Weapon of Choice: Variables in Gaming

Five minutes in and I know it’s going to be a long game. I’m The Sheriff of Piltover, Caitlyn. My lane partner The Chain Warden, Thresh. Our opponents, Zyra and Lucian, trade us evenly until they hit that coveted level 2 (a minion before us.) They took an overly aggressive hook to Zyra as she ate a Yordle Snap Trap and a headshot crit. The all-in wasted our four summoner spells and gave them that first blood bonus. The result of that all in had more than statistical advantage repercussions.

Every choice from that point on made by my team now had that factor built into them. My support now angry at me for taking Traps first, spending his time flaming chat. I now have to chose to defend my choices, farm or try and make a risky “play” to catch up. My jungle now is possibly avoiding the botlane for any other large chunks of gold to the enemy team, or focusing botlane and catch me back up. The latter would cause him to ignore other lanes and his jungle farm.

League is a game of choices and cooperation. The rewards for utilizing more of your resources over your opponents is staggering. Gain gold, get advantages, take objectives, and win. Rapidly during my Caitlyn/Thresh game my resources begin to dwindle. My choices feel limited while my team was beaten down. After a handful of opponent kill streaks are earned. One of my teammates rage quits. Ten minutes later reconnects and runs it down mid. Troll building tears, feeding the enemy. Is that why we lost? No. Does it factor in? Yes. The real question is, how could I of prevented it from happening? To this, there is no answer. Just educated guesses and opinions.

A multiplayer gamer’s tool kit is laid out by the developer. Modern games give you a set of tools to make your gaming choices a little more clear. Maps, champions, items, and win conditions. Games with changing meta games and constant tinkering under the hood in healthy doses seem to be one of the more profitable futures of gaming. It creates longevity, a steady income source for game companies (you see this in console franchises from majors pumping out a game every year or two. i.e. every sports games, Assassins Creed, Tony Hawk, and Call of Duty to name a couple.)

Meta gaming allows for single titles to hold multi-year profit growth positions with out the game getting stale. Games like League of Legends or Overwatch have the tools established, win condition set and the player base to adapt, advance, and bend the perimeters to achieve victory. What comes next is where legends are born, stories are told, and even developers learn a thing or two.

We the player are the variable in the equation of victory. I use League because it is the most familiar to me. A single player game, the variable is one person, plus whatever RNG is built into the game. League opts to use as little RNG in its mechanics instead pushing for ten players to be able to challenge skill vs. skill on any given Summoner’s Rift game mode (Draft to U.R.F.)

By challenging players other factors come in that people don’t realize from game to game. Take me as an example: I am one person, I am a Support Main, I have familiarity on many champs but try to play less than five of them in solo queue, of those five… I really should only play two or three of them at the level I want to play at, I am not mechanically gifted(micro) but I have solid sense of how to win games(macro), I have been playing since season three, I generally don’t know anyone in a ranked game other than their champion, and lastly I try to learn from my mistakes as much as possible.

With that said, I gave enough information to prove that there are tons of small choices psychologically that can affect a single game. Now multiply that by millions, across the world, each person different. That’s your player base. Reset and think of the mechanical choices a designer puts in to one match.

The path to victory isn’t always easy. The higher I climb I see more choices being made, less gut reactions. But at the end of the day, win or lose… its on you. Nobody is perfect, not even Faker.

Small choices can go a long way. On your end it’s easy to put blame on others for defeats. Easy to put yourself up when you hard carry to victory. But constantly knowing and choosing specific things always help create consistency. Especially in ranked play. A few mantras and ideas to percolate on:

  • Know your victory conditions. Are you a kite comp? All-in? Tanks that peel? What choices and fights do you need to make to win?
  • Know your champion/match ups. The more familiar you are, the more of an advantage you have to punish their mistakes.
  • Be aware of the game around you. As a jungle, If your mid lane Annie is roaming bot for that juicy double nuke. You can cover mid to stop their Ekko from getting that first tower.
  • Objectives win games. Take as many as possible. Think about this one, your Master Yo has 13 out of your 15 kills, and enemy murders him at 40 min in. What good is any of that kill gold? What about all the turrets, dragons, and Baron buffs/gold? That’s global gold on your team.
  • A simple misplay can cost the game. Mistakes happen, most games are won by the team with the least mistakes. From bronze all the way to pro levels.
  • Don’t flame your team, don’t flame the enemy. Why on earth would you make the four others on your team your enemy as well? Four living, breathing people, capable of thought and decision making? because they are having a bad game? You want them functioning as highly as possible. Berating someone WILL NOT make them play any better.
  • Don’t underestimate your enemy, don’t underestimate your enemy. Seriously, you don’t know them, you don’t know what they are capable. Messing around and playing with the dying mouse usually ends horribly. They prolong the game and get items, anything can happen. Ever fed a 0/4 Vayne mid game and wonder why this 12/4 Vayne just destroyed your team and nexus?
  • Play to win but also play to LEARN. Too much knowledge is never a bad thing. Learning from your mistakes, your losses, and victories. There is no downside.

It’s not always easy as it seems. But keeping a level head, and knowing your victory conditions make it easier. When all else fails, take a break, come back later.

Going back to that Caitlyn/Thresh game, it was a bloody massacre. The enemy got too far ahead, took what they needed, and beat us to death with more than just our pride. We never gave up, never surrendered, was it the smart thing to do? Probably not. Some games are losses, no matter how hard we claw and fight out of that hole we dug ourselves into. Do I stand by what I’ve said? 100% YES. You’re going to lose games. That’s inevitable. It’s a game of variables. Constantly changing variables. One side wins, one loses. No draws.

You have power. You as a player and as a individual are encouraged to analyze what happens in games, and adapt to what happens. Really… should you be running it down lane over and over trying to 1 vs. 1 the enemy who continuously beats you to a pulp every single time? Why not get your mid and jungle to 4 man the duo that’s keeping you pushed into tower all game? You have so many tools, your team are not just mobile wards. The mini map is not recommended information. The score board isn’t a guesstimation of the status of the game in progress. There are hard facts that we can use to help us. Utilize every bit as much as possible.

We all know how good it feels to win, how crushing to throw, and annoying to lose. Play to win, but also play to learn.

Onward, upwards!

What I plan to do is track my progress as a gamer, and a person. I will share what I learn, how I got there, and what i’m working on. Testing theories, backing up ideas with facts and experience, and generally enjoying how much I love gaming while learning new things.

See ya, Keyboard Cowboys n’ girls.