Your (well, not actually your, but a human) brain is the most complex thing we know of. Its the pinnacle of evolution (thusfar) and it can work out things no computer can with ease.
Still, its so buggy, you’d want your money back, if you had paid anything for it.
We all know about placebos or substances used in drug trials on control groups to see what the drug is actually doing and what is only the brain thinking there’s something helping the body heal, but did you know placebos actually work even if you are told its a placebo? Furthermore, they work better, if they are injected by someone in a lab coat.
What the fuck, brain? If you can do all this for me with this imagined help, why can’t you do it for me in other situations? And this isn’t the end of it. We all have strange notions and prejudices we’ve learned from wherever, which we can’t get rid of, even if we wanted to, because our brain isn’t able to reroute all the couplings we’ve accummulated throughout our lives.
… and often we don’t even recognize it, because the only tool we have for this purpose, is the brain itself. And I’m not even touch mental illnesses here.
What I’m trying to get to here is that this means you can manipulate yourself to do pretty much anything.
Did you know that if you have a group of Asian women and have them do a math test, they’ll do very well if you tell them they are there, because they are Asian, and they’ll do poorly if you tell them they are there, because they are women?
We can get ourselves into the correct state of mind, as long as we know how to push ourselves into the right direction. Athletes do it all the time. It might seem like superstition (and it probably is), but that doesn’t mean it won’t work (see the placebo example from above).
What could that ritual be? Well, I don’t know your brain, so you need to figure that our for yourself. I like to listen to Swans between rounds in big MtG tournaments, but I also have a tendency to change this choice based on the deck I’m playing. Will this work for anyone else? Probably. Plenty of players listen to music to get their head into the game, but it doesn’t have to be this. I also pile count my deck before each round and after sideboarding. I also shuffle my opponents deck. These are not only good habits for any competitive player, but its also telling my brain to get into the right state to play this game.
Not only will this kind of manipulation of one-self improve your performance in competitive games, but you can also immerse yourself better in RPGs, if you go through whatever ritual you need to.
Maybe this is about recapping the last session or maybe the GM just asks the players to tell about something their characters did between sessions. Maybe you have something more personal, such pulling out the “correct” dice or some sort of dance. I don’t know. Do what works for you.
In previous posts I talked about using cinnamon bars to set the right tone. We usually also use background music (with carefully crafted lists – at least on an occasion). I tend to buy new dice for each campaign and insist on cutting the deck when playing EDH.
I would not be surprised to find out that I have too much going on in my brain when gaming since sleeping after a gaming session is becoming a serious issue for me once again.