We’ve all been there.
We stand before the mist, door, ladder, or whatever else initiates the boss fight in a game like, say, God of War Ragnarök, and steel ourselves for the unknown — or at least for the saltwater education we’re about to get. Surging with giddiness and fear, we might even utter some verbal self-encouragement as we mentally prepare for what’s ahead.
We choose our time, take a breath, and enter.
We start at a distance, feeling things out as we trade a few shots, then come up close to see what changes. We try our favorite moves, see how they work, and begin modifying.
Then it starts.
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The big guy is killing us. Our fighting is turning into a windmill of poorly placed shots, late defenses, and unsettled gameplay.
We’re in trouble.
At this moment, we drop out of the “fight” zone and enter the “flight” zone — but death is often the only way out of a boss battle. We struggle on, trying to regain a momentum that never comes, until soon enough the boss stands in victory.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
I’m an occupational therapist with over three decades of experience in rehabilitation, and I’ve been hard-focused on improving human function since the very beginning. I have a hunch: I think there’s something we can implement that can give us an edge over bosses, and increase game performance in general.
I call them boss-killer exercises.
Here’s how it works: When the cutscene hits, we jump into a little “Cutscene Carnage.” These are short, fast exercises that get the juices flowing, sharpen our attention, and let us go into battle prepared for what lies ahead. Why sit and worry as we rock in our chairs, when we can be warming up for battle?
Keep in mind that we’re not looking at traditional exercises aimed at better health. No, what we want is boss-beating goodness. Don’t worry — you’ll still be able to watch the cutscene, and I’ll offer exercise modifications to account for different performance potentials.
Let’s get started.
Exercise 1: Chair sit-ups
Start by scooting your backside all the way out to the edge of your chair. Lean your upper body all the way back into the chair, which will kind of sprawl you out. From here, just sit up to where your shoulders are over your knees. Try for 30 repetitions. These may be surprisingly hard at first, depending on your fitness level.
Modify by holding onto your armrests and using your upper body to pull up. Not too much; just enough to get you upright.
Exercise 2: Chair dips
Quickly scoot to the edge of your chair. Place your feet as far out ahead of you as you can, while placing your hands palms down on the chair bottom. Slide your backside off the chair, and then lower it down toward the floor, using your arms to control the descent. When you bottom out, push back up with your arms. Try for at least 20 repetitions, and take one full second to move in each direction. This exercise hammers the chest, shoulders, and posterior upper arms.
Modify as needed by moving your feet nearer or further out to control the difficulty level, or limit how far down you go into the dips. Depending on your body, you might not be able to go down all the way, and that is fine. Just do what you can.
Exercise 3: Sit-stands
When the cutscene hits, I want you to stand up out of your chair. That’s right — just stand up! Move into full standing, with your knees straight and shoulders back.
Sound easy? It’s not.
I want you to do as close to 30 of these as you can. Try to stand up in one second and sit down in one second, and focus on smooth movements the whole time. Now, you may not be able to do 30 in a row at first, and that’s no problem. Just do your best. This exercise will really rev your metabolism, and your focus will be optimized by the time the cutscene ends.
Modifications can be:
- Slower movement: Cut movement speed and halve the repetitions.
- Knee bends: Stand all the way up. Stabilize. Then, continuing to stand straight, sink only as low as your knees will allow before returning into standing.
- Run in place: Perform a fast-paced stationary run. Be sure to bring your knees up high.
Exercise 4: Touch the floor; touch the sky
This is the hardest exercise, but fantastic for what we are trying to accomplish.
First, come into standing. From there, bend your knees, squat down, and touch your controller to the floor (if it’s corded and not wireless, you can briefly put it down). Immediately rise back into standing while at the same time reaching over your head in one fluid movement, and hold your controller (or hands) as high as possible. Shoot for at least 20 repetitions, but take what you can get at first.
This exercise may look a little funny, but it’s a high-intensity closed kinetic chain movement that will put your body on notice. You’ll roll out of the cutscene sharp and ready to rumble.
If you need to modify, try limiting how low you go. You can also perform progressive movements, where you go deeper as the repetitions build.
6 tips to get you started
A short word before you get going:
- Practice these exercises in advance. Once you’ve refined your Cutscene Carnage routine, you can bring it into high-stakes gameplay.
- Practice makes perfect. The more exercises you do, the more your body will adapt, and the better you’ll get. You’ll begin understanding your body better.
- Everybody is different. Some of these exercises might not work for you at all. Others will be right up your alley. Stick with the ones that feel natural to you.
- Adapt as needed. If you can’t do some of these exercises, try the modified forms. You’ll find something that works for you given a little exploration.
- You’ll be surprised. Short, high-intensity burst activity can trigger the same body chemistry and physical responses that a fight-or-flight scenario can (in a good way)!
- Make it your own. While I’m providing some options here, feel free to use whatever exercises you want.
I hope these exercises are of use to you. Do them right, and I think they can really change your approach to gameplay. It doesn’t matter how big the boss is (or how scary his weapon may be), because now you’re juiced. You’re ready. You’re taking him out, and taking it home.
Trust me on this one, boss killer.