I am always one step behind you

The core gameplay loop:

i am always one step behind you


well first, I always think 2 steps ahead.

i think about the next step, and how that step leads into the step after it

I have envisioned the 2 steps such that it would be pretty much impossible for any outside influence to stop me from doing one step immedately in succesion to the other step.

if i were to act at this point, I would be 2 steps ahead of you

most people think about getting to the next step, but not the step after

Assuming you are like most people, I would be 1 step ahead of you if we both acted at this point.

You are only envisioning the next step, as if that next step were the dead end to all your efforts. You are only envisioning being at the next step. You don’t even know how to get there. You are just thinking about finally being at that next step and being finished. You’re saying “let’s get out of here. I don’t want to play. Just get me to that next step.”

Meanwhile, i already am preparing in my mind an awareness of the causal link between my next 2 steps, which is myself. Realizing that I am the one containing the causal link between steps, I see that exactly where I am, as myself, is the true destination. I am the one choosing how to link those 2 steps together every single time I make any move. In order to get to the next 2 steps, I need to start where I already am and make that choice of how I’m going to link those steps together.

I have not yet taken any steps, while you rush ahead and take a step.

I am 1 step behind you

NOT because I’m camping, and NOT because I thought so many steps ahead that I was paralyzed

I only thought 2 steps ahead, no more, no less

i am 1 step behind you

and yet, since I always think 2 steps ahead

I am still faster than you when you take your step

I can outpace you even while I haven’t done anything


In a real game, there is an “incubation” period where I adjust to the moveset that the game offers. I need to get a feel for the controls of a game, for all the possible actions I can take at any moment.

During this period, I try to find all the ways I can go from one action to another action. This is that “causal link,” the way that I go from one step to another. The way that I can string together 2 steps, so that I can think 2 steps ahead and feel confident that both of them will happen, without interruption in between.

Of course, during this incubation period, I will fail many many times and be interrupted in between those 2 steps. Maybe someone else kills my character in between, or maybe I mess up and fall off a cliff or something.

It should be clear that this is all about movement, about gaining a feeling of movement within the game. The better that I can understand my movement in a game, the better I can guarantee those 2 steps linking together and being under my control.

Note that this makes me a relatively non-interfering type of player. I don’t directly think about any other players or the environment much — only insofar as they either help or deter me from stringing 1 move into another move. I’m not directly looking for other players’ weaknesses or something. That’s the kind of thing I would only notice incidentally from being 1 step behind you.

I’m out here just thinking about how I can move my own character, and this makes me feel very present and aware and embodied in the game. This greater embodiment allows me to in some way see what other players are going to do before it happens. I’m literally more in the game than you, so I can see when you rush in. You might just try to rush to get from A to B, unaware of how much control you have over your character to do so. You just want to get there and be done with it, instead of enjoying the joy of moving around the way you want to move.

Of course, during the incubation period, some of my opponents will see early success from “camping” strategies, where they just try to go from A to B and then just stay at B. They aren’t confident at their ability to move around from step to step, so they can only think 1 step at a time. They only try to go from one place to another, and then they put their camping tent down again.

Their early success would come from my own clumsiness, from me not fully understanding the controls of the game yet, from me not quite in the game yet. Their success is an illusion, as they aren’t really contributing to it on their own merit.

Calvin Tian Li

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