Last night I played 2 games of Dota with a few people on LAN. It was just an amalgamation of a few people at the Video Game Society at my university, and, as a result, the skill gap was quite incredible. In terms of MMR, only 3 of them, including myself, had theirs: 3.5k, 2.6k (me) and 640 MMR. That wasn’t a typo. Of those who didn’t have MMR, one played at about the 3.5k level and another played at around the 640 MMR level. As a result of this huge difference in skills, I went into every game expecting to lose, however, the night ended with one win and one loss, which was incredibly satisfying.
Self indulgent story aside, it made me think about how everyone goes into every match expecting, or hoping, for a win, which of course is a ludicrous expectation. When people think about it they expect a 50% winrate with a hope for slightly more (mine is about 54%) however, there is not a single match they go into thinking “I want/expect to lose this,” which can lead to a lot of frustration.
In every match there are always things, however slight, that you could improve on and do better. Sometimes they are big mistakes, ones that cost you the game, and these can really leave a sour taste in your mouth even though, at the end of the day, none of it really matters. I think that these mistakes are made a lot worse by the fact that, of the 10 players in every game of Dota, all 10 of them want to win. Couple that with a nagging feeling that, perhaps, you could have won the game for your team or being on a losing streak and, all of a sudden, you feel a lot more agitated and angry than you should.
I’m not saying that you should just “relax” and “play for fun,” because I think that, in a competitive game, a lot of the fun and relaxation comes from winning. I also feel that the people who “just play for fun,” are lying to themselves. If they only played games for fun then they wouldn’t be playing something as time consuming or demanding as Dota. However, I think it is important, sometimes, to remember why you play Dota.
To answer this question myself, I play Dota as a way to hang out with my friends and as a means of getting satisfaction. I find that there are very few games that give me the same satisfied feeling when I play well in Dota, even if we lose. Of course I find it fun, but I don’t open Dota for that reason usually. Like everybody though, when I play badly I get frustrated. I get stuck in a loop of wanting to play again to prove that I can play better, which never goes well, and it used to be a lot worse than it is now. However, I can control myself better now and am able to realise when I need to stop playing.
What was the point of me saying all of this? Well, I wanted people to realise that expecting to win every game is a bit preposterous but, more importantly, I want people to remember that losses are par for the course. Those two things may sound that same, but there is a subtle difference. Expecting to win is both natural and healthy, and it inspires people to play better and to get better in order to improve their chances of victory, otherwise they would play exactly the same every game. Knowing that losses are par for the course, even humiliating losses where your impact was as good as nil, ensures that people realise that they are not so unique in their frustration and, perhaps, they can forgive their own mistakes.