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Gaming is a really great way to keep in contact with mates. Even before the impacts of coronavirus, I’ve used multiplayer games as a way to catch up with friends for years. It’s no substitute for seeing each other in person, of course, but as we all get busier with our lives, it’s an easy way to not feel like total strangers.

The thing is, I’ve always been painfully average at a lot of the games we play together. Winning isn’t the point, sure, but being the suckiest player on the team isn’t the greatest experience either. So how do you get the most out of an online session with mates without completely embarrassing yourself?

Here are some helpful tips I’ve learned over the years.

1. Practice

If you truly want to become better, it takes practice. Whether it’s MOBA games like League of Legends or shooters like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), the only way to improve is to keep playing.

If you’re like me and your reflexes have well and truly begun fading away, this probably isn’t a good use of your precious free time, so the next tip might be more your speed.

2. Play a supporting role

Not everyone can by the ace sniper or the lightning-fast headshot merchant, even if they want to be. If you’re there for a good time, don’t bang your head against the proverbial brick wall trying to master a skill that’s only impressive to a handful of people. Play smarter.

When I play CS:GO — which has been our main game for years — I play far better in a supporting role rather than trying to pull off solo plays I know I can’t. After recognising the strengths I had outside of my awful aim, my overall abilities began getting much, much better as a result.

There are so many ways to be a valuable team member, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Dying doesn’t matter if it means you get valuable intel that can win your team the round. Providing a distraction so that your teammate can get the kill is just as helpful as getting the kill yourself. I’m sure you can see what I’m getting at here.

Use your strengths to benefit the team and you’ll have a great time.

3. Keep lag to a minimum online

Lag occurs when your internet connection is struggling to keep up with what’s happening in the game. Some people call it high latency or high ping, but it all means that the actions you take in a game are being registered with a significant delay. Think of it like the delay in a laggy video chat — it’s hard to have a conversation when what you say takes a few seconds to go through to the other person, right?

Obviously, making sure there are no downloads running while you’re playing will help keep lag to a minimum but depending on the connection you have, other factors could influence your connection speed. If other people in the house are streaming Netflix, for example, it could also slow you down.

Luckily, there are solutions available to help gaming performance specifically. Optus has just introduced Game Path, a Windows 10 app that routes gaming traffic over the most optimal path. In other words, it prioritises gaming traffic over other traffic, reducing lag spikes and keeping your connection smooth during online sessions.

According to Optus data, Game Path can typically reduce lag by 30 per cent, which can mean the difference between winning and losing. If you’re keen to check it out, you can try a month for free right here.

Gaming

4. It’s ok to suck

Seriously, it doesn’t matter. It’s literally just a game. The only question you need to ask yourself is, are you having fun? If the answer is yes, keep playing. The more you play and practice the better you’ll get anyway. I’d wager your friends are playing with you because they like spending their online time with you, not because of your abilities in whatever game you’re playing.

If the answer is no, however, move on to the next point.

5. Suggest another game

See if your pals are up to play a different online game, something that doesn’t make you feel like you’re jamming your hand into a rusty sandwich press. Like I said earlier, if they’re online to have a good time, it doesn’t really matter what you’re playing.

And just because you all usually play ultra-competitive shooters like CS:GO or Call of Duty doesn’t mean you have to find something similar. Take a break from the endless gunfire and try a party game. My mates and I will usually reserve Friday nights for something goofy, like Pummel Party or Fall Guys, just to mix things up and keep it fun.

Venture outside of the norm.

Image: The Simpsons