Game Avatars 101
You’re so close to getting that avatar you can almost taste the pixels. Your heart starts to pound as your score slowly creeps towards that all-important threshold, all the while repeating the same mantra in your head; Please don’t die yet, please don’t die yet, please don’t die yet...
Then suddenly, it happens.
Whatever guise it appears in (be it a dollop of rogue ice cream that there is just no way of dodging, a petpet that has strayed too close to Balthazar’s jaws, or an avalanche of coloured snow blocks), defeat rears its ugly head. You sit shell-shocked for a moment before the rage bubbles up inside and you long to be able to reach into the screen and deface the “game over” sign that taunts you. I too have been here many many times and know how hopeless it can feel, but ultimately you have two choices. The first is to simply give up. If this is your chosen course of action, then stop reading now and perhaps go find a comic to cheer yourself up instead. Alternatively, you can grit your teeth and try again. If you find yourself swaying towards the latter, then you are already on your way to getting that avatar, and I am here to try and make that journey as painless as possible.
Rather than being a step-by-step guide on how to achieve a particular avatar, I decided to compile a guide that gives advice on how to approach the whole process of earning a gaming-related avatar to hopefully give you a much better chance of success. So dip in and out and try the suggestions as they apply to you and I’m sure I shall soon see you on the Avatar Chat displaying the fruits of your labour. :] Shall we get started then?
Find out what score you need to achieve - This one kind of goes without saying, really. The easiest way to do this would be to either ask on the Avatar Chat (AC) board or on the Games Chat (GC) board. There are also a number of Neopians who have dedicated their petpages to listing this kind of information (helpful chaps aren’t they?), though, as always, be wary about visiting offsite pages.
Practice really does make perfect - There is a reason that these words of genius have been perpetuated through the years and that is because they are true. The more you play a game, the more accustomed you will become to the control system and it will become second nature to you; you’ll also find yourself picking up little techniques like how best to tackle certain levels. Basically you should try to set aside a good chunk of time whenever you’re online to devote to playing each game as many times as your sanity will allow.
Patience is a virtue - While occasionally you might find that you can get a high enough score for a particular game right off the bat, more often than not it requires you to put some time and effort into gradually improving your score. This might take days, weeks, months or even longer – for example, it took me a good two years to get the Destruct-O-Match avatar. When it feels like you’ll never get there, it’s important to try and remain positive, because if you give up trying, then you really will never get it.
More General Tips
Listen to music - Game music can either be a help or a hindrance; for some games like Ice Cream Machine, I find that leaving the sound on seems to improve my score, whilst for others, like Stowaway Sting, the music just irritates me and gets me frustrated much easier. I would suggest listening to some of your favourite songs whilst playing to help relax you and keep you from obsessing over your score too much; you could create a specialised playlist or just set it to random.
Keep things varied - There is no rule which says you have to focus on getting one avatar at a time. At any given time I’m usually ‘in training’ for about three different game avatars. I find this better because then once you get sick of playing one game, you can take a break from it and play a different one for a while until you feel like going back for round two.
Only submit two scores - It’s pretty easy to lose track of how many scores you’ve sent and send the third before you’re ready to give up trying for the day. This leads to the potentially soul-destroying scenario of actually achieving the necessary score but not being able to submit it. Trust me, you do not want to go there, so try to keep aware of where you’re up to on that front at all times and hold off on submitting your final score until you’re sure that you want to call it quits.
Avoid distractions - For some games like Volcano Run 2 or Dubloon Disaster, there is no pause button or break between levels and so once you’ve started, you have to finish (like the guy on Mastermind, haha). It’s best to leave attempts at these games until a time when you’re less likely to be interrupted by being called for meals, answering the phone, or instant messenger contacts. Alternatively you could just keep the phone close to you if you’re confident in your multi-tasking abilities, and sign out of other programs for a while. As for the meals, don’t get so absorbed in the pursuit of an avatar that you forget to eat; that would not be a good idea, I don’t think. :]
Take breaks - If you stay hunched over staring at the game screen for hours on end, then your concentration will begin to suffer and you’ll likely find that you start to get worse. Try to take a break from playing every once in a while, by chatting on the boards, restocking, role playing, taking a trip to the Battledome etc. Or just get up away from your computer for a while to stretch your legs and get a drink or something; this helps to fend off the monotony of practicing.
Make sure the game window is active - If you have your computer set to go into standby mode after a certain period of inactivity, then it’s a good idea to get into the habit of refreshing the page before you resume playing. I have wireless internet and find that standby mode can cut off my connection and if I don’t refresh the page I can sometimes experience problems when I next try to submit my score. So better safe than sorry, really.
Watch the clock - Similar to the point above, make sure that your game doesn’t cross the midnight cut-off point. If you start playing before 12:00 but don’t try to submit your score until after the clock rolls over for the next Neopian day, then you’ll get the “problems processing your score” message and it won’t count. Again, highly annoying if that happens to be the occasion that you get the necessary score, so refresh the page when the next day starts.
Test the waters - Once you’ve achieved that high score, hold off a moment before submitting it. Not just to glow in that warm feeling of self-satisfaction, but to test that it’s ‘safe’ to send it. During times of heavy traffic, the site’s servers can experience problems and your score may not always go through, so to minimise the risk of this, I would recommend opening another game in a new window and submitting a score on that to check that everything is running properly before taking the plunge and hitting the link to send your score. Of course this doesn’t always guarantee 100% success but it can act as a valuable warning.
It’s good to talk - The AC can be an invaluable source of information and support whilst trying for an avatar. Need tips? Asking around on the boards can yield advice from experts. Frustrated? ACers are (in my experience at least) very supportive and hearing from other people who are in the same position can be oddly motivating, as can the ‘good lucks’ you will inevitably receive from everybody. Angry? I find it helpful to vent on the boards. During the period when I was working on the Volcano Run 2 avatar, I regularly went on there and made “I hate Glubgar!” boards, haha. Of course, the boards are not a place for profanity, so keep it clean whilst being inventive with your assaults of game characters. After letting off steam by calling Eliv Thade a great big dung doughnutfruit head, you can usually face another game or two pitching your wits against him. :]
Bigger is better (maybe) - With some games, the size of the window can play a role in how successful you are. For example, I find that when playing Extreme Potato Counter, it’s much easier to make out the different potatoes as they fly past if the game window is as large as possible. On the other hand, I find when playing Petpet Sitter that it’s better to use a smaller window size, because then you don’t have to drag the petpets as far back and forth across the screen. So try experimenting with different sizes of window and see whether each makes it easier or more difficult.
Be positive - Easier said than done, I know, but try to focus on how many avatars you already have rather than the ones you have yet to earn. Also, take your time to enjoy the satisfaction you get from achieving one of your avatar goals that you have worked hard for, even if it means sitting there with a stupid grin on your face for a while (don’t worry, nobody can see you, haha).
Well, I really hope you found some of that useful. If you have questions about a particular game, then feel free to neomail me; whilst I don’t pretend to be a master of the games room, I do have experience of a lot of games and will help as much as I possibly can. I shall leave you to your games now, and bid you good luck in your quest for wholesome avatar goodness. :]