Class and circumstance

Call of Duty 4—one of the greatest first person shooters ever—allowed its players to create five “classes” for use in its online multiplayer. In each of those classes the players had to select:

A primary weapon and its attachments: A shotgun, a sub-machine gun, an assault rifle, a light-machine gun, or a sniper rifle.
A secondary weapon and its attachments: A pistol, or if the “Overkill” perk is selected, a second primary weapon.
A special grenade: A stun, flash or smoke grenade.
Three “perks”: One from each of three tiers (things like extra ammo, increased bullet penetration, additional health).

Thus, a player could choose a class that matches the game type, the map it’s taking place on, and the player’s preferred style of play. For example, I used to rock:

Two short-range classes: A stealthy silenced SMG class and a manic, rushing shotgun class.
Two medium-range classes: A light machine gun and a sniper rifle with a low-zoom ACOG sight. 
One long-range class: A sniper rifle.

So, on maps with long sight lines and few buildings, I might utilise my long range class. Or I might use one of my short-range classes, aiming to rush the snipers that will inevitably try to set up. Whereas on close, intimate maps with narrow corridors and small rooms, I’d probably run around with a silenced SMG. Or I might pack a light-machine gun and try to hold a room with a few teammates, forcing our opponents to initiate a bloody siege. 

As you can imagine, it gets complicated. The game type affects the class played—death-match or objective based. The map affects the class played. A player’s own competencies affect the class played. As do the opponent’s strategies, their competencies, the type and distribution of primary weapons amongst the two teams, and whether players are playing alone, with friends or as part of a clan. All this, and more, determines the class a player chooses and how he or she opts to play with it.

With that in mind, it would seem quite dumb if I were to say to you, “Pick one class and play it on all maps, in all gametypes.” It’s manageable, sure. You can get away with a sniper on every map, or a shotgun on every map, and certainly with an assault rifle on each map. But it’s not optimal. Sometimes, the sheer oddity of this approach will yield results. But more often than not, you’ll struggle. Yet, this is the approach we take in reality, which is infinitely more complicated. We, metaphorically speaking, bring a shotgun when a silenced sniper would be more appropriate. We attempt to make external circumstances accommodate our desires, rather than adapting ourselves to the needs of the moment. As Balthasar Gracian says in The Pocket Oracle:

Live as circumstances demand. Ruling, reasoning, everything must be opportune. Act when you can, for time and tide wait for no one. To live, don’t follow generalisations, except where virtue is concerned, and don’t insist on precise rules for desire, for you’ll have to drink tomorrow the water you shunned today. There are some so outlandishly misguided that they expect all circumstances necessary for success to conform to their own whims, not the reverse. But the wise know that the lodestar of prudence is to behave as circumstances demand.”

​If it were a contest of adaptability between the internal self and the external world, the former would win, for it is easier to adapt the self to circumstance than it is to do the reverse. Consider that next time you have a problem, face an internal obstacle, or are confronted with external opposition. Pause for a moment and ask yourself, “Am I matching my class to circumstance?”