I’ve been losing a lot in StarCraft 2 lately.
This is, perhaps, easy to understand on an intellectual level. I am trying to learn Protoss, a race who I have admitted in an earlier post takes a certain mindset to play properly: aggressively pressuring your opponent, yet conserving your army and protecting a relatively fragile economy. In many ways this is very different from playing Zerg, whose economy is easiest in StarCraft to expand or rebuild, reinforced because Zerg play style encourages the player to establish map control early. I also have a better understanding of my Zerg build order: I have the same opener in all matchups, and I understand, at least at my play level, the proper responses to common enemy tactics (though I might not implement the response in a timely or effective manner).
As a Protoss player, I am still getting a proper feel for efficient openers, and I’m still learning how to manage my army. I’m playing against Platinum, Gold and Silver level players with perhaps a Bronze League understanding of the race, and it’s frustrating. I don’t like losing, I don’t like killing my Win to Loss ratio, which was above 50% through Season 3. I also don’t like the idea of dropping from Gold back into the Silver or Bronze leagues.
But, I had to decide. Am I playing to win, or am I playing to learn? When I ladder, is the most important thing my league and rank and win ratio, or is it more important that I learn the game, and understand myself as a player?
As a player of games, (there’s actually an excellent novel by that title by the way, find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Player-Games-Culture-Iain-Banks/dp/0316005401) and as a human being, it behooves me to understand my shortcomings and overcome them. That is, in my opinion, part of what appeals to me about playing Real Time Strategy games. In these games, there is an element of self-improvement, of continually asking yourself “how can I improve?” or “what can I learn from this?”
Sidebar: as humans, we should ask ourselves the same thing. At work, where can my performance be improved? In my relationships, especially with a significant other or spouse, how can I better understand the other party? How can I be a better boyfriend, or girlfriend or wife or husband? What are my failings as a parent?
So, that’s part of the appeal for me, and self-improvement should be a part of my decision in gaming as in life.
All this to say, I’m sticking with it, and focusing on learning Protoss instead of giving up and going back to Zerg. I have been clinging too hard to my narrow definition of success as a gamer: league and win/loss ratio. If learning the game better requires a trip back to Silver, so be it. If it requires a trip back to Bronze, OK. I accept that possibility, though I hope to learn quickly enough to prevent that from happening.
In this, commentator Totalbiscuit has been a great help and inspiration as I consider this particularity in myself. He focuses on learning the game above his league: I’ve seen him in Gold and Silver, learning Terran, learning Zerg. Watching Shoutcraft (now called Showcraft, I believe?) is part of what inspired me to make my abortive foray into streaming live games, and is now serving as a part of my inspiration to challenge my notions of what succeeding at a game truly entails. So thanks, TB.
This article has actually been an eye-opener for me (part of the reason I’m writing this blog, to be honest). If we’re looking at self-improvement, it seems unfortunate that I focus this much on improving at a game when I have a wife and son who I can also evaluate my performance with. Perhaps focusing on a game is a method for providing a simple solution to a complex issue: I want to improve myself as a person, and it’s easier to improve at StarCraft than as a parent and spouse. The rules are easier, the stakes are lower.
I’ll have to think on this some more.