Mentality when playing competitive or multiplayer games is rarely thought about. We see the effects of playing them, good or bad, but rarely do we think about what to think while playing them. So when I decided to get back into Starcraft 2 after about 6 or so years of never playing it, I was acutely aware that the usual mentality of playing games would not work here.
Starcraft 2 is a real-time strategy game where you create, produce, and control a huge army from one of three different races to fight your opponent, until one of you wins by destroying their base. It also requires a ton of patience from within, as the basic controls and even moving the game camera around are foreign to someone like me who mostly plays first person and third person games. But that’s the thing; the game’s controls are hard for everyone starting out, and even for people who have played thousands of hours, they still slip up once in a while just due to how much multitasking is involved.
Even so, my mentality was toxic going in. Not to anyone else while playing (I’m not about that), but instead towards myself. I get controls early on in a game, mostly because the games I play don’t have the scope of working with producing an army along with the army themselves, and instead working with controlling a single character at all times. So when I messed up the most basic of commands repeatedly after days of playing, I felt defeated. Every single moment, I noticed 10 things going wrong, and if I looked back in a replay, it turns out it was 20 errors in those few seconds. My habitual self-hatred arose, repeatedly beating me down with toxic remarks like “why don’t you get this?” and “this should be easy”. I was downtrodden for the longest time, and I truly thought this game was beyond my reach, and actually harmful to my mental health.
Luckily, the community on Discord is insanely supportive, but none are as supportive as Starcraft community veteran and generally awesome guy, Sean Plott, a.k.a “Day9”. Throughout his “Newbie Tuesday” series of videos, dedicated to helping out the new players in Starcraft 2, he mentions the importance of counting on failure to become better, along with not needing to improve in huge steps. In fact, he loathes the idea of “newbies” winning too much, as he calls it an “addiction” that can break your focus on improving in the game. He invites losses in Starcraft 2 and his charismatic energy and jovial tone while doing so is infectious, even to someone like me who has been chronically afraid of failure for most of my life.
And in a sudden light bulb moment, I realized that it wasn’t the game being too difficult for my slow brain to comprehend, but instead it was my self-doubt getting in the way of me having fun playing the game while also learning more about how to be better. But it didn’t stop there. I realized that Day9’s sage advice for Starcraft 2 is not limited only to this difficult, but enjoyable game. Inviting failure and learning next time, along with having small adjustments and milestones can work in life, and I think if I never got back into Starcraft 2 and had it kick my ass this bad, I wouldn’t have found out a path out of this horrible mindset festering within me.
It’s been nearly a week since this new state of mind, and I honestly never felt better. I just hope it lasts. But as Day9 says, “focus on one problem at a time”. If I feel like I’ll fail, then I know that I have the key to succeed and fail in a different way next time. And like the best of the best in Starcraft 2, even the best in other walks of life mess up now and then. I guess it’s time to mess up more!