Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

My Issue with Perfectionism in Multiplayer Games

It will come as no surprise to people who know me (or have been reading this blog for a while) that I am a bit of a perfectionist (not a completionist, mind you.) I can’t stand doing things badly, especially in front of other people and that includes strangers in an online video game. This psychological flaw (and I suppose that is what it is) makes it rather difficult for me to play multiplayer games casually.  I think I’ve mostly overcome this problem in MMOs because my intense time in World of Warcraft got me sufficiently proficient to not embarrass myself in a multiplayer experience in one of its modern clones. Lacking an MMO though, I’m trying to turn to other games in this summer lull.

I’ve written a lot about both Starcraft II and League of Legends because both are multiplayer games I theoretically enjoy. Starcraft II multiplayer is something I have been failing to get back into ever since last summer, mostly because I can’t stand how bad I am at it these days. Don’t get me wrong, I was never very good, but lack of training simply makes the online experience embarrassing. It is not that I am the worst player online either, but I know how awful I am and that alone is enough to make me avoid a game I really like.

LoL is a bit different in that I’m actually playing it quite a bit at the moment. Still I’m quite handicapped by the desire to be perfect (or to not suck, to be more accurate.) You see, there are a huge number of champions available for players to play. Ten of them are available for free each week (rotating) while the others can be unlocked by either playing a lot or spending money in the game’s cash shop.  Most players I know keep their interest in the game high by switching champions from time to time (or even from game to game.) I, on the other hand, have been playing the same champion almost exclusively since the beta ended. This is not because I don’t have access to other champions or no interest in them, but simply because I don’t want to stumble into a game with other players and be awful at playing my champion.

Alas, computer game AIs are notoriously bad at emulating real players, so practicing against the AI before going into multiplayer isn’t much help. I can take pretty much any champion in LoL and successful dominate AI opponents because they are quite stupid and predictable. These games will teach me the general ideas about how my champion works, but that’s about it. I’ll still make a lot of stupid mistakes when I get into games with other players and it will take quite a while for me to be as proficient with a new champion as I am with the one I’ve been playing all this time. Therefore I choose the champion I’m better with every time and never get to learn the others.

I don’t really know a good solution to this problem and maybe it is really something I simply need to overcome and not something that is common among gamers. Maybe this is the spirit of teamwork that my years of raiding in WoW have ingrained into me?

Sure, better AIs would help – but calling for game designers to simply add more human-like AIs to their games is a bit pointless. AI is a difficult thing to create in the first place, even if you don’t need real-time responses on a modest computer system. So yeah, being able to practice against more sophisticated AI opponents would help me in both SC2 and LoL, but that is probably out of the question.

The other, almost equally utopian, idea would be a much improved player matching. If I chose to play with a new champion in LoL right now, I would be matched against opponents at my level (which I’ve reached playing one champion only) and would be hopelessly outclassed by people who already know the characters they are playing. I could also create a new account to start over at the bottom (so-called smurfing), but that wouldn’t be very fair either. For one, playing a new champion is quite a handicap, but there are still many things I know about the game that knew players will not. For another, smurfing is a rather popular technique among players who play the game a lot but aren’t all that good. They simply enjoy stomping new players (and, apparently, complaining about all those noobs on their own team. How dare they not know how to play properly at level 1?) I would need to be matched with players who are in the same situation as I am which seems rather impossible.

So, am I the only idiot with this problem? Do you have any ideas on how to solve it? (Game-design wise; I know I should probably just suck it up and care less about failing in a game.)


  • I wouldn’t say you’re the only one with this problem. In fact, I think the problem mainly stems from the fact that it’s a competitive game. Those who are dedicated to the game are REALLY dedicated to it, and end up rising in skill very quickly and plateauing. There is just a mindset that you should get better and better and win more and that’s how you’re going to enjoy the game, and nobody really does much to change it. Especially if look at the chat boxes. I try not to.

    My personal experience comes from Marvel vs. Capcom 3. I love playing online against other people, but I just can’t play past a certain point. The game keeps ranking me up, and I eventually end up at a rank where I keep losing. I don’t mean close fights, I mean steamroll losses. Honestly, I think your suggestion for a better matchmaking system is where its at. The only problem is people would abuse it, like the smurfing, and you’d get too many people who enjoy steamroll wins. Unfortunately, most competitive games aren’t built for people with average skills who just want to compete in a fun, fair match.

  • The funny thing is that I have the other problem: being a completionist. Lately I have been playing through every single “new” quest in WoW to be sure I complete them all before Swtor launches. This is usually making gaming more of a job than a hobby as of late.
    As of a perfectionist: I’m certainly one when it comes to exams and university but not while I’m gaming. It’s happened that I’ve went to raids in WoW without having the best possible preparation, since I tend to seek the fun and completion in a raid, not being the absolute best player.
    Gaming is usually the only moment that I allow myself not to be a perfectionist.
    As for being a completionist in WoW, I guess it has more to do with seeking closure on the game and moving on to swtor. I lost count on how many times I retired from WoW at this point 😀

  • One trick might be to allow for non-ranked matches, but using the normal placement. That way you’re not going up against only players trying ridiculous strats that they’re bad at, so there is challenge and learning, but you’re not blowing your rating in the process.

    I have this problem a bit in Starcraft. I’d love to give Protoss or Zerg a real try, but the one time I tried Protoss I was so lost I could barely figure out how to form even a basic attack group, let alone use it semi-effectively. I could practice against AI, but then I run into the deadzone problem: one difficulty is too easy, the next one up cheats horribly and steamrolls me.

  • I tell you what, I have the same problem. In Starcraft II, I’m a mess. I’m not that great of a player and I was constantly feeling outmatched. It gets very frustrating for a fellow perfectionist such as myself, to lose because I wasn’t fast enough or couldn’t figure out the appropriate counter. I think matchmaking is the key though. Up until Season 3 released recently, I was always ranked in Gold, but constanly over matched. I just don’t think I should have been gold. Season 3’s placement match got me into Silver, and the games have been so much more enjoyable. They have been competitive and fun. Not nearly as frustrating as the last year has been.

    In League of Legends, it’s a bit different. It seems like I either have a great game and outplay everyone else, or I’m the feeder and get cussed out by both teams. There’s no in-between. It’s probably a symptom of their matchmaking system as well, as the matches themselves just seems so inconsistant. But, I think for most players in LoL, their win/loss record is probably somewhere close to 50%. From a broad view, this is a good thing. 50/50 means fair and balanced competition. At my best I was probably 12 to 15 games over that .500 mark, which let me think that I was doing pretty well. As frustrating as singles games might be, if a matchmaking system is putting you in games where you have a 50/50 shot at winning; then I think it’s doing it’s job well.
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