Friday, July 3, 2009

Really. Winning Isn't Everything.

A suggestion was made to me to write an article on how to lose. I kind of suggested that I'd already written articles about that, but I went and looked over them and there wasn't a whole lot about not being a sore loser and turning losses into learning experiences.

I sort of take that attitude for granted. Generally I kind of take it as a given that when you play in competition, you take losses for what they were, look at your mistakes and improve. Clearly that's a problem because most people don't have that same view. Like most things here, I feel like what I'm about to say is obvious, but maybe it's just because I've had the view for so long.

Losing affects all of us. Not winning at all is frustrating. I've said before that teaching people involves positive feedback, but losing is negative feedback. The problem with that is that having losses are extremely common in the early stages of playing a game, and only after you improve a lot are you able to come back and start actually winning.

When I lose frequently I tend to get lethargic and lose interest, since it is hard to develop skills based on negative feedback. We work much better in a world of positive feedback. We like to be rewarded for doing good things, not punished for failing to do them.

Unfortunately this means that when we lose in competition, it upsets us. We aren't able to think clearly and often blame other things for our losses. We really can blame just about anything for losing. I've seen people blame stress the day before, their lack of food, the opponent playing 'cheesy', or any number of other things. Some of these factors might have contributed but all of them put the blame out of your hands and none of them provide useful feedback for improvement.

The first thing we should do to prevent losses from being an issue is to avoid external factors that would hamper us from winning in the first place. If we can't blame being hungry, tired or drunk we are more likely to look at the specific match factors that caused us to lose.

Even if we are hungry or tired or got beat by cheap moves, we need to analyze this. What moves did they use? Why did I lose to them? Was I being predictable? What was going on in my head when I did this or that or that? Where did I make mistakes, and what happened?

You absolutely need to do this whether you win or lose. It's just way harder when you lose.

Emotionally, losing is very damaging to us. Negative feedback puts us on the defensive very quickly and upsets us. Losing feels like a personal attack. Even if there's some handshakes and good sportsmanship by the enemy, it's hard not to feel bad.

Don't feel bad when you lose. If you lose, it means you had the opportunity to learn so soak up as much info as you can. If you just get hurt over losing, you're not going to be able to learn from your mistakes.

Don't feel bad when people give you criticism on your play. If they say "oh you should mix up your attacks more" or "you're being too predictable" then you should take that to heart. Not all advice is right of course, but you should at least take suggestions to heart.

The bottom line is that we should always play to learn, win or lose. Don't get down when you lose. If you can, talk to the person who beat you and ask them for help in bettering your game.

1 comment:

  1. "To stop learning is to become stagnant and dead inside." I forget who told me that one, or if I was actually told that or I just read it somewhere, but it stuck with me for a long time.

    Every experience is a learning one. If I won a tournament, unless I won -every round- flawlessly, I learned something. If I lost, you bet your posterior I learned something, because I lost! Obviously, the guy that beat me either a) got lucky, in which case I need to learn how to stop that happening or b) knew something I didn't, which I can learn from him.

    The best teacher you will ever have is the guy that's always trying to beat you - because in your efforts to stand up to that, you have to improve, you have to learn, and you have to adapt your strategies. In anything from Chess to Football to Street Fighter.

    I mean, my growth as a Soulcalibur 2/3/4 player stands to that. I used to be a whiny bitch when I lost. I nearly cried when I got scrubbed out first round of my first tournament. Then I got a handle on things, realized why I lost (Astaroth being an unknown character to me, only marginally more so than the character I was playing) and fixed it.

    Next year, I came back, and while I didn't scrub out first round, I still lost. But I handled it with grace. I knew why I lost, I processed that information, and actually had a very good discussion with my conqueror later about the whole thing. He was very complimentary and supportive.

    Therein lies the crux of my comment - if you're the guy winning, you should take it as part of your learning experience to help the other guys learn too. Even the best teachers learn something from their students, from time to time.