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Road to Masters #2 – Mentality: A story of struggle

Our minds are the main reason why we do things and the main reason why we quit them. Recently, I’ve been reading quite a bit about mentality in sports training, learning environments and esports.

Many times, we think of practice as pushing through the rough days and “putting in the hours”. This however, is only partially true.

Having a well-structured practice routine is one thing. Having the right state of mind to approach practice, is its own brand of challenge to tackle.
There are many resources out there than can help reduce anxiety within the game. (I highly recommend watching Maynarde’s video on overcoming ladder anxiety.)

But seldom do we think about how to mitigate the issues generated from outside factors. Sometimes, pushing through is not the right answer. But in order to make wise decisions regarding our mindset, we must first acknowledge that it is indeed a factor that plays a key role in our performance.

It all depends on how we approach the game to begin with.

For some, playing StarCraft can be a way to detach from everyday life troubles; just like most games we play.
But for others, StarCraft can be quite a competitive experience. The stakes are higher and so are the pressures and strains that come with it.

Know What Triggers You

In order to keep disruptive emotions from messing with our performance in the game, we must first learn what they are and what triggers them.

For me, anxiety is probably at the top of the list.

As someone who struggled with anxiety unknowingly for many years, managing it is still challenging. During the last couple of years I’ve learned a lot about the nature of my anxiety, it’s origins and the situations that can spark a significant influx of it. (This is that moment in the article in which I recommend you to seek help and try therapy. We’ve all dealt with some hardcore stuff. There is no shame in asking for help.)

Most of the time, the issues that ail us have nothing to do with StarCraft and more so to do with everything that happens in our lives.

Identifying and naming the emotions that get in the way of achieving your state of flow can be of great help when trying to access it.

What does it look like in-game?

This one is a bit trickier. Watching my stream VODs has definitely helped me identify those moments of distress. If you don’t stream, I suggest recording yourself in the background during a ladder session. But don’t immediately jump to watch it after. Specially during a particularly triggering session. Your judgement is more likely to be clouded. Take a break, unwind and come back to it later.

By speaking to other players and watching other streamers’ content, I’ve learned that, for the most part, these heightened emotional states translate to either:

1. Autopiloting
2. Tunnel vision
3. Micro blunders/over spamming

Autopilot

Have you ever done your daily commuting from work back home and suddenly realized you’re not entirely sure how you got to your destination?

This is what autopiloting feels like. You start the game, queue up a worker, set the rally point, build that barrack and suddenly realize you meant to go gas first. Ultimately, this seemingly minor error makes you lose the timing to get that refinery after the barracks by a few seconds. In the end, you decide to wing it and hope for the best.
It is true that there comes a point of proficiency in StarCraft when you don’t even have to actively think about what you’re doing, but developing a strong understanding of the game along with solid muscle memory, look and feel very different from autopiloting.

For me, autopiloting comes from physical and mental exhaustion. Lack of proper sleep, hydration, feeling of hunger or being preoccupied by other matters can throw me into autopilot.
The proclivity to fall into this state becomes apparent when you ask yourself the following question:

How many times have you started a brand-new ladder session feeling like you’re already defeated?

Your life comes before StarCraft. If you use the game to cope with life’s perils, that’s completely valid. But if that is the case, surrender to the fact that your joy can’t come solely from winning, but rather from experiencing the game itself.
Same rule applies if you’re exhausted and are just looking to have a good time. If StarCraft is not that game for you, -a game of leisure and relaxation-, then go play something that is.

Personally, games like Moonlighter and Stardew Valley have helped me as a way to take a break from StarCraft. But there are plenty of activities besides gaming that can help you achieve this.

Tunnel Vision

This is so frequently mentioned in the StarCraft improvement communities because of how common it is amongst players. This feeling of trying to look away from that battle and to stop queuing up even more marines which you don’t actually need. But you just can’t stop looking at those four hellions that are about to die while your economy is being neglected.

Tunnel vision in my experience, is related to frustration. More specifically, frustration built up over time.

Tunnel vision is not that big of a problem in the first game I lose. But, ask me again on my 5th game of a losing streak and the answer will be very different.
There are many ways in which you can identify and manage these upswings in frustration if you know how frustration manifests in your body.
Shoulders bunched up against your ears, difficulty maintaining a steady breathing pattern (sometimes even breathing through your mouth in irregular patterns), a feeling of general discomfort in the upper body (feels like you want to jump out of your chair but something is holding you from doing it). You may even develop a fixation with jumping into the next game without even taking a breather.

When your mind and body are locked on and engaged in such a state, the best thing to do is to break the lock on. Much like a cyclone, you have one of two options:
1. Perform an action that breaks this state or
2. Slowly distance yourself from the target. In other words, taking a break.

Breathing helps us refocus on the present moment, what some would call a mindful state. Stretching will help your body disengage. This is not only about your arms, your entire body could be affected by this tension without you even knowing. Look to stretch your entire body before you continue. You can accompany this by trying to find a rhythm to regain a consistent and calm breathing pattern.

This might seem simple to do, but often times players will stubbornly queue up more and more games to realize an hour and a half later of losing or winning by the breadth of a hair, that they’ve driven themselves to such a state of frustration that makes everything seem like a waste of time and where the most likely outcome is uninstalling the game all together.

Over spamming and micro blunders

This is a big one for me. Back in early 2020, I would still feel exhausted after just an hour of playing StarCraft. The reason? I was hitting those keys like my life depended on it. I wasn’t really warming up, but rather anxiously tapping my keyboard in the hope that this would make my anxiety go away.

Much like with biting your nails or other objects like pen caps, over spamming your keyboard can be a way in which your body projects that feeling of restlessness onto the game. And it is exhausting.

The biggest problem with this habit is that it over saturates your capacity to perform effective actions in the game. It forces you to try to squeeze making the right units, cycling through your structures and controlling a large army in between anxiety bursts.

Having an inner dialogue is something that has worked a lot for me during the game. Talk to yourself about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and what is its purpose. This dialogue can be silent or recited out loud. The idea is to bring your mind back to the present moment and reduce the level of uncertainty within your own head.

You can’t control what your opponent does, but you can most certainly regain control of what you are doing.

Does all of this even matter?

Yes and no. It matters to the extent to which you have made StarCraft a prominent part of your daily life. At the end of the day, it is us who decide how important this game is to us and how much we’re invested in getting better at it.

It’s only fair that we don’t compromise our physical and mental health in the process. We’ve all witnessed time and time again how pro-players and amateurs alike will drive themselves to a breakdown point by playing StarCraft. I, for one have found myself binding my own sense of self-worth to my success in the game. Specially at times of great emotional distress, which for the most part, have little or nothing to do with the game itself.

The most important questions to answer are what do you want in your life and what role does StarCraft play in the bigger picture.
If these things are clear to you, giving the game its proper weight and measure in your life will make balancing out your emotions towards it, much easier.




What are your personal struggles in the game? Share it on the comments below!

Grizzly Gaming Journal #3 – Post Blizzcon: Looking back

Blizzcon

-By Grizzly

What an amazing experience.

That sums up the entire five days of pre, during and post Blizzcon adventure. As a first time attendee, I was amazed by the caliber of the event. There was no moment where I felt let down by it. I wanted it to keep happening for just a little longer.

Blizzcon is in fact, a celebration. A celebration of gaming, passion, and dedication to something we love. Despite the odds, the rough starts and the moments of doubt, we made it.
For me, it was the validation of my goals and dreams for my future. It was the most genuine pat on the back: “it’s all gonna be alright, little bears”.

It’s surreal to meet people you’ve known for so many years, for the first time and have it seem like it was always that way; just the way things are.

Registration Day

Blizzcon isn’t the first tech and gaming related event I’ve ever been to, but it’s definitely the first one I’ve ever attended in which, despite the number of people, everything ran smoothly.
Although fast, the feeling of getting my badge was one of the greatest things I’ve ever experienced. Not only was it the culmination of a long-term goal, but also a testament to hard work and dedication.

On this day, we finally had the chance to meet our dear friend OFY. A long-time supporter of the stream, OFY is a genuinely nice human being. We shared stories, great food, and seats as we watched the WCS Global Finals for StarCraft 2.

So much to do, so much to see

Blizzcon was everything we thought it would be and we saw just how proud the Blizzard crew and community members are of the games they put so much passion into.
We also had time to try out new stuff like new character releases, merch and licensed products that were coming soon(TM).

Blizzcon Tracer

The art of Blizzard is everywhere you turn.

Blizzcon See4

Blizzard is bringing Overwatch to the LEGO Universe. As a long time fan of LEGO, these two sets immediately caught my attention. What do you guys think?

Blizzcon See5

By far the best community moment apart from the Community Nights was The March of the Murlocs, which paraded the venue spreading the love for Blizzard games in true nerd fashion.

Overwatch Arena

The Overwatch Arena. Once you step into this area, you realize just how important Overwatch is as an esport. China, played some sick games.

Blizzcon See6

There’s no arena that embraces its lore as much as the Hearthstone arena does. Fans of the game gather around the hearth in this fully equipped tavern-like battlefield to witness epic battles.

WCS Global Finals

Since the World Championship Series became a thing, I might’ve missed some series but I’ve never missed a final.

All throughout our viewing, the hype was on a constant rise as players battled it out on the beautiful StarCraft 2 arena.

Blizzcon See8

Seeing Maru play and lose so quickly was an obvious upset, but I also think it is a testament to just how hard StarCraft is. As a game itself, but also, as a competitive practice.
The stakes in this tournament were huge and a lot of players crumbled under the pressure. Surprisingly, Maru fell 0 – 3 vs sOs and that was the end of what had been a very successful year for him.

But it was a historical Blizzcon for StarCraft as Serral was crowned the 2018’s WCS Champion after beating Stats in a beautiful 6 game series that represents everything that is beautiful and terrifying about StarCraft. How incredibly unforgiving a loss can be versus the magnitude of a victory.

Friends Galore

After years of watching each other’s streams, we finally had a chance to meet with Poizon and OFY, two long-time viewers and friends of the bears.

Family Photo

StarCraft Family Photo (The Beasleys are missing, though…)

Seeing friends is always nice and I also had the chance to say hi to another long-timer, DukeNukem.

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Duke has been a long-time friend during my streaming years. Was happy to finally meet him.

I made some new friends as well and finally had a chance to meet face to face with one of the coolest individuals I’ve ever met. Temp0 was as excited to meet me as I was about meeting him, which I felt extremely honored by. We got to chat quite a bit and share the passion for StarCraft and the community.

Temp0

Maybe now, I’ll become a grandmaster and be faster.

I have been a long-time Neuro viewer for a few years now and I didn’t expect to just stumble upon him the way I did.
He was an easy person to talk to, friendly and open to say hi, and because of the great spirit he puts into the StarCraft community, I had to ask him to sign my Field Manual, which I brought with me as a sort of yearbook for my new friends to sign. His is by far the best signature I got.

Other honorable mentions are:

Meeting Maynarde.
I was really looking forward to saying hi to Maynarde because of the design work I had done for him. He was a pleasure to work with and I really wanted to express my gratitude for giving me an opportunity.
He was very kind and generous with his time. Unfortunately, I was too anxious to ask for a photo or a signature so, in the end, I just kept the good memories.

Meeting Rotterdam.
It’s awesome to exchange a few words with someone and immediately realize how passionate they are about StarCraft. That was the case when we approached Rotterdam. Over the years, Rotti has become one of my favorite casters. His passion and love for the game come through in his casting. We only exchanged a few words but I was glad I gathered the courage to say “hi”.

I really appreciated everything that Blizzard does to bring people together. Pin and badge collectors were all over the place, displaying their loot and trading with others. It was a scene worthy of any town market I’ve come across in gaming. Blizzard also included their very own trading posts and mystery box stands.

Closing Ceremony

We chose to watch Lindsey Stirling’s presentation and we were not disappointed. At first, we had to watch from the sidelines as all seats were taken, but half into the show we were ushered by a Blizzard crew member (bless that woman), and we were taken along with other people to our new seats.
I wish I would’ve asked the guy who sat next to me for some contact info because he was super friendly and just excited to be there. I did make sure to give him one of our stickers so I hope he’ll reach out one day.

The Aftermath

Last weekend I had the sudden, “wow, this is our first weekend after Blizzcon” moment. There was a bit of nostalgia involved but at the same time, I felt excited for the future. We plan on going back in 2020 in the hopes of seeing more of our friends there.
Coming back from Blizzcon, I feel more motivated than ever to continue working on this dream. The awesome community that has backed us for so many years is to blame for these amazing moments and the amazing experience that we had.

 

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Grizzly Gaming Journal #2 – The road to Blizzcon 2018

-By Grizzly

Not everyone allows his or herself to dream. To visualize something that they really want and commit to achieving it. Put everything they are on the line.
Sometimes, the opportunity just isn’t there. There are other priorities in life. The means are harder to attain than we iniatially thought. Maybe, we were afraid. Afraid of failing and being deeply disappointed by said failure.

The road to Blizzcon 2018 has been full of those moments. Moments in which we doubted if we were doing enough, working enough, streaming enough. “Are we even good enough?”

After almost a year of insanity, working hours that ran way beyond a nine to fiver; powering through hours of ladder, photoshop canvasses, illustrator artboards, classes and excel spreadsheets, I’m so glad the day is so close. I’m so grateful for today and for the adventure that awaits. It’s been a long time coming and every ounce of effort that we’ve put into making this trip happen has been worth it.

Amidst the turmoil of a world that doesn’t stop spinning, an event like Blizzcon happens. People from all around the world gather to celebrate a passion so innate to the human condition. Long time friends who are meeting for the first time and others who’ve waited for months to catch up; to have fun and celebrate another year at Blizzcon.

I’m the kind of person who spends a lot of time thinking about the future. But for the next few days, I’ll do my best to just be present and take it all in.

Catch our Blizzcon updates through our Discord server!

SideQuest – #1

– By Aecium

My journey to creating Side Quest is a winding one that has given me the chance to face my anxieties and which I can trace back Starcraft.
I actively played Starcraft & Starcraft: Brood War from their release until somewhere around 2004.
The campaign is what hooked me, with a story that spanned the depths of space and three very unique races.

After beating the campaign I played custom maps, free-for-alls, and comp-stomps. The ladder was not a place I felt comfortable in. The few times I did click that button, the games ended fast and painfully; I was not up to the task.

Eventually, my attention turned to other games and to more “adult” goals, including a full time job, a girlfriend who is now my wife, buying a house and so on.
Being a computer geek at heart, games were still a part of my life, just not always as much as they had been.

As 2010 approached, I heard about and felt the hype for Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty. However, I steered clear. I was not ready to get sucked back in just yet.
My resistance to StarCraft 2 held strong until mid 2013 when I stumbled onto to the Twitch app on the Ouya. That weekend, StarCraft 2’s World Championship Series happened to be a featured stream. I watched players like Polt, Scarlett, Jaedong, and MC playing StarCraft 2: Heart Of The Swarm at amazing levels. I was hooked all over again.

Within a week of watching the WCS, I bought Heart Of The Swarm and was pulled back into the the Starcraft universe.
Again, I started with the campaign and was reintroduced to old friends in the continuing saga where the very existence of the universe was again in the balance.

After saving existence as we know it, for the time being, I turned from the safety and comfort of the single player to the ladder. This time, thanks to the advancements in matchmaking and league placement, it was not as scary. I still lost a lot but not as badly or as often.

During a ladder game, my opponent and I got to chatting and became friends in game, and when we were both online we would play games together. At one point, he joined a clan called TripleT. (A clan is just a group of players with similar goals of getting better and willing to help others grow their skills.) After that it did not take too long before I was invited to join TripleT. It was with the help of TripleT that I was able to rise from Bronze league to Gold (StarCraft 2’s leagues are Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Master, Grandmaster).

More importantly in my journey to Side Quest though, was that TripleT turned out to be associated with a startup StarCraft 2 tournament organizer, the ASL, which had tournaments for all levels of players Bronze to Grandmaster. I played in all 6 seasons of the ASL. After season 1, I began volunteering for the ASL, helping with admining, Twitch moderation, building and maintaining the website, and so on.

Toward what ended up being the winding down of the ASL, they were looking for people to create content for the Twitch channel. I took a chance and pushed past my anxieties and hesitations, I offered up a show based on Archon mode, a new mode of play added in the latest expansion of StarCraft 2: Legacy Of The Void.

I thought Grizzly was the perfect person to co-host the show. I had came across Grizzly earlier by mere happenstance when I responded to a Tweet from her. She was a streamer dedicated to improving in StarCraft 2 while building a fun and entertaining stream with a great community.

So I approached her about the idea and when she agreed, Party Like An Archon was born, a two hour show that I ran production for and starred Grizzly and me playing StarCraft 2 on the ASL channel. Toward the end of 2016, Party Like An Archon was the only live show on the ASL channel. And by that point, Party Like An Archon had changed from just a way to create content for the ASL into friends hanging out, playing games, and having fun.

We wanted to grow Party Like An Archon so we made the leap to Grizzly’s Twitch channel where we quickly expanded the games we played from just StarCraft 2 to a larger set of games including OverWatch, Diablo 3, Portal 2, Heroes Of The Storm, and Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. With more games came new challenges. Production wise, there were more scenes, more overlay configurations, more things to go wrong. And they did. Once I streamed the first 20-30 minutes to my local server instead of Twitch, and I have had my fair share of having the wrong scene up or leaving the mics muted.

One of the most surprising things to me was that I survived those mistakes and I had not died of embarrassment. People still watched and Grizzly reassured me that it was alright and continued to join me on stream. At the beginning, my fears and anxieties would have me think and feel like I could not succeed and that I was foolish for trying (but that’s another article), and yet Party Like An Archon was more than halfway through its second year.

I decided I was ready for more! I had streamed on my own channel every now and again, but I never had a set schedule. I would just stream whenever, which tended to be less and less often. I decided full playthroughs of games would have the right balance of variety to keep it interesting. At the time I pitched the idea to Grizzly and Polaris, all I knew was that I would like to do a show doing full playthroughs of games and could commit to doing it once a week for at least two hours. I didn’t even have the name until a few weeks later when I realized what I was looking for was a Side Quest. That is, I wanted something that was not a main day-to-day requirement like my career, and was important enough to put time, effort and resources into it. More importantly, it would be an opportunity to push myself, build new skills and have fun doing it. This project has also given me an opportunity to create a custom font and an animated loading screen.

Looking back on everything that led up to Side Quest, it makes me realize how amazing the gaming community can be. It gave me a space to create and the encouragement to continue in my journey. I started off being afraid of playing ladder in StarCraft: Brood Wars, where all anyone could see is your name, to being comfortable playing and making mistakes in front of people, something I would never have thought I could do and survive.

When Grizzly and I started Party Like An Archon I was not a streamer or a content creator. Now I’m very proud to be able to call myself both. What I realized is that it doesn’t matter what you are or are not. Just start doing whatever it is you want to be. Before you know it you’ll have accomplished more than you would have thought possible. To that end, I’m not a writer, and yet here I am. Please join me as I take the next step in my journey.

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