Anyone with a passion for a specific subject, method, sport or game will recognize the universal experience of reaching a skill plateau, irrespective of whether you’re developing your business basics, or seeking a high score on a video game. Simply put, a skill plateau is a point at which your previous rate of progress, improvement and development slows or stops at a certain stage. The reasons for why this occurs are many and nuanced, but the basic concept is that it’s to do with the way we encode information as we learn.
Our brains are incredibly efficient, and they need to be, given as thinking is the most calorie demanding process our body engages in. As we learn something new our brains, through the process of neuroplasticity, seek to become increasingly more efficient at it. It does this by automating elements of the skill, thus lightening the load on our active concentration.
This phenomenon is clearly seen in the act of learning to ride a bicycle — when you first begin, you must consciously focus on balancing, moving each pedal in sequence and steering the bike in the correct direction. Once this has become habitual, the process seems almost automatic. When learning a skill, or trying to improve our abilities at a chosen game, these plateaus are signifiers that we’ve integrated a certain level of ability in the given task.
However, it can be increasingly difficult to move past these plateaus as, in order to re-start our learning process we need to present our brains with a sufficiently distinct challenge. One great way to do this is by exploring variations on common gameplay methods, as these can help us move past these blocks by presenting us with novel circumstances to overcome. Increasing difficulty and varying the speed of play can also help kick-start our growth. Below we’re taking a look at a few great examples of these processes as applied to different games to explore how they can push our abilities past such blockages.
Variation is the first key principle to overcoming skill plateaus. When it comes to cards, some truly novel variants have emerged in recent years that have begun to gain traction both online, and in diverse locations around the globe. One such example worth your while builds on the basic dealer led banking gameplay of blackjack by effectively bolting a game of poker on to the side. Known as 21+3 blackjack, it introduces a side-bet into blackjack focused on constructing poker-style hands. This changes the flow of the game significantly, speeding it up, inviting more creative solutions, and opening up many more ways to win. Coming to terms with the dynamics of the 21+3 side bet will improve both your blackjack and poker game by introducing new conceptual approaches, which the learning centers in our brains love.
Chess is a deeply traditional game that can date its origins back to ancient India. Over the years, many players, seeking to consistently increase their skills, have sought after variations that will help bring their game to the next level. Among the best ways to push past a plateau is to vary the tempo of an activity. If you do something slowly normally, try speeding up. Speed chess is a great option, especially for players that generally prefer to take their time. By adding the additional stress of having to factor in a time limit, players are pushed to create new strategies, and assess situations with greater speed. This causes them to draw on hidden reserves and access a keener understanding of the game.
In much the same way variation and increased tempo can facilitate a skill breakthrough, so can upping the difficulty. There are many ways to increase the difficulty of a game, but perhaps the most straightforward is to pit yourself against a superior opponent. Players who are looking to improve their Backgammon abilities can make use of apps such as Come2Play’s Backgammon Live in order to face off against backgammon players online. If, for whatever reason, you can’t find a good challenge this way, then facing off against an AI opponent set to hard can also be a great test.