Geek Ink Thinks: The Road to Gold – Why I play competitive League of Legends

It's about damn time! Gold Tier!

So I mentioned in a quick update about a month back that I managed to get to Gold Tier, specifically Division II before Season 3 of League of Legends came to an end. This puts me in the top 13% of competitive players in all of Europe, which is made up of (according to 1.3 million active competitive players.

The Top 13 Percent LoL Summoner

I am fairly pleased with this achievement for two reasons:

I’m playing from South Africa

I’m not going to bog you guys with the technical mumbo jumbo, but if you live closer to where the League of Legends servers are hosted (in this case, Frankfurt), you have a more responsive game. If you live further away (like at the southern most point of Africa) the game is less responsive. This is because of the actual physical distance that your data needs to travel before the server receives it. This is more commonly known to most gamers as ping. The higher your ping, the slower your character responds to input in the game.

In order to adapt to this, players who live further away from the servers need to play a more predictive playstyle, which relies on anticipating what your opponent is going to do next, whereas a guy who is closer to the servers can play a more reactive playstyle, which allows you to react to a players actions as you see them happen.

I wish
I wish data magically travelled in a straight line, but sadly, it does not.

Obviously having faster responses in game is an advantage, so if you play with lag and have managed to do well in League, my hat off to you. As I very well know, it ain’t easy.

For the longest time I thought I was bad at the game

As I’ve said before, I’m generally pretty awesome at video games. I had been playing ranked fairly seriously for a few months with very slow improvement, and then I went through a major slump. I kept on losing, and losing, and losing. I lost almost 30 games in a row, with only the odd win here and there. What I didn’t realise at the time was that it was because of other things happening in my life that I was losing so often, not because I was bad at the game. I was emotionally and physically worn down, but I kept on playing anyway. This is what poker players (and now League players) refer to as “going on tilt”.

Tilt is a poker term for a state of mental or emotional confusion or frustration in which a player adopts a less than optimal strategy, usually resulting in the player becoming over-aggressive. This term is closely associated with steam and some consider the terms equivalent, but ‘steam’ typically carries more anger and intensity.

Sourced from Wikipedia

I eventually took a break for a few weeks, did some research to analyse and fix my weak spots, and gave myself some time to get my proverbial shit together. The results speak for themselves.

Road to Gold Lolking

Getting to Gold Tier came with some in-game rewards that I really didn’t give two shits about (virtual game skins and icons: woopie-fucking-doo).

The whole point of me doing this was to set a fairly difficult goal and achieve it in a specific set of time, which I am proud to say, I did.

But why go through all this effort just for a video game?

I’ll be the first to admit that I need to apply this attitude to other areas of my life (excluding working out, and to a slightly lesser degree, writing), but competitive “mental” games are, and always have been, a big part of my life.

Before I started high school, I played a lot of chess, and I was pretty damn good at it. One of the proudest moments of my life was when I finally beat the only kid in my school who regularly kicked my ass on the chess board. He was one of those special kids who had absolutely zero social skills, but was mathematically gifted way beyond his years. I will never forget the day I beat him. No, seriously. When this kid realised he lost he flipped the chessboard at my face and stormed out of the classroom. 

Like this, but with a chess board.
Like this, but with a chess board.

But getting back to the point. I love competitive video games for the same reasons I loved chess. I find them really stimulating and exciting. The thrill of turning a game around and defeating an opponent who I thought was undefeatable or watching an opponent get cocky and fall into a well thought out trap is a feeling that I haven’t gotten anywhere else.

So being able to get to this point in a game which many people take very seriously was something I genuinely felt proud about, even if it’s only on a personal level. I am very confident I can get into Platinum (top 7%) over the course of Season 4, but for now I’m taking it easy. The game is going through a lot of changes for Season 4, and once the dust has settled, I’ll return to the Fields of Justice. Until then, I’m going to work on some writing, and maybe try and finish some of these games I got on the last Steam sale.  

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