“A Study of Headspace” – Expanded by Joshua Hargis

HALO HALO everyone and welcome to what will hopefully be the first of many more companion piece articles to come. Thank you to everyone who tuned in and expressed support for our most recent episode (39) of the show. Our goal was to offer a different discussion than we typically see in the competitive scene and how an analysis of our headspace can benefit us as players within the battlegrounds of the Halo universe. With roughly 2 hours of episode time, there’s only so much you can say and with that, things you’re bound to forget mentioning, right? So I wanted to stop, pop and drop on over here for those who enjoyed the episode and dive a little bit deeper into what we touched upon. First up!:

Dead Zones:

You know that song “Wide Open Spaces” by The Chicks (Formerly Dixie)? It’s kinda like that. A dead zone is essentially an open area of a map in which you’re gonna fine little to no cover, right? Before I continue on this further however, let’s get a quick visual look at what I’m speaking on:

See the entire bottom area here of Truth from H5? Dead Zone.
See the wide open space of top mid from H2’s Lockout that has the glass in its center?
BOOM. Dead Zone

Why are these dead zones? Because they’re the most vulnerable areas of the map for you, as well as your opponents to traverse. It’s understandable to want to take the short route to get to the opposing teams flag. It’s understandable to want that power weapon possibly residing just right there that you know, the other team wants too. However, taking the quick route isn’t always the best route. If you’re someone trying to hold down a position from above for example, shift perspective onto babysitting the dead zone, as if to protect it from unholy feet. If there’s terrain to walk in a multiplayer map, a player is going to traverse it. You don’t have to though, yo. So let the opposing player be the one to do it and make him think twice about doing it again.



One of the things I forgot to mention in the show is one of the most important benefits of doing this and a tactic I use often. For example, in this old photo of Halo 2 on Elongation we see two Blue players alive up top engaged with two Reds below right? Let’s say for example this were Bryan and I. Only, Bryan (the guy on the right) had instead earlier began making his way down below while I still hung back a bit, Shadowing him.

Meanwhile, I take the high road and “use” him for enemy bait. Now, “use” has negative connotations with it but none of this has to do with taking advantage of my teammate. Instead, I utilize Bryan’s position. Why? Because I know that with him moving in the belt line (another Dead Zone) area that he’s going to aggro enemies to him because of his positional vulnerability. I also know that with my positioning a bit farther back that the enemies are more likely to spot him first and what this can all equate to is a situation in which potential forms to get the drop on their spotting him and begin raining down Brute shot after Brute shot while Bryan begins chipping away too.

In this way, I am still shadowing my teammate and working together without us verbally communicating our movements. He went low, and I went high. He drew attention and I attempted to use him doing so to both our advantage. Things like this are typically on the fly decisions. Not things you can plan out. The more organic the moments are, the more mindful and attentive you’re being as a player without realizing it.

Goal Oriented:

Bryan and I spoke at length in the episode regarding your mindset prior to a match but we didn’t speak as much on during or after so let’s chat this up.

I personally find that during matches, it’s extremely challenging to assess things that are going good, going right, or any particular patterns. We spoke on the show about how if we get the map Plaza in H5 for example, I’ll immediately say prior to the match loading “Let’s all push for OS”. We spoke more on how this can kick things off to a momentous start for the team should we succeed by going in with an objective in mind. What if it fails though and their team now not only has Overshield, but also the Sniper and are working in conjunction with one another? It’s easy to fall into a scramble and thus lose any sight on rebounding. Sometimes the team is going to just be better or you’re going to feel like nothing you or your team can do works. It happens to all of us and it can be frustrating, but remember to breathe because your squad has been what your opposing team is in that moment, for other players in the past.

For me, this is the moment where (while I still admittedly struggle with) I like to practice a mental sense of respect for the other team. I want to quickly internalize the narrative that “These guys and gals are just trying to win too” so as to reject any sense of playing a blame or insult game. If I’m in this position and can succeed at the practice, I’ll find myself wanting to re-purpose the team to another position or power weapon spawn. I might still lose, but my mind and performance will be better. The goal here being, find a way to still make them come to you, not the other way around.

As for being goal oriented after a match, this means taking the time to assess what you could have done better (even if you played flawlessly), what went wrong and what you can learn from it. Keeping the focus on the match before heading into the new match not only gives myself a bit more insight and growth, but most importantly keeps me focused on the multiplayer itself as opposed to becoming distracted with negative internalization, verbal frustration, and external thinking.

However, should you also be playing with people you know, there’s also mentally knowing the role orientation of your team.

Remember the first time we saw this image? SO cool.

What do I mean by this and how does it factor into matches? Take for example the three I tend to play matchmaking with the most: Bryan, Justin & Crayton. Each one of them (as well as myself) is a different kind of player and it benefits us so much. You only need one Michael Jordan, so having a Scottie Pippen or Dennis Rodman or Toni Kukoc balances out the team symmetry so that multiple role facets can be covered. Not a sports or 90’s Bulls fan? All good playa, lemme break this down:

Myself: Role: Leader – Takes initiative with goal setting and team flow

Bryan: Role: Wild Card – While more of a casual player, excels in CTF matches and has spurts of greatness.

Justin: Role: The Microwave – As if a switch, has moments in which he heats up and goes on a tear.

Crayton: Role: ‘Ol Reliable – Is very focused, and treats every death like it’s his last. When he’s not leading the team statistically, he’s a constant resource of dependability.

Knowing how we each play could potentially set expectations in a negative fashion, but only if any of us let that become our mental narratives. Knowing our individual strengths and weaknesses for me allows myself to rarely feel frustration over how any of us play and if I do internally, I can use some aspects below to wash it away. I know what to expect and although it doesn’t always work out as such, it’s a mental constant I can bear in mind when it comes down to moment to moment situations.

Don’t Chase:

Would’a. Could’a. Shouldn’t-a

I feel like for the most part we covered this section fairly well but I’d like to elaborate on what I said when I stated “Winning the war is better than winning the battle.”

Say you team is attempting to hold an area of a map, right? All four of you on your toes in separate spots when you notice an enemy moving in. You open fire and quickly, he/she attempts to retreat. Knowing you almost have them taken out + your shields are in better shape by comparison is gonna have you seeing a new tally to the score or stat board in your mind before it’s even actually happened. So you pursue. And yes, we mentioned how this can more often than not lead you into a trap or in the least, lead you into someone rushing to come back that player up but what we didn’t speak as much on is how this affects your team.

In this scenario, now your team is down one player defensively. A glaring dent in what may have been fortified armor up to that point. Not just that, but your team is now down one point they may not have been previously. If nobody on the opposing team died, but you did chasing, now they have a perfect opportunity to overwhelm your team as a unit, all the while you sit and watch.

Imagine doing this four times in a match and your team losing. That’s four instances in which you abandoned your post for the seemingly quick kill that may have resulted in your dying. Which also means four points for them or four openings to capture your flag perhaps. Four chances to maintain advantageous positioning.

You definitely have to use your best judgment with this kind of thing as I personally sometimes may drop down off a set of stairs to try and get in a last shot but if I don’t in that scenario, I’ll just retreat back. The mentality is to not pursue. To recognize that maintaining your position is better in the long run than getting a quick kill. Why? Because you’re forcing the team to come to you and play on your terms.

Know When To Retreat:

Remember the 7/11 convenience store Slurpees guys?

Knowing when to retreat is a great opposing companion to “Don’t Chase”. Whether you’re making a mistake or are getting caught off guard, you don’t have to finish the fight. You always have a choice here. You may not always have the time to enact it, but you’ll always have the choice to make an escape attempt and turn a seemingly bad decision into a golden opportunity.


Remember this guy. Don’t be him.

First things first. See our boy Del Rio in the above image? You may have read the caption and thought “I’m not this dude but I’ve known other dudes like this.” This is wrong. Why? Because, even if you don’t verbally talk to other players like this when you’ve been upset, you’ve most certainly done it mentally several times over throughout your Halo run. Accept that you are this person at times even if ever so rarely. Why am I saying to accept you’re this person at times? Because the sooner you can acknowledge it within yourself, the sooner you’re going to be able to stop the negative spiral train of thought when it begins festering. Accept that you’re going to mentally be a Del Rio at times so you’re more prepared to shut him down when he crops up.

Communication is important in any game, but Halo 5 really drives it home. There is such a high to be obtained from working together with your squad and pulling off a victorious skirmish or match. It’s easier to get on the same wavelength however than it is to shut down yours as well as team frustration. We spoke on the show a bit about forgiving enemy players as well as your teammate and yourself as well but I want to dive a tiny bit further.

Forgive the opposing player (s): Remember that they want to win just as much as you do. Remember that as much fun as it is to completely steamroll another team, it’s nowhere near as sweet as those 49-50 Team Slayer nail biters. A player tea bagging you? He’s trying to get in your head. Some gal double shotting? She’s only using what was in Halo 2 that 343 brought forward into MCC. Some dudes constantly watching over the Rocket Spawn? Can you really blame them? It’s in these moments I have to try and throw out a mental sense of empathy so respect can be obtained rather than another mental spiral. In this way, I allow myself for a few seconds to understand where they are coming from, remember that I’ve been in their position, will be again, and game recognize game.

Forgive your teammate: There’s gonna be times we all get frustrated with another player not being as aware as we may have been in a moment. For not closing on what seemed to be an easy kill. For not sticking with the team. Understand that you can’t control how other players will play. Know however that you have the power to control how your react and again, practice mental empathy such as “They barely seem to know what they’re doing. Might be their first time playing.” or “Might be trying to just get in some matches before work” or also “They could be going through something rough and are just looking to cut loose.”

Forgiving yourself: You’re always going to make mistakes in each match. You’re never going to play consistently good nor bad. It’s easy to get hard on ourselves internally when we slip up feeling that we should know better, or that we’re better than that. There’s no reason to be hard on yourself at all. Doing so will seep into your performance. Give yourself mental passes. You’re a human playing a video game. We save games and reload files because no playthrough is perfect. Yes, you slipped up but you’ll so respawn and with that, is another chance to take what you learned from the previous experience and use it to grow.

Does some of that sound corny? Yeah, I mean I get that but look, you have to remember that you can’t expect other players to be in the same frame of mind as you. Just like they can’t expect you to be in the same as their own. They’re going to mess up. You’re going to mess up. They’re not always going to help you when you wish so badly they did and you’ll likely however intentionally or not, be that for someone else. (Greg) Bear in mind you’ve been that person for someone else at one point and will be again. So don’t be too hard on them. It’s you and them versus the opposing team. Not you against your teammate.

Slow Down/Inhale & Exhale:

About time for another re-watch of FUD.

I stated in the episode that just because the movement of multiplayer in Halo 5 is fast, doesn’t mean we have to play fast. Bryan made the great counterpoint that 5 is one of a kind in that sense. Regardless of what game you’re playing however, this can still apply. It’s easy to respawn and begin sprinting in H5. It’s easy to roll up into base and hop on through the man cannon in Valhalla in H3. Maybe the game is close and you’re having a fear of missing out. Perhaps you’re frustrated over a death or just wanna get back in the action straight Looney Tunes style – stop. breathe. Like, literally. Inhale through your nose and hold it for a few seconds and then exhale out of your mouth. You will feel better, calmer and can view your approach more tactically. Slowing down doesn’t mean being a sloth. It just means not letting your emotions or the intensity of a match get the better of you.

Be a team player:

Were it so easy..

In the episode we spoke at length about things like k/d insecurity, how assists matter and the general feeling of “kill stealing” and how this can affect us. Something I wanna talk about here however, is being a complementary player in general. Did a teammate have your back very well in a situation? Let them know. Take the moment to express your gratitude. Why? Because the effect of this can mean turning this random player from a teammate into a friend. It can turn a teammate into a compromising and more willing player. Express support, show your appreciation and give reassuringly when someone deserves and/or needs it.

Likewise, don’t hesitate to message an opposing player a straight up let them know “Man y’all made us wish we never hopped on today lol gg.” You’ll likely never encounter them again but you may share in a laugh, and feel better for it for giving without the expectation of receiving. Most people associate voice or Xbox text messaging for trash talk, but why not use it for the opposite too? We all heard about good sportsmanship growing up but being an adult has shown me that if you are willing to give out compliments and be supportive, others will respect you and even be willing to follow you. Your inner worth and confidence boosted as a result. We can utilize this in how we play Halo. It may be a silent, unseen benefit, but throwing out those positive affirmations makes players more willing to get on the same page and work together and overall, have fun.


Cortana is that you?

It’s easy to talk about things such as “closing” in combat or knowing map callouts. Things such as weapon locations or secret reachable areas. These are all easier to learn (while still taking time in of themselves you know) than what this is all about which is, mastery of your mind. Flexing the one physical muscle we can in these games will round out the aforementioned aspects substantially. You can’t think of multiplayer as trying to find the right squad of players and tearing it up. You should focus on BECOMING the right player you’d want to play with. It’s easy to spot “bad positioning” or “noobs” when playing but that’s because you’ve become accustomed to thinking this way. To looking for said things. If you’re looking for something bad, you’re always going to find something bad.

There’s so much we’re mentally ingesting before, during and after these matches that we forget to get in touch with ourselves, decompress and assess what we want out of this, what our goals are and how we attack and react as well as represent ourselves as players be it in our playstyle or how we express ourselves toward others. All these little things add up to very big things. It can be bad, and it can be good, and some of these aren’t always going to work. You have to make judgment calls. You have to go off the rails sometimes. But I speak from experience that despite still learning some of these myself, I can confidently say I’m an incredibly laid back and easy going person for someone who enjoys playing competitively. Halo’s multiplayer is so much fun and there’s so much depth to how we can play. Sharpening our minds allows us to see outside of it’s sandbox and more into us as people, so as to better refine our potential back inside the box.

For those that read this far long, we really hope you enjoyed this and please let us know as we’d like to do more soon and with your support, will.

Keep it Sacred, everyone ❤

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