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Daoism in Battlefield - Aristo's ramblings

Guest Aristo

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Well, I've been throwing up little thoughts, guides and tricks here and there, so I thought, "Why stop now?"

It's been said that I'm a great shooter, and although it's flattering to hear good things about my performance in Battlefield, there's so much more at work than just being able to keep a reticule on a target and outshoot the guy across from you. I'm no Battlefield master and surely not a professional gamer, but I can hold my own, thanks to a variety of philosophies and situational intuitions that I've picked up over the course of my gaming history. I'd like to draw some parallels between the way I play and some Daoist passages; hopefully keeping them in the back of your mind will improve some aspects of your gameplay.


Deal with difficulty while it is yet easy;

Deal with the great while it is yet small;


The difficult develops naturally from the easy

And the great from the small;

So the sage, by dealing with the small

Achieves the great.

He who finds it easy to promise finds it hard to deliver;

He who takes things lightly makes things hard;

The sage confronts difficulty, and so has none.

This passage from the Daodejing revolves around confronting problems as they arise and taking initiative. Seizing initiative is one of the most important things you can do in Battlefield, as well as real warfare. If you have the initiative over the enemy, then you are not subject to his machinations and are free to deal with the situation as it allows. I will use Metro and Locker as key examples, but in theory, you can apply this to any map. Taking the initiative in these situations could men bypassing your home flag on Conquest and heading straight to Bravo. Bravo is the central point, and the team with it can lock down the other easily. "Deal with difficulty while it is yet easy." It is easier to take a flag while it is unguarded, than it is to take it while fortified. Therefore, take the central flag(s) early on in the game, while the enemy has not dug in. Battlefield is a game that rewards initiative and punishes inaction.

You can also take initiative to a smaller scale; say a firefight between squads, or by yourself. By positioning yourself were you know gives you an advantage, you're creating fire superiority over the enemy, and denying his opportunity to step over you.


Nothing in the world is softer than water,

Yet nothing is better at overcoming the hard and strong.

This is because nothing can alter it.

When people are born they are gentle and soft.

At death they are hard and stiff.

When plants are alive they are soft and delicate.

When they die, they wither and dry up.

Therefore the hard and stiff are followers of death.

The gentle and soft are the followers of life.


Thus, if you are aggressive and stiff, you won't win.

When a tree is hard enough, it is cut. Therefore

The hard and big are lesser,

The gentle and soft are greater.

You're approaching an enemy-controlled flag or MCOM. You're nearly on the burn, or are preparing to plant and you make a mad dash for the objective. You can taste the points you're about to earn; the feeling of success is surging. In your haste, you entered the area without clearing it first, and without your team to back you up, you become another lost ticket.

This is why flinging wall upon wall of men against a heavily-fortified position will yield no results. You can't expect to overcome an enemy solely by brute force and direct action. This is what it means to be "soft." Driving a tank right onto a flag to get on the burn is pointlessly aggressive and "hard" action. Engineers will swarm you and tear it apart. Instead, the tank would serve its team better by shelling the objective from a ways off, and breaking up cover so that friendly infantry can easily occupy and secure it. A direct attack, or headlong rush at a defended flag will end in failure; however, a single man can flank a position, flow around the tide of battle, and spawn his whole squad behind the enemy. Likewise, instead of rushing valuable lives and vehicles at a flag, mortars and Commander bombardment can break up the initial defense and like water, the infantry can seep through the cracks.

By being "formless," you are unpredictable. As water, you flow around the battlefield, adjusting to the situation as it changes. In the words of Bruce Lee: "You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend." When you become water in a game, you become the game. You determine the ebb and flow of events. In this way, you have the initiative, like I stressed with the passage above.


Too much color blinds the eye

Too much tone deafens the ear

Too much taste dulls the palate

Too much play maddens the mind

Too much desire tears the heart.

The sage provides for the belly, not for the senses;

He lets go of sensation and accepts substance.

Simply put, this describes the effects of distraction. In a game like Battlefield, with destructible environments, flashy customization and simply a whole lot going on (64-man servers, I'm looking at you) it is very easy to get caught up in the sensory aspects and lose track of your purpose. Therefore, you have to detach yourself from overloading senses, and play by feeling. Helicopter blow up in the sky the next flag over? Who cares? Take one quick glance, check for jumpers and look away. Focusing on elements that do not immediately impact you will distract you from the important things, like the AEK-toting MVP around the corner, who may or may not have spotted you. Look, they've taken Delta. That's too bad, but if you don't pay attention to the bipod across the hallway, you'll lose that squad perk.

You could apply this to your graphics settings if you wanted to; sure, everything on Ultra would look fantastic. But would it impair your ability to distinguish that sniper on the rooftop? Could you see the red dorito on the map to your left, who's got a bead on you?

When you're gunning down doritos around the map in heated firefights, the most important thing you can do is not think. "But Sgt, how will I be able to beat the head-glitcher in the corner, guarding the MCOM if I don't think about how to kill him ?" The answer is intuition. Reflex and knowledge will rule the day. Too much thinking deludes yourself from the immediate. You'll react slower when putting pressure on yourself to come up with a master plan for grabbing the bomb. Don't think about it, just do it! I don't have to step back from the game and say "I'll guard this hallway because I know this is a prime spot for flankers to get by the main line." I just know from experience, and go about doing what I have to do. Over time, you get used to hotspots on the maps, and you'll instinctively pre-aim those spots, or toss a nade to ward off anyone there. Don't take a minute to hold back and reevaluate your decisions. Just keep on playing. There are things that need to be done at every point of the match.

The best dogfighters throughout history were smart, and knew what they and their planes were capable of. They didn't have the time to stop and think during a high-turn fight. Instinct carried them over the heads of their colleagues, and pulled them out of bad situations into good ones. By knowing the limitations and abilities of yourself, you can act on impulse to achieve favorable results.


Strategists have a saying:

I prefer to be able to move, rather than be in a fixed position

I prefer to retreat a foot rather than advancing an inch.


This is called progress without advancing;

Preparing without showing off;

Smashing where there is no defense;

Taking him without a fight.


There is no greater danger than under-estimating your opponent.

If I under-estimate my opponent

I will lose that which is most dear.


When opponents clash

The one who is sorry about it will be the winner.

Remaining fluid (going back to water for a moment) enables versatility. Staying on the move increases your unpredictableness and keeps you open to options. However, when you stay static and do not adapt to your situation, you will be defeated.

The rest of this passage can be attributed to defense - by "Preparing without showing off," you keep your intentions undisclosed to your enemy. You are not predictable, you are open to options, you can decide how your enemy engages you. The more options you have, the better protected you are. While staying static and unadaptive easily gets you surrounded and defeated. Sometime the best way to stay alive is simply not to fight. If you know the other guy has a better angle, or is the MVP of the other team and a crack-shot, just don't engage. Run away, lose him and reevaluate your position. If your tank's at 50% and the other guy's got a full meter with reactive, why risk a valuable asset if you know you can't win? This is what it means to "retreat a foot rather than advancing an inch," and "taking him without a fight." Metaphorically and figuratively, a foot gives you more to work with than an inch.


The Way of Heaven

Is like stretching a bow.

The top is pulled down,

The bottom is pulled up.

Excess string is removed

Where more is needed, it is added.


It is the Way of Heaven

To remove where there is excess

And add where there is lack.

The way of people is different:

They take away where there is need

And add where there is surplus.

I can relate this to my team's position on the minimap. Say we're holding the center of Operation Locker really well. The enemy is having a nightmare trying to push the center and the underground. But wait! There's only one man guarding the stairs leading to the snow side. That's no good; what if one, maybe even two squads decide to push there? That guy can't hold them all by his lonesome. Rather than post up with everyone else and leech off kills and supplies, the smart thing to do is post up watching the outside, where there is a lack of attention. A team needs to be allocated evenly so that its weaknesses are minimized. Follow the "Way of Heaven" and not that of people, or the rest of the pubs on your team.




In conclusion, does comparing Battlefield to some Ancient Chinese philosophy seem a little silly? Maybe! But really, the two can parallel quite nicely, and many of the lessons found in Daoist works can be applied to situations in the game (and just about anywhere else). These are things that I've taken to heart and use subconsciously while gaming. They've worked so far for me, and hopefully with a little dwelling on them, they help you guys too.


Please feel free to discuss!

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Guest RhinoTech
Sgt, I have to admit this one flew over my cuckoo's nest (though trying to combine philosophy and a war-game in the morning probably didn't help). I'm glad you've connected your gaming style to an external influence, this is often the best method to achieve consistent results across multiple games.
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Impressive post, Sgt Aristo. I'm going to return to this and work on being like water!


You should post this on the main forums and I bet it gets stickied.

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Thanks, LCpl.Ruen!; glad you got something out of it!

I wasn't really sure to put this actually; I just decided to throw it in the public section for whoever stumbles on the forum.


& No worries, Sgt.Rhino; hope it was still entertaining. And I agree with that statement; consistency is important!

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Thanks, LCpl.Ruen!; glad you got something out of it!

I wasn't really sure to put this actually; I just decided to throw it in the public section for whoever stumbles on the forum.


& No worries, Sgt.Rhino; hope it was still entertaining. And I agree with that statement; consistency is important!


I mean the battlefield 4 forums.

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Guest RET.1SG.Maysin=US=

Nice post SGT! I love reading, discussing and thinking about philosophy so this was a really nice way to combine it with a love for gaming. In addition, your particular argument on knowing what to do by experience rather than thinking too much about it really intrigued me. From my view it really paralleled with empirical doctrine and philosophy of learning only through experience rather than reason (rationalism). I've always found the fight between rationalism and empiricism to be a tough and contested one; however, i always found the empirical argument more persuasive to me personally. Moreover, fluid motion in gameplay due to experience is something i would also contribute my game tactics to be aligned with ("Just doing it"), rather than thinking about it too much ("Observing and having knowledge from the arm-chair").


Anyway; in conclusion, yes I like!





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Thanks for the thoughts, PFC.Maysin. :D

There is a level of thinking involved when playing, be it conscious or subconscious (If he's X meters away, I aim here; If the team is pushing here, I'll move there, etc.) but gradually this becomes more instinctual and you make on-the-fly adjustments from previous experience.

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