With the newly launched GW2 section of AJ, I am promoting some of my most popular and well-received guides for the community here, originally promoted on Gw2Guru. While they pertain to GW2 in general, I published these guides to be sure they represent a variety of competitive scenes, so many items, such as in this guide here, can be applied to WoW or other formats.
I hope you enjoy. We posted the guide in full here, but the original can be found on www.teamlegacy.net. As well as other great guides.
Here's a simple question for you: Do you play to win? I bet 90% of the people reading this would immediately answer "Yes, of course." The problem is, a great number of them would be wrong. They think they are playing to win, but they are trapped by pride and mental defense mechanisms that prevent them from truly playing to win. I was once one of those players. Most players start out that way. The default state of human psychology is "protect the ego from harm." When you lose, it's not your fault right? The other guy was using an OP weapon, or a cheap move that takes no skill. While these concepts are comforting to our ego, they are a massive barrier preventing us from getting better at games. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will have the capacity to break through that barrier and truly Play to Win.
Playing to Win
"Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win."
- Sun Tzu
Lets start off with a disclaimer: Playing to win is not for everyone. It takes time and effort, and can be incredibly satisfying for many people, but not everyone enjoys it. Some people have other hobbies and only play games on the side. There's nothing wrong with that. This article isn't for them This article is for the type of person who finds satisfaction in mastery, competition and self improvement. Games provide a fantastic avenue to measure these aspects of achievement. You either win a game or you lose; there is no in between. So if you are the type of player who is willing to sacrifice time, effort, and a little pride, this article is for you.
Playing to win is a very simple concept: It means using the most effective tournament legal moves/tactics/abilities/characters/factions available. It means you will sometimes be using abilities/characters/tactics that will win you the game, but earn the ire of your opponents. It means accepting the fact that defeat is not to be blamed on your opponent's; defeat is not to be blamed on the game; defeat is your fault. This is the key to playing to win. Once you can accept that fact, you are ready to travel down the path of self improvement, towards satisfaction and victory.
"That move is so cheap! It ruins the game!"
We all accept that some games are better than others, but when it comes to multiplayer competitive games, there's only one measurement that really matters: how deep is the game? Depth, in a multiplayer competitive game, is a measure of how many different viable avenues there are to victory. If there is a single character/strategy/ability that is vastly superior to all others, the game is very shallow. Whereas a game with many different equally viable options would be very deep. Imagine if an FPS had a gun that was effective at all ranges, easy to aim, and did more damage than any other weapon in the game, with no major drawbacks. We can all agree such a game would be become quite boring. Nobody would bother to use the other weapons, and there would be very little variety in playstyle or tactics. Now imagine an MMO where every class was equally viable in the 5v5 competitive mode. Imagine the combinations you could make! Two warriors, a necro and two rangers might play very differently from a Warrior/Guardian/Elementalist/two thief setup. As long as both teams have a roughly equal chance of winning, the game has a ton of depth.
The thing is, it's very hard to tell when a game is truly shallow, or if there is something that you are missing. Sometimes deep games will appear to be shallow until you learn more about the game. Sometimes games which look shallow actually are shallow. The best example I can provide is this one. Would you look at this n00b? He's whining about his opponent rushing him in an RTS game:
So this guy encounters a strategy that seems to be uncounterable. And even if it could be countered, it's not a real strategy because it ends the game in 5 minutes! You never even get into the later ages of the game! These arguments are not new, they've been made countless times ever since RTS games first started to be played competitively. There's only one problem with these arguments: they are all based upon the premise that this strategy is unbeatable. This guy got beat once and immediately concluded that such a strategy is overpowered/broken. About 15 posts down, one of the developers calmly responds with the easy to execute counter-move that stops such this rush dead. This was a pivotal moment for this player. He could accept the fact that he was wrong to jump the gun, or defend his pride and whine about rushing in RTS games forever.
For those of you who haven't noticed, the post in question was written by me, and was a turning point in how I viewed multiplayer games. I had this mental rule that said "rushing is lame and should not be allowed." I wasn't playing the actual game, I was playing a special sub-set of the game where you're not allowed to rush. What's more, I expected everyone to abide by my made up rule. Rushing isn't a problem in RTS games unless the rush is truly a degenerate/broken strategy that is the only method of winning. On the day I wrote this post, I learned how easy it is to misidentify a game mechanic as broken. From that day forward I decided to be more patient, and take more time before making the decisions that X mechanic was overpowered/broken.
I even came up with a fantastic method of testing to see if a strategy/character/ability really is overpowered, and it's the easiest thing in the world: Master the potentially broken mechanic and use it against everyone. If you think a class in an FPS is overpowered, play as that class exclusively and use all his "cheap" moves/weapons. Nine times out of ten, someone will show you the true meaning of depth and wipe the floor with your "overpowered" character. Try and figure out how he did it, and you're one step closer to mastering the game.
Playing to win in a broken game will result in boring, repetitive gameplay. Playing to win in a deep game will force you to learn counters to the powerful strategies, and then learn counters to those counter-moves, and so on. The deep games can look just like a broken shallow game, but give it a little time and you may find a whole new level of play you didn't even know existed. Always assume there is more depth that you are missing and you won't wind up looking like a fool to the more knowledgeable players.
You Are Not Good At This Game
"Ever Tried? Ever Failed? No Matter. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail better"
What goes through your head when you lose? "I could have beaten him if only..." or "Well there was no way I could win if he used that broken..." or maybe "that map sucks anyway." If your goal is to get better, the first step is to correct the thoughts that run through your head right after a loss. Instead of excuses which comfort the ego ("he beat me with that overpowered ability!"), the best possible path to mastery is examination of what you did wrong ("I should have been more prepared to dodge his powerful elite skill"). Ask yourself these questions:
- "What mistakes did I make in this game?"
- "For each mistake, what could I have done differently?"
- "What can I learn from my opponent's play?"
"Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so."
Once you accept that you are not good at the game, you can start to learn from others. If you're struggling with a particular faction/character/class, seek out guides/replays/videos from other players. This is another mental barrier for some people. What you'll hear from these people is "you didn't come up with that strategy by yourself, you just copied a better player." For them, innovation is the only skill worth evaluating about someone. You could wipe the floor with them using every single character/faction/class in the game, but if you do it by utilizing other people's strategies then (to them) you are clearly less skilled than they are. This is another mental defense mechanism designed to protect the ego. These players don't have the speed/reaction times to compete at the high level, so they will make up their own mental rule about what makes someone "good" at a game. To these folks, winning isn't the ultimate measurement of someone's ability at a game. They suggest that you must also measure the innovation of their strategy. This makes them feel better when their innovative strategy fails to win them the game. The best players study others and combine all the best strategies they can find. If you spurn "copying" other people then you are setting yourself up for failure.
Innovation has it's limits.
Another great way to learn is to write your own guides. I have noticed that when I go to write a guide I want the information to be accurate, so I am motivated to go out and actively test/research everything that I'm writing about to make sure it's correct. As I write, I learn more about what I do and don't know about a character/faction/strategy, and I'm able to correct my deficiencies. In addition, if what you write is incorrect, there will be plenty of people ready to tell you what you missed. This is a great way to really discover what your own knowledge consists of.
Yomi - Get Into Your Opponent's Head
"I see only one move ahead, but it is always the correct one."
-Jose Raoul Capablanca, 3rdWorld Chess Champion
Yomi is a Japanese word that means "reading." It is used in the fighting game community to mean "the process of reading/predicting the mind of your opponent." Once you have identified and eliminated the flaws in your standard play, it's time to graduate to the next step: playing the opponent and not just the game. Have you ever played a game where you are preparing some hidden strategy, and just when you go to launch it, your opponent unveils the perfect counter to your strategy. But...but you know for afact he didn't scout you. You made absolutely sure that there was no way he could know you were going for that. How the hell? He must be maphacking right? Or maybe he's just lucky. There's no other explanation!
Often you will find that very good players seem to just "know" what their opponent is about to do. They are actually reading subtle cues and patterns in their opponent's play that broadcast the next move. You can take advantage of this pattern recognition. Not only should you study the patterns in your opponent, but try laying traps for him. Broadcast a pattern (Attack, dodge, stun, big damage, repeat) and then when he has that pattern figured out, change something to catch him by suprise. When he dogdges twice to dodge your stun and big damage attack, wait until he finishes his second doge,then throw your big damge at him. A great way to train this ability out is using the card game "Yomi" by David Sirlin. You can play for free online, and I highly recomend it.
If you are utilizing all your skill and Yomi and still are unable to defeat your opponent, perhaps you should stop playing to his strength, and break out something unconventional that he may not be prepared for. If nobody in high level play uses the melee ranger build because it is considered "Weak," that means that nobody has spent any time countering it!
Conclusion: Be Humble; Know Thyself
One of the key concepts running through this article is that of being humble. Never assume you know more than you do, or you might make a fool of yourself when you call something overpowered. Always remember to avoid making up mental rules that handicap you from playing the real game. When you lose, don't blame the game, blame yourself and seek out what you can do better next time. Don't think so highly of yourself that you don't ask for help. Always assume that you are giving something away to the opponent, and try to take advantage of that.
Respect the game, respect your opponents, and respect yourself
Change the Way You Get Better At Games - Gamesradar
Playing to Win - David Sirlin
How David Beats Goliath - The New Yorker
This guide and others can be found on www.teamlegacy.net. We understand everyone has great opinions, and we encourage open criticism. Thanks for reading.