strafing musings

Those of you who are insane—or bored—enough to indeed follow the completely unorganised entries in this blog in the strict sense of the term, representing a fraction of what I dare call fieldwork, surely have noticed my fascination with Q3A-trickjumping … and may wonder what the hell this is all about. Well, in my perspective trickjumping and everything which surrounds it, is an instance of the creative appropriation of computergames. The gamespace is playfully appropriated by mastership, which does not necessarily involve altering or reworking said space. This smells like theory, tends to start to sound scholarly, but doesn’t yet touch the deep potentials of an anthropological approach. “Thick Participation,” in the words of Gerd Spittler, “implies apprenticeship and practice, natural conversation and observation, lived experience and sensuous research.” Watching trickjumping-movies, hanging out at according forums and websites, trying to chart the whole milieu, and so on, is all fine, but not enough for the cyberanthropologist, who not only strives for outside analysis and interpretation, but for an emic understanding, for experience from within. To accomplish this task, apart from it being tremendous fun, I set out to learn at least the basics of trickjumping, to acquire the embodied knowledge necessary for performing godlike moves in Q3A-gamespace without cheating. Rocketjumping and plasmaclimbing were the first techniques I learned, but somehow I never got to grips with strafejumping. I read every tutorial I could get onto my screen, watched demos and movies, but didn’t even really get the idea. The breakthrough came with Quan-Time’s movie “Genesis: The beginning of …” and the use of the CampingGaz-HUD described therein. During the last four or five days I tried hard to understand the principle and convert it into action. Slowly, very slowly, I reached a point at which the interface started to report acceleration. But after some jumps everything always came apart. Then, sometime last night, the Gordian knot cut itself, I relaxed and leant back. Here we go:

The left hand isn’t cramped anymore, the middle-finger has ceased to press the forward key so hard like it wanted to drive it right through the keyboard and the tabletop. Ring finger and index finger are in synch, go together in perfect harmony on my comp’s keyboard, smoothly beating out the necessary rhythm. The right hand has chimed in, waving my Razer Diamondback from side to side, I am in the flow and go faster and faster. At the latest when crossing the 1000-units-per-second barrier, more than thrice the speed the game-engine wants to allow you, I am reaching my current personal escape velocity in terms of coordination. Gamespace is merely whizzing past, the cognitive and motoric load bearing heavily on my nervous system and brain reaches critical mass. Suddenly my fingers trip over one of the WASD-keys, I touch the ground for too long, friction immediately kicks in and I loose almost all of my speed, gained so direly. This abrupt dropping out of the speedworld astonishes me so much that I am coming to a grinding halt. I am back in the realm of my usual experiencing Q3A-gamespace. But there is proof of my breakneck journey. So I hit the R-key, bound to remember for me the speeds of the last jumps wholesale, and there it is: 624—656—648—697—741—785—831—866—907—948—990—1012. Magic!

The practice now is imprinted, and I discovered that it’s not only eye-hand coordination, but ear-hand coordination as well. I can do to my poor standards halfway decent strafejumping without looking at the screen, just by listening to the beats of my avatar hitting the ground. Equipped with my newly acquired skills I spawned in some of Q3A’s out-of-the-box maps, namely DM6 and of course DM17, and now felt how small and restricted those maps are compared to DeFraG- and trickjumping-maps. Of course I already knew that by means of my rational mind, but now I experienced an almost claustrophobic feeling. For me those maps now are inscribed with a completely new meaning.