moving units with stacked bonuses. In shooter games that means teammates are covering all the angles in a firefight. In an RPG that means leveling up the right skills and traits.


A good player can roll with the hits, but a pro player doesn’t get hit to begin with. In the words of Piccolo, the most valuable skill you can learn is to dodge. This applies to literally every game: When you’re under fire there’s a spot where you’re safe and there’s (usually many) spots where you are decidedly not safe. Dodging in video games is an art, but it’s also a test of patience. Defensive playing can keep you alive long enough to get that coveted weapon in Halo, elude that persistent zombie horde in World War Z or outlast that infuriating Dark Souls boss.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 Thanos fight
It’s usually clear where to stand and where NOT to stand.

This tip also extends to using cover properly in a game like Mass Effect or Dragon’s Dogma. Silly as it may seem, trees, pillars, and rocks are usually indestructible, so dipping behind them will shield you from mightier aoe attacks and buy you valuable time to heal or plan your next move.

8. Retread old ground, but remember your current objective

Going back to explore old territory might sound boring if you’re itchy to move along in a game’s plot, but it’s often worth doing. Sometimes a place you’re stuck actually is unsolvable unless you go back to investigate earlier ground with a little more scrutiny. This is especially true in puzzle games like The Room or Myst where being observant is half the battle. Maybe there’s a subtle clue you overlooked. In RPGs like Dragon Age backtracking is a good way to save characters who would otherwise have died or complete easier quests, and in shooter games it’s a great way to hone your skills in a controlled environment.

Halo 3: ODST firefight
Having trouble winning online Halo matches? Practice in Firefight.

On the flip side of the coin, if you’re stuck at a difficult juncture in a game don’t just endlessly replay easier points. It may not be fun to hammer away on a tough boss in Street Fighter 2 for hours, or sit there stumped trying to beat a difficult stealth section of a game like Shadow Tactics, but we promise – you’ll beat it eventually. You just have to keep grinding away. Never give up, never surrender!

9. Tinker

If a game has a place to tweak your equipment and tools, it’s always worth doing. Whether its smithing your weapons and armor in an RPG like Kingdoms of Amalur or Witcher 3, managing your ISO-8 in Ultimate Alliance 3, upgrading your Mother Base in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain or memorizing those multi-hit juggle combos in Injustice, practice makes perfect and every little bit counts.

If you’re really trying to fine-tune your experience, the same goes for the often-ignored Options menu. Small tweaks here can have a huge impact on your gameplay, like raising your joystick sensitivity. In Call of Duty that will open a ton of doors. Even something as small as changing the reticle color in Apex Legends could make an unexpected difference in your performance. Trial and error might lead to an adjustment you didn’t know you needed.

10. The Internet already did it

Last but probably most obvious: It’s 2019 and “if it exists, it’s on the Internet.” That goes for strategy guides, tips and tricks (like this article!), video walkthroughs, Twitch streaming, and even Facebook groups or companion apps for certain games. If you’re struggling with a point in a game, we swear you’re not the first. Look to the gigantic network of players and you’ll undoubtedly find someone who’s gotten past where you’re stuck.

Hopefully these tips will help you up your gaming skill in whatever franchise you’re currently enjoying, and that you’ll tackle the next milestone with a bigger bag of tricks.

Let us know in the comments below if there are any universal gaming strategies that you’ve used, and stick with Softonic for more gaming tips and tricks!

Jeremy Milliner

Jeremy Milliner

Jeremy is an avid gamer, writer, musician, and instructor. He has been teaching for over 15 years, with his primary focus on music, and has written all manner of gaming articles, reviews, FAQs, walkthroughs, strategy guides, and even the odd screenplay or two. He has run the gamut of tech reviews, game guides, lifestyle content, and more. His focus as a writer is to give fair feedback of products, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses in a clear, concise, and entertaining manner.

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