An Article about the Mentality behind being a StarCraft II Player
Becoming better at StarCraft may make you a better person
You may be a player who one day aspires to be a professional gamer. Or you might be a StarCraft II player who simply wants to dig deep inside your own potential to see to what levels you can improve. For playing StarCraft II, it's not necessarily so much a story of "Will I ever be the next Bonjwa?", it's a story of knowing oneself, improving oneself, challenging oneself, and overcoming difficulties. Becoming a better StarCraft II player brings you face to face with the man in the mirror. It's highly confrontational and oftentimes self-depreciative journey which can make us feel bad about ourselves, ergo ye olde ladder anxiety. Simply put, seeing how 'bad' you are feels bad - a bruised ego. Giving the opponent the proverbial finger by handily defeating them, conversely, feels great. It's stroking the ego. As you can see, besides the obvious mechanical demands such as speed and dexterity, SC2 is an intensely emotional game. And there lies the nub; how can we become a better StarCraft II player, and in doing so, become a better person?
Becoming a better person
When I was 17 and started playing WarCraft III, I was quite unassuming, and felt relaxed about my level of play and results. It wasn't until after the initial tournament victories that I could 'do worse' than I had done so in the past. It also put pressure on me as a favorite, and it planted a seed in my mind that goes along the lines of "I am better than this player, that player, and players X, Y and Z." This kind of thinking should feel very familiar to anyone who's ever played competitive online games. There's always someone better and worse than you on the internet. Oftentimes when we are quite sure that we are better than someone we're facing, it leads us to not give our opponent the due respect, which subsequently leads us to underestimate them, which makes us play worse than we are capable of. Losing in such a scenario can lead to anger and frustration. I don't remember when it started, but some time when I was 19 years old, I was slamming the table with my fist hard if I felt angry. Angry that I lost to someone I "shouldn't" lose to. When I got a girlfriend at age 20, the behavior of slamming tables was quite problematic because it frightened her, and underlined my immaturity and incapability to deal with my emotions in a proper manner. On the surface, it was simple - angry, slam table, what's the big deal. But deep down inside, it was uncovering the fact that I was repeatedly not giving my opponents enough credit.
Even if on paper I was technically 'better', I have learned since that there are no "should have won" situations! In a balanced game with little luck involved, there's always multiple reasons that could point at why I lost. The moment I thought that I *should* win, was when I mentally made myself weak. I wasn't expecting or preparing for the worst. I wasn't giving opponents respect. I wasn't thinking of my opponents as people of flesh and blood, with desires and ambitions - ambitions to beat me. If someone is ready to take on the challenge to beat you, why should you not accord them the same respect? Stopping the table-slamming habit, and understanding that every opponent is potentially dangerous and is allowed to play the game in any way they want, any way that makes them happy - truly allowed me to fix this personality flaw and StarCraft II flaw as well.
If we are honest with ourselves, we're almost never upset with the way the game works. It's not a unit or a state of balance that really upsets us. It's the opponent's temerity or cheekiness of play style. It's our own shortcomings (which we may or may not be admitting to). An example! We think we are upset with a unit called the Swarm Host, because it's so strong! In truth, we are more upset over the fact that we aren't dealing with that unit in an elegant and efficient manner. If all players failed against Swarm Hosts, but we were the one player that effectively deals with them, we'd be proud and bask in the exclusive glory. "I'm triumphing, where others fail!". A beautiful dream. The anger comes from a frustration of delayed success (there is no failure), not the unit itself. When tackling the problem of "overcoming rage", the key is to understand what we are angry about. This can be very confrontational, but we must remember the basic tenets of life: (1) we are alive and feel emotions, happy and sad ones (2) other people are also alive with their own desires to be admired, loved, etc. (3) we can always try to bemoan a situation, or improve it, and most importantly: (4) there's no telling where our maximum potential lies if we never try to realize it, even when we're against the odds.
There are no skill ceilings
Every now and then, we think we just can't seem to improve anymore. Improve what, I ask? Win/Loss ratios? Our league or rank? Statistics are modern marathon medals without having shown up. They're trophies that our father earned, which were passed down to us. Accolades are like the answer to a mathematics quiz without showing the formula or solutions that you used to solve it. Bluntly put, medals are worthless. Improving our "trophy cabinet" has the same value as scoring a 10/10 without understanding the subject matter. They look cool, and impress friends and peers, and they may even give us (a transient) satisfaction. That's ok! But it should not be the primary method of self-evaluation. The experience of attaining a greater level of mastery at anything in life, including StarCraft II, is a lasting glow of feel-good-ness. We reach this by tackling huge problems in bite-sized challenges. Quality of practice. Type quality of practice in Google, there's a sea of information on the internet or any number of books that teaches you how to effectively improve without just throwing time and quantity at the issue.
Scientifically, when there's even a small thing we could've done better in any given game we ever played, there lies a potential improvement we can try to incorporate into our play! If there's even one thing you could do better, the "There's nothing I could've done" or "I can't improve" argument becomes invalid! You could say, "It wouldn't have mattered", and I'd say: "You'll never appreciate enough how many little things add up to something significant". We can't always imagine the big picture because we're sadly only human with limited imaginative power, but we need to have faith that it will simply feel so much easier to be able to build upon many little advantages - and capitalize on further opportunities that may arise.
Playing competitive RTS, I've felt glory and despair countless of times. I've felt frustrated and ecstatic, loved and hated, free and restricted. I've erred, learned, improved, tinkered and traveled. StarCraft II is not for everyone. If you love this game, you love to challenge yourself. The medal is not important, only the feeling of satisfaction after a successful epic macro game or timing attack. We do best to respect ourselves by respecting our opponents, as this eliminates all other concerns and reduces a game to the bare necessities: faction versus faction, victory or defeat. Good luck, commanders.