After ten years of playing Starcraft 2 on and off, I have finally achieved the rank of diamond. Before you scoff at this, and say that 'anyone can make diamond by cheesing', I want to make the point that cheese was never part of my repertoire and I wanted to mostly macro and 'play the game' for the enjoyment of it, not MMR.
In the spirit of Day9's Life of Starcraft speech, I would like to relate to you what I have learned from the game and why I think starcraft and starcraft 2 will go down as a chess-like masterpiece in human competition.
Lesson 1: You must take responsibility for your actions. Like a Koan from Zen teaching, Starcraft 2 asks the question: 'If you compete with a different set of tools, then is it the tool that beat you or yourself'? I play Terran, and early on, I felt that Terran had it very difficult in the late game. I blamed the 'weak units' and thought that an outside influence was needed to change and balance the game to make it more fair for me. However, when I began to study my replays I saw glaring errors and misjudgments that cost me the game, not some difference in the unit stats or strategies. This applies to life in that it will teach you to account for what you do first. Can you perform better with better knowledge of the situation? Is there anything you can do to prepare better? The answer is almost always 'yes'.
Lesson 2: The only way to really lose a Starcraft game is to fail to gain something from the loss. Over time, I learned that studying my replays always gave me some insight into what I could do better. I noticed that the best insights came from the losses, because they were usually very important things that cost me a game. How many marines must be on patrol in the back of the base to prevent a Nydus? Can you surprise a Zerg with mass infantry in under 5 minutes? What level of tech do you need to combat a fully loaded protoss army? These were learned by losing. In life, when we do not achieve what we want we still gain perspective and the hit to the pride is much worse that anything we actually lost.
Lesson 3: Sportsmanship is king: I was a little salty early on because of losses. I then began to make some online friends , learning that everyone struggles with the game and we are all here to have fun. This may be controversial, but I think SC2 would be just as good if not better as a fun game and not an e-sport. In my experience, money tends to corrupt the fun in any activity because people get so hyper-competitive that they forget the fun. In that respect I urge anyone to have fun first, always gg, and respect the opponent. Your opponent is not your enemy.
Lesson 4: Speed is not everything: I am an older gamer, don't want to detail my age so I'll leave it at that. I felt that having super fast apm was important because everyone tends to make a huge deal out of it. However when you look at the history of Starcraft, you will realize that spamming clicks was necessary in the original because the game would have latency issues and fail to register clicks for the competitors. For this reason, instead of issuing a single move click, players began to click 10 or more times to issue a command. This APM number was then picked up in states and somehow co-related to how 'good' the player was. I have an APM of less than 100, and if you look any typical Masters game, you will see that in Starcraft 2 you only need to have an idea of how to play and there is not benefit to mass clicking.
Lesson 5: Know your opponent know yourself: In the first stages of learning the game I struggled to even keep building SCVs and making supply, and even now I occasionally forget. I began to get so focused on my side of the map I forgot there was an opponent in the game. Now, I will take into account what the opponent is doing, and this is a very important mindset. In life we get so focused on us, that we forget it isn't all about us, there are other people involved and you can't get so focused on what you are doing that you lose the big picture.
Lesson 6: The mind has limits: After about 2 hours of gaming, I have the feeling that I had after the SAT tests and it is time to stop or take a long break. SC2 is like a solo-flex workout for the brain. You must adapt and think to a constantly changing situation, and use every mental resource of motor control timing and snap reflexes. Just because you are not physically exerting yourself does not mean that you can play for long hours without tiring. You truly lose steam as the session progresses and you must pace yourself. In life, it's always important not to over-extend and know your own limits.
Lesson 7: You get back what you put in: I am not a talented gamer and RPGs and turn based games are actually more my speed. That said, I told myself I just wanted to achieve diamond once and for all , and the key thing that helped me do it was consistency. I would play 1 or 2 games in the morning before work, just to be sure I did not lose my reflexes or muscle memory in the game. In life, as long as we are consistent in practice, we can go far beyond what we think is achievable by talent alone. I believe that in a year if I was to put in a lot of time consistently, I might make Master League, though I doubt I can make that commitment, but I know it is possible.
Lesson 8: Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth: Mike Tyson was right, and if he ever played Starcraft he would still be right because this game is all about executing a plan, not theorizing. There are plenty of gamers who like to theory craft and who will always say x beats y but the catch is you must also make it happen. Control of units and practice matter just as much, enough said.
Lesson 9: Fun is more important than winning : Everyone likes to win, but if you are so focused on the win that you forget to enjoy the game then you lose the beauty of the experience. This is another perspective on sportsmanship and gaining from a loss, but more, because all of this is for the enjoyment of the experience for yourself and your opponent.
Lesson 10: Great games are never 'ded gaems': I started playing RTS games in 1991 when I purchased Herzog Zwei for the Sega Genesis, ever since then it has been my favorite genre. In 1997 I first experience online competition with Total Annihilation when I joined a clan and learned from my mates all the depth and fun of the game. There were no ranks or tournaments, just pure fun and learning. You knew players not by ranking but solely by reputation and seeing them on the MS Zone site (back in early 2000s). I foresee this game being a classic of competitive spirit, as the hardest game around it will draw players in by challenge, and lets hope the fun will last forever. GG !
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