Wait… how did I lose?



Mon 27th Feb 2012 - 8:48pm

This question is a very tricky one, mostly because it’s so broad; answering this question can lead you into many different layers of your game. For the ease of this article I’ll be focusing mostly around StarCraft and League of Legends, but these theories can be easily applied to almost any game that doesn’t bid on chance and is a moderate to fast paced action game.

But remember through this, losing a game can be frustrating so maybe wait for a few minutes before troubleshooting.

Achievement Unlocked - Gamer Rage

Separating Mistakes from the Unknown

These are two things that many people confuse and it’s done a lot of the time. It’s very easy to review a game you have recorded or reviewing it from memory and believing that things beyond your control or knowledge were your fault.

We all take losing slightly differently, but two very natural reactions are either to either blame the other guy, or blame yourself. But when reviewing your own game play you really need to step aside from yourself and think a bit more logically. I’ve talked before about stepping back and pretending you’re a spectator of the match, it’s a really important thing to do. The ability to step beside yourself and evaluate your own abilities and how well you performed is a very good thing to teach yourself. It helps you to look at the facts of the game and not the psychology behind it.

There are a few things you should ask yourself when evaluating a decision or action in the game:

- “Considering the information I had, was this a good decision?”
- “Considering everything in the game, was this the correct decision?”
- “If I had more information during the game, would I have acted any differently?”

It’s important to add these for a number of reasons, many of which you can figure out yourself but the basic idea is to ensure that you can separate a genuine mistake (using the first question) to acting wrongly because of lack of information of generally not knowing some vital information (questions two and three).

Locating the problem

There is normally one point in the game where everything starts to go downhill, one point where you hit the dominoes accidently that you’ve just spent the past however many minutes you or your team have spent putting them up.

The key to solving a problem is not only locating it and being able to identify it, but knowing the reasons you did it in the first place. This is a small factor but you should be able to easily recall the reasons you did something even an hour after the match, its good practice to re-watch your match whenever possible and as soon as possible. Now many games don’t have replay options where you can view the entire game from any point of view. But you don’t often need to see everything to be able to see where you went wrong.

I’ll give you an example; you’ve been playing a game of Team Fortress 2 with your small team in a small internet tournament. One of (if not all of) you have set up a method of recording the game. From purely your capture of the game you can view the entire screen and everything that you could, or should have seen. Often when running at high speeds when playing something such as a scout, you miss one or two tiny things. These could be game changing like a sniper in the bottom left corner of the screen that kills you in a minute.

So as you can see from the example, even just seeing your own screen again, you’re free to focus on everything because you don’t need to move, react and you probably know what’s coming around the corner to kill you anyway.

So you’ve found the problem, no call in the exterminators!

Often when you’ve narrowed down your error(s) it can be quite obvious how what you should have done and even what to do next time. But theory is sometimes easier than practice, right? If you disagreed then you may have potential to be a pro-gamer.

Einstein Quote

(Alber Einstein - Quotating taken from

The best thing to do is to make changes in a small number. Personally I’m not the best player in the world, so when I look at a replay from myself I can very easily see millions of things I could do better or change. When trying to decide what I specifically wish to change I make sure to think through the impact of each change I would make and I work on the problem that would cause me to lose the most games, or win the most games if I didn’t mess up. This means that I’m changing the most important things first, and then ironing out the little creases later.

As pointed out to me once, the big problems fixed will get you from awful too awesome. It’s the little things that will then move you from awesome to pro. If you’re looking to get from Diamond to Masters then the little things are what you have left to change, if you’re looking to get from Bronze to Diamond then you want to fix things like getting supply blocked.

Taking a similar example if you have a choice of working on lane control problems in League of Legends or staying alive and communicating, you should evaluate which is being conducted at the worst level, and which would be more important to your play.

No one can really tell you exactly what to choose to change but you (unless it’s blindingly obvious) but asking advice of others that may have been observing, playing or are just a bit above you may help you choose.
As for the actual technique of making a change, my method is rather simple but will cost you some money, here are the steps:

- Buy a pen.
- Buy some Sticky Notes (Post-It Notes)
- Write down in 5 words or less what needs changing.
- Stick it to your screen out of the way but in sight.

Yes that is literally my method and it’s working well. You may be surprised how much you notice an orange square hanging off the side of your screen with huge letters on it.

 Post-it note hell

(And if all else fails at least you can have fun with a million post-it notes!)

As you will realise by reading this article, I haven’t actually told you anything you don’t already know (probably). I’ve simply put down what you know into a tangible format.