A Hidden Edge

What’s that they say about books and their covers? Get out of the kitchen because it’s too…no, that’s not it. Two in the hand is worth—ah, forget it.

What I’m getting at is that advantages aren’t always as straightforward as you would assume. You may recall that my friends and I have started a weekly gaming session involving Red Dead Redemption, ourselves, and the resistance to spoil the preceding Breaking Bad episode for those that hadn’t seen it yet. Well, despite not adhering to most of that (Borderlands, a few strangers, and strained relationships after some sloppy self-censoring), we’ve stuck at least to the weekly thing and more of us are playing now than ever.

In fact, last night, we managed to get six of us playing all at once. While yes, the voice chat was rather chaotic, but it was fun, too, because what’s better than dicking around a video game with five of your friends? Well, a couple of things but this one is still pretty high up on the list. However, we eventually got bored with constantly shooting the shit out of each other in free-for-all shootouts and started to explore options.

We did a couple of gang hideouts in Free Roam, played a few rounds of Land Grab around Thieves Landing and Blackwater, and simply just rode horses around and raised a ruckus. But then we started to play teams. This was a fine development until one of us dropped and I was left with the worst player to fight deathmatch against the second best player leading a team of three.

Basic math indicates that they would have the advantage, but anyone who has extensively played multiplayer games before knows that some deeper analysis would be wise for the trio.

You see, while they would most likely beat us two in a straight up showdown (as shown by the opening salvo that precedes every RDR match), once the real game gets going, they are at a disadvantage. They may outnumber us, but their numbers serve a better purpose for our needs: we can kill them much more often.

Just superficial probability says that since there are less of us, they will have a harder time finding us. Think of it this way: there are five doors representing the five most likely places for them to hide or patrol or whatever. Three of them means that three of the doors will yield a conflict (hopefully a kill for us)—a majority. The two of us only take up two doors—a minority. This has the potential to mean that our searches will be more fruitful than their searches by a good amount.

This is still dependent on us closing the deal, though, and killing them more than they can kill us, but it’s a start. And it’s not the only moderately counterintuitive aspect of this lopsided showdown; it is also in our best interests to split up.

We will almost always come out down in a 3 vs. 2 colonial-style formation shootout. Two can team up on one, which is a guaranteed loss for us, and since that is likely to end twice as fast as the one-on-one, that can soon turn into a 3 vs. 1, an even lossier guarantee. Splitting up, though, allows us to not only limit the rate at which they can kill us but also work on splitting them up.

So long as we can get the drop on them (see the door metaphor), this allows us to kill at least one of the three before they can kill the lone one of us. This gives us a tennis-style advantage point, leading to either a “run out the clock” situation or a pulse-pounding sudden death of cat and mouse. Either way, it is much more even if we split up and stay on the hunt rather than hide and defend.

Of course none of this is meant to be absolute truth. In fact, the door metaphor breaks down as soon as you remember that there are three of them opening doors compared to us opening two and the second bit relies heavily on the fact that we can beat them mano y mano. However, from the countless times I’ve played on and against a numerically disadvantaged team on Halo, Counter-Strike, or RDR, this all rings true. Just from last night, only once did the team of two lose a deathmatch and actually won a majority of the Hold Your Own and Gold Rush matches, too.

We’re totally not indicative of how this will always work out and I’m not saying we are, but I am saying that you shouldn’t count out the underdog. Numbers are just numbers. We can play into that just as well as the majority. Your advantage is our advantage, and we will take that all the way to the grave.

Your grave.

It also didn’t hurt that two of the guys didn’t understand that sprinting puts you on everyone’s radar and that I was on fire last night, but whatever.

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