Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Chemistry: Tendencies, Playstyles, and Comfort Zones Matter

I'm gonna start this blog off with an anecdote from my job. For those who don't know, I work in a local fast food kitchen. It's not part of a chain, and because business isn't great, we don't have the benefit of a high turnover rate with employment...which usually means shit employees and problems just have to be accepted, rather than replaced.

We have 8 different employees that regularly work in the kitchen, and everyone is supposed to be able to handle all the responsibilities in the kitchen. One person is dedicated to keeping us stocked on cooked chicken tenders. Apart from that, we also have to have wings, fries, and toast cooked (with some additional cooked-on-order foods like catfish, mozzarella sticks, fried mushrooms, or burgers). And then there's a need to plate/box all the food. I've noticed that depending on which 4-5 employees we have present on any given day, the nights can go a lot differently. Prior to clean up time, there are essentially three responsibilities in the kitchen to keep things running smoothly.

We'll call these 8 employees Jed, Mary, Roger, Bessie, Dana, Andy, Tim, and Mike.

Mike is the owner of the restaurant. He only works lunch shifts, and prefers to handle cooking when he's not doing business-related things. He's good about keeping the chicken cooked -and- being able to keep fries, wings, etc. stocked so we don't run out.

Tim is new, he's essentially useless and shows no desire to actually learn how to do anything.

Jed and Roger both like to plate. Although they sometimes cook the chicken, regardless of whether they're plating or cooking chicken, they almost never pay attention to the stocks of fries, wings, etc. So when they are around, someone else has to pay attention to those tasks. They tend to only cook those things when we have completely run out, meaning customers have to wait on their food.

Mary and Bessie generally prefer to cook. When they're not cooking, they prefer to leave the kitchen and work on stocking other things like our baked beans, sauces, and whatnot. Bessie is hated by everyone for her inability to do any of the tasks the correct way, and tends to have the worst-tasting chicken (because the fryer burns and that taste gets into the chicken) so other people in the kitchen with her don't want her cooking. Or stocking.

Andy does all of the tasks well, and focuses heavily on making sure we're stocked on fries/wings/etc. at all times and never run out, while also making sure we're never overstocked so food will get cold (which Mary and Dana will tend to do.)

Dana is the owner's wife. She almost exclusively plates, though she is good about handling the other duties as well when necessary. Regardless of the fact that she is basically the immovable rock of the plating table, Jed and Roger will still try to exclusively plate while she is there (and it really only takes 1 person to plate unless we are super busy). This typically means that if she is there with Jed/Roger, we'll run out of fries if the chicken cook is in the middle of cooking chicken, because no one will be looking at the fry pan.

So, let's take a four names out of that and create an imaginary scenario of how a night would go.

Dana, Jed, Tim, and Roger. You have 3 platers and a useless body. Whether Jed or Roger are cooking doesn't really matter, because neither of them will see that we are running out of fries until we are actually out of fries. Tim will keep us stocked on toast, but other than that will only do what he is directly instructed to do (unless a salad gets ordered, he can do that! What a swell guy.) But because of the lack of attention to sides/wings, this kitchen staffing will likely be behind for the entire night, leading to a lot of frustration from Dana who will be repeatedly waiting on food so she can plate, while Jed or Roger stand over her shoulder trying to help plate only to find there is no food.

Now let's take...
Mary, Bessie, Andy, and Tim. Now you're left with no one that actually plates, unless Andy plates. Tim doesn't really know how. Mary and Bessie are both very slow at plating, and Bessie tends to get confused by the tickets. But, because Mary and Bessie tend to leave the kitchen if they aren't cooking chicken, this leaves you with one cook, Andy plating, and then Tim. Unless Andy continuously tells Tim to drop food, then either the chicken cook Bessie/Mary has to keep foods cooked, or Andy has to leave the plating table and put orders on hold just to keep the food supplies up.

So far, we're 0 for 2 in making a good crew for a night.

Let's take a lunch shift. Which is usually Mike, Mary, Bessie, and either Jed or Roger. Mike's good at keeping everything stocked up while he's in the kitchen. Jed or Roger can handle plating. Great! Doesn't matter if Mary or Bessie peace out of the kitchen, you've got plenty of food, and someone to make the orders. The only problem arises when Mike wanders off to sit at the desk / place truck orders / goes to talk to someone he knows in the dining room (he's the owner, he can do what he wants.). Then you're left with Mary or Bessie to cook, which typically won't happen until you've run completely out of chicken and customers are left waiting.

A good crew typically involves pairing Dana, Mary, Andy, and either Jed or Roger to be a gopher for things away from the table that Dana may need (whether it be slaw/beans/potato salad for side items, or to grab the non-hot/mild sauces for wings, which are stored on a separate table from our steam table). Andy keeps the fries/wings stocked, Mary keeps the chicken stocked, and Dana+Jed/Roger get the plates out in a timely manner.

Without Dana there, adding Jed or Roger to keep plating controlled, along with Andy to keep fries/wings stocked, and anyone assigned for cooking keeps the kitchen running fairly smoothly.

If Mary is there but Dana isn't, Mary usually is not the chicken cook because she's the Manager for the night, which means Mary is usually absent from the kitchen if Dana isn't present (#TheDuo?). If Mary is not in the kitchen, and Andy is not working, then problems begin to arise of running out of fries/wings/etc.

Now... what does all of this rambling about kitchen staff have to do with gaming?

None of us in the kitchen have a specific role. We are all (except Tim) trained and expected to be able to do everything as required. But, because of the tendencies of how people work, shifts can go a lot more easily or a lot harder depending on who is scheduled for the night.

Apply this to Halo. You can say all you want that roles don't exist in Halo (and, to some degree, it is true). But everyone has their preferred playstyle, and tendencies they've developed over thousands of games.

Whether you're a player who likes to sit in power positions wailing on people with your BR, or a player that likes to put 1 or 2 shots and play a rousing game of hide and seek, or a player who likes to focus entirely on the objective, or a player who likes to grab Snipe and go blain kids all have a playstyle. Finding a team of 4 players with playstyles that don't clash greatly improves the way that team can work together.

Right now, among teams competing in the HCS, I'd say there are 4 teams with an actual “support” type player – a player with a selfless playstyle or focused on setting up the rest of the team to succeed while their performance doesn't NECESSARILY look that fantastic (disclaimer: being labeled a support player does not mean you go negative, it just means if you are going negative, your performance is still benefitting your team). Those 4 teams I would label as having a player of that style...also happen to be the top 4 seeds currently.

Str8 Rippin and Cloud 9 both have tremendous talent on the team, but struggle against these others. Part of the blame belongs on the natural chemistry of those teams' rosters. The playstyles and tendencies of those players are too similar, so it's hard to just naturally end up in a proper set-up in an objective gametype. Does that mean it -can't- happen for them, or can't just click and be successful? Not at all! After all, these players know how to do the other tasks...they're just not used to them, and when doing them they're not in a comfort zone with tons of experience knowing exactly which way to juke with the flag, or where to set up to zone people off going for the hill even if they're not going for the hill themselves. They just simply lack the experience from being forced to do those tasks.

Hopefully this blog gives you some insight on why I'm a preacher of the “playstyles matter” school of thought.

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