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          You’ve seen the meme, now read what gamers know about wearing masks, along with a few other personal insights. Be aware of ample gaming jargon.

          This gaming term Best In Slot, mostly used in MMORPGs per my hearing, is fairly straightforward. For any given equipment placement option, you fill that placement with the most powerful choice available. Are you just starting a game as a magic-user but your party has an embarrassing overflow of physical attack bolstering rings? Use those until you get something better. Did you power level from 12 to 50 before proceeding with the main story? Well, that level twelve armor set is better than nothing. For this bit of writing, I want to highlight gear that lessens the chances of acquiring negative status effects. If you’re told the area ahead has enemies with poisons and the shop sells antidotes why not get some to use? Even better, if you have yet to acquire any accessories, why not plug a few in to negate poisons in the first place? Sure, an anti-poison pin may not be “Best” for long, but it works until you have something better. To truly highlight my logic I have to reference Final Fantasy X.

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Masks are COVID Ward, not COVID Proof

          In this game there are a number of ways to mitigate damage. Solid choices for armor were the -Eater, -Proof, and -Ward defensive variants. These basically worked on percentages of 200%, 100%, and 50% reduction respectively. Fire Ward halved incoming damage from anything Fire-based, while Fire Eater healed from any flaming sources. Status effects, breaking from the above, worked on a Pass/Fail spectrum. As such, -Eater has no place. This can also hold true for weapons. -Touch and Strike work a bit differently. For the purpose of this discussion let us say their percentages inflict a connected trait 49% and 99% of the time respectively. Practically applied to this discussion I find that real-world anti-COVID measures have two aims in mind, prevent death to self and the spread to others. The negative status effects Final Fantasy X has that most closely resemble this are Poison and Confusion, respectively. Poison reduces your hit points (HP), or fighting stamina, to a point of incapacitation. When your whole active party is incapacitated, it is game over. Confusion sets you to attack targets at random. Sometimes you will luck out and only enemies will be attacked. Other times your party will take damage.

          A common line drawn for not wearing masks is that ‘If masks work so well and most everyone else is wearing them, then I don’t need to!’. This tends to go for vaccines too. My response is that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Think of it like the Spartan Phalanx. The shield of the person to your right protects you and your shield protects the person to your left. If a Proud Spartan Warrior doesn’t equip best-in-slot and opts out of using a shield it would be detrimental to the whole group. Sure, victory can still be won, but it’s making it harder on everyone else to attain.

          To further illustrate, notice in the above picture that the field has one enemy and three characters. Your active party holds to this number limit at any given time. You have a total of seven characters to choose with their own unique strengths and weaknesses until near the end of the game. Whenever I would forge into a new area I’d pay attention to what the shops were offering. I alluded to the gaming convention of shops bearing items that you would need in the upcoming section. Let’s say the armor provided grants Warding and Proofs for both Confusion and Poison, weapons that allowed for Poison -Touch and -Strike, as well as items that let you enchant your gear to the same effects. It probably means the enemies ahead will be particularly vulnerable to the preparations you can make stocking up here.

          My first cardinal rule in RPGs is “Protect the Healer(s)”. If I spend currency on nothing else, it will be to Proof my Healer as completely as possible. They have to be in the party to heal the fighters, so they need the best protection to survive the front lines. As they likely have a lower HP pool, Poison can easily reduce them into incapacitation range of enemies other attacks. And while their attacks may not cause damage while they are Confused, they won’t be keeping the rest of the party alive per their primary purpose. On the edges of the “Protect the Healer” checkbox is lowering the chances of heavy damage dealers becoming Confused. While the healer may survive a boss attack even while Poisoned, if the whole party attacks them in the same turn they likely won’t survive and a restart will be likely. When I can afford Confuse Proof I grab it. If not that, Confuse Ward is better than nothing.

          Next comes easing the Healers’ burden. Poison Proofing is best, but again Poison Ward is better than nothing. Not needing to utilize multiple turns to detoxifying the whole party to only be Poisoned again or burning through Magic Points (MP) at a higher rate for higher-level curing magics increases survivability. This can even include Antidotes and Remedies for non-Healers to eliminate the status effects too. But again, this takes turns away from their primary purposes of damaging the enemy. Then and only then do I worry about other stats. To help my party ‘breathe easier’ if you will. Boosting HP, MP, and other critical stats. Perhaps even Poison Touch/Strike if I can manage it. And for those party members that are too underdeveloped to survive prolonged combat (Sorry Kimahri, but I want Ultima ASAP), they are never brought into a fight in the first place. Of course, if available, there is a very rare improvement known as “No Encounters” that negates basic battles to even begin with.

          Relating these strategems to real life…

Poison Touch/Strike – Being somewhat to aggressively asymptomatic. Not harmful to yourself, but potentially so to anyone you contact.
Confuse Ward – Wearing a Mask is not about protecting yourself per se, but those around you and society at large. It is not perfect, but it is better than nothing.
Poison Ward – Maintaining social distance in public, being fastridious in interacting with people in as sanitary a fashion as possible. Again, not perfect, but better than nothing.
Confuse/Poison Proof – Isolating behaviors, not being in public and with people who are similarly mindful of their movements.
No Encounters – Staying at home. Little need to worry about attacks from enemies if you don’t even see any enemies.

          Wearing a masks blocks oral and nasal expulsion, thus reducing the chances of the immunocompromised and weakened from contracting COVID (being Poisoned) and suffering from “friendly fire”. This may not be as ideal as not wearing a mask, especially if you have some genuine limitations. In that case, much like Kimahri, I’d recommend staying back and letting your friends help you along. Arrange for someone you trust to be safe to grab things at the store for you. Have the grocery store assemble your order and drive up to have it deposited in your trunk. Ease the burdens on medical professionals, grocery store employees, and other “essential workers”. Be patient. Everyone is stressed. Be mindful so that they don’t get knocked out trying to keep things going. If you can’t Proof, then Ward as much as you can. They are keeping us healthy and our stamina up, we should do the same for them.

          Now I’ll be honest. Do I always do this? No. Sometimes I opt to just boost my HP and Offense and “burly man” my way through fights. But it’s easy to get through a single-player game. The stakes are individual, and I have no worries about someone else suffering due to my stubbornness. However, in the genre of video games and comparisons pandemics, there is one incident above all to relay.