1. The nature of competition
2. You, the pinnacle of evolution
3. A method to the madness
4. League of Information
5. The champions' paradox
1. The nature of competition
If someone wants to compete, that person must first understand the nature of competition.
What better way to begin that understanding than seeing the concept defined?
Wikipedia says the following about the competition.
Immediately notice how nearly all points in this definition are easily applicable to League of Legends.
Individuals (summoners and their champions) and groups (teams) fight eachother for territory (map control) or a location of resources (objectives), for resources (gold and experience) and goods (items).
They do this for prestige (nerd baller lifestyle) recognition (breaking into the pro scene and enjoying the spoils) and awards (tournament wins, trophies).
That said, there’s something very important you must do before you continue reading this article.
Answer the following question privately, and do not cheat yourself.
If your answer contains elements that are directly relevant to the nature of competition, you are most likely a competitor and this series will unlock your mind and guide you on the path to success.
If it doesn’t, the odds are good that you are a casual gamer simply looking for fun and leisure. However, I believe that competitiveness is one of the main catalysts to progress, and inherent to all those born human. So read on anyway, because maybe deep inside you there’s a global gaming superstar just waiting for a spark of motivation.
2. You, the pinnacle of evolution
Speaking of motivation, how about this:
Science has determined, beyond reasonable doubt, that your life on this earth is the direct result of billions of years of evolution. Every last thing that has happened in the entire history of our universe
has allowed for your existence today. Against the impossible odds of 1 chance in 66 trillion for the
mere origination of our species on a planet such as Earth, you walk upon it. You are, in your own right, the pinnacle of evolution.
Take this knowledge, and it apply it to everything you do, every day for the rest of your life.
Strive for nothing less than excellence, consistently. Every second you spend not achieving
excellence is time wasted. Even when you unload your bowels, do it as well as you possibly can.
You have but one life, and you do not know when it will end.
While all that is very dramatic, it’s in this article for good reason. First, it’s true. Second, if you believe in yourself, you can be who you want to be, you can achieve what you want to achieve. And you have no time to spare for not believing in yourself. A great man once said it a lot better than me. You can listen to him here.
Third, if you take this knowledge to heart and consciously apply it to your every action, you are already playing to win. While saying that is easy, doing it is very hard. Therefore, the rest of this weeks installment is dedicated to turning the knowledge into a working logic, and consecutively applying that logic to League of Legends.
3. A method to the madness
Vince Lombardi, arguably the greatest American Football coach in the competitive history of the sport, was a man with an intimate knowledge of what it takes to win.
He would like to share a few words.
This the state of mind is bare essential for anyone wanting to compete, in order to even have a shot at being successful. Training yourself to acquire good habits will go a long way towards becoming a better gamer. Some key habits for competitive gaming in general are the following:
Make sure you are in a comfortable upright position when playing. Arrange your monitor so that you have a perfect angle and minimal glare. The edges of your screen should be at the edge of your focused vision. Customize your gear and settings to what you feel most comfortable with. Make sure the lighting in the room you are playing from is good, and remove as many distractions as possible.
Don’t play when you are tired or distracted. You need a clear mind and a well-rested body to play your best. Don’t take your frustrations out on the game. If you’re frustrated, deal with it through dealing with the cause. If you are unable to for whatever reason, try relaxing through sports or physical exercise. Scientists have proven that working out regularly has a positive influence on your brain.
Don’t lay blame with others. For every game you play, try to find at least
one mistake you made. As you become more proficient, you will draw closer
to your goal and ultimately be able to find all mistakes. Don’t keep
repeating the same mistakes and in doing so become rigid. Learn from your mistakes instead. Play against people that are better than you. The higher the quality of your opponents, the more mistakes you will make, and the faster you will be able to eliminate these and learn.
Experiment. Try different things. When you do, make sure the logic behind what you are trying to do is solid. If you feel like trying something new, don’t give up on it because people say it won’t work. If you think a certain style or play might be viable, find out if it is. Want to take a radical new approach to something instead? Just do it! It’s how innovation comes along.
Adapt. Most games are constantly changing through patches and new playstyles. Don’t get stuck with something that worked for you at some point in the past, keep up with perpetual evolution of the game or become irrelevant.
Don’t give up. Like myself, SK-gaming legend Fredrik 'MaDFroG' Johansson likes to quote Vince Lombardi. Here’s another bit of solid gold from the man:
DotA veteran Jacob 'Maelk' Toft-Andersen believes in this quote to such an extent that it makes him fiercely hope Valve will not build a surrender option into DotA II. While this hope is completely unrealistic if DotA II ever wants to see success with casual gamers, the spirit of his ideas is most noble indeed, and what makes him a winner.
Practice makes perfect. Bruce Lee fears not the man who has practiced ten thousand kicks once, but the man who has practiced one kick ten thousand times. Seperate your practice for competitive games from “troll” games where you don’t play serious.
Learn everything there is to learn about the game you are playing. You will need this knowledge to be
able to make informed split second decisions.
The outcome of one such decision could make the difference between becoming an eternal champion or achieving nothing. We all know second place is first loser.
Free yourself of all preconceived notions of your game, tear down any mental blockades, get rid of your bad habits and (re)learn the game through empirical observation. Remove the words cheap, lame and all of their synonyms from your vocabulary.These words were invented by losers because they are too lazy to react to certain ways of playing a game.
Worlds' most famous gamer, Johnathan 'Fatal1ty' Wendel deeply understands what this means.
Everything can be countered, and the beauty of it lies in finding out how.
If something allows you to win, then it works and it’s a great tactic. Even if that means repeating one move until victory is yours. Until something better comes around of course. And something always will. That’s just evolution.
And lastly but most importantly, love the game you are playing! It leads to the discovery of rare pieces of knowledge that are reserved for the truly dedicated. It allows the mind to work like a sponge, resulting in very rapid growth of game sense and player skill. It eliminates lack of motivation or dedication. Love for the game is what breeds the difference between winners, and charismatic superstars that keep surprising their fans with innovative and unexpected play.
4. League of Information
League of Legends is very much like chess. There's a square playing field that is host to the battle, and multiple champions with unique properties. Think of it as having a rook top lane, the queen middle, a knight in the jungle, and the king bottom lane enjoying protecting by the bishop.
A key characteristic of chess is variety, and variety breeds complexity. This variety is also a central element in League of Legends. One could theoretically pick a lineup consisting of only queens, or only rooks. It’s not done however, because less variety makes you easier to counter, and easier to predict. Which is obviously very undesirable.
The main difference is that between pawns and minions. While they’re used purely strategically in chess and do not respawn, the massive and never-ending killing of minions is the absolute core of your champions growth process in LoL. It could even be said that farming minions is the best move. As such, both teams want to farm minions, and stop the enemy from doing it. This is when things start to get interesting.
See, before the game starts, similar to chess, all information about every possible move in the game is available to you. And that’s just what it is, available. Not known. Playing to win means employing all the information that is known to you, in order to decide what the best move is. You constantly evaluate everything happening in the game, and make informed decisions based on that. This is generally called “game sense”. You can think of game sense as a huge equation that is permanently being solved in a players' head. This equation works better when more information is known.
There is basically only one way to sharpen this “game sense” and raise up your level of play, and that is by doing the work. Play loads of games and take advantage of learning resources outside of the game. Soak yourself in League of Legends, absorb everything you possibly can. The more you know, the better your decisions will be, and the higher your winning percentage will climb.
Let's look at what this means for different information levels.
At the lowest level of information known, players don’t even realize that farming is the optimal way to gain power levels. These are the same people that don’t see the point in buying wards. The reasoning is something like “why buy an item that doesn’t make my champion stronger?”. These players simply behave as tough they are bulls and enemy champions are flapping red flags. This results in mass exchanges of kills and deaths, and accelerates the game quickly to a point where strategy has very little to do with it. Otherwise known as Elo hell.
Low information players lose before they even pick a champion, because they have a wrong approach to the game. Due to a lack of knowledge, they gamble. And not the type of calculated going all-in with pocket aces preflop gamble either, they simply flip coins until champions die. This is completely uninteresting, absolutely random and void of any depth.
At the other end of the spectrum, we have the professional players. These players recognize all of the principles and logic behind “playing to win”.
They understand that the mechanical skill required to be good at League of Legends is relatively low and not especially important. They also grasp the fact that LoL is extremely complex on the knowledge part. So they soak themselves in information, up to the point that they attain almost perfect knowledge of any given situation and can accurately predict the outcome. Where others flip coins, they calculate.
This drastically changes how they play. Higher and higher knowledge levels allow for instantaneous reactions to smaller and smaller changes in the information equation. Something as small as an enemy champion getting one step too close may set off blazing alarms in a players' mind. This is why wards are so common in top level play. The possibility of a large factor changing without them knowing about it is a huge deal and completely unacceptable to professional players. Wards win the information war.
One crucial implication of this is the unlocking of the brain. When last hitting perfectly, constantly looking at the minimap to track all enemy champions, and keeping wards alive at key locations all become second nature, a lot of thinking capability is freed up and at leisure to be used for other stuff.
Stuff like thinking outside of the box, and reading the mind of your enemy.
I believe League of Legends competitive play reached the state of a "box" at Dreamhack Season One finals. That is when the Euro-style meta was cemented into place, because people figured out an optimal strategy for playing LoL and it became commonplace due to its extreme dominance. The box was built. Since then, it's pretty much kept everyone inside of its walls.
Enter Moscow Five.
The main difference between M5 and every other team out there, is that M5 has reached a point of understanding of League of Legends, as individual players and as a team, where they can mindread their opponents and employ next level strategies. M5 looks at the game from an extremely pragmatic, ultrahard play to win point of view.
Before they showed up, the only thing every last competitive team was doing, was reacting to their opponents' variation on the current metagame. Try to outpick the enemy team. Try to outlane the enemy team. Try to out-teamfight the enemy team. Hope you win.
This passive style is not only very boring, it's easy to counter aswell. Which is exactly what M5 did, by creating a meta that focuses on actively denying the enemy resources through making bold and aggressive plays as a team. It's almost like Moscow Five has figured out the precise points in the game where aggression rather than passivity becomes optimal.
The following two examples perfectly demonstrate the mindset they approach every game with.
"Oh, so these guys are gonna donate the blue buff to their AP carry at minute 7 just like every other team? Let's beat them to it, or kill them when they try."
"Oh, Dignitas has a bottomlane focused on passively farming up Corkie, and a jungler without an escape mechanism until level 6? Let's pick an AD carry that can solo , so that we can send a jungler and a support with loads of cc to destroy their jungler."
For some unclear reason, other teams aren't really thinking about the game this way. This might be attributed to the fact that LoL is a very young game, and has loads of development ahead of it. Unless Riot games drastically changes some aspects of League of Legends, expect the next step up to be a team effort rather than an individual one. This is something to keep in mind when it comes to your personal development.
Playing soloqueue typically breeds bad habits, whereas practicing with a steady team will do the opposite. Better yet, playing team games will also fasttrack your skills to the next level, because you're forced to deal with concepts that simply don't exist in soloqueue. Hence, if you want to be a winner, play with a steady team.
5. The champions' paradox.
Ultimately, one must realize that playing to win is highly ironic. Surprisingly enough, the
goal of playing to win is not winning. The goal of playing to win is selfimprovement.
The true champion recognizes that even when the world watches him precisely and methodically
break down every single opponent it throws at him, he is not beating anyone but himself.
Raising the bar. Doing what others said couldn't be done. Pursuing the universal imperative.
Champions drive forth evolution. Play to win. It could be you up there one day.
* Writer and artiste extraordinaire
* Previous Lead League of Legends Editor for SK-gaming
* League of Legends Livestreamer
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