Turning Points # 1: I can't control my teammates, I can only control me
How Heroes my stole heart
The first video game I ever picked up was Combat on the Atari 2600. Yes I just dated myself. My father and I would battle for hours across all 27 game variants, tanks being our favorite. He didn't beat me much, drove him crazy, when he did he let me know it. It was great. I would go on to spend countless hours on my 2600 then on to the Commodore 64, losing days to the original Bard's Tale, and on from there to NES, Sega Genesis, SNES, PS2, continuing through today. Growing up I loved video games, fantasy, sci-fi, and sports. I was playing Dungeons and Dragons, Warhammer 40K and other such games in basements and garages long before what they call "nerd culture" today became popular.
Then came Heroes of the Storm. I had briefly dabbled in League of Legends a few years back, and I mean briefly. Instead I gravitated to Magic the Gathering Online, a game I played in paper form when it came out in the early 1990s, along with spending some time on Hearthstone. Then I saw the Heroes of the Storm trailer.
It was such an awesome trailer that I just had to check the game out. I was immediately consumed and started playing any chance I could get. I was bad though, I did not know whether I was coming or going. So I started reading articles and looking for content to get better and I did.
I'm nowhere near as good as a lot of my favorite content providers but I get all the nuances of the game now: positioning, map awareness, team comp, and map strategies. Let me say I understand them but I don’t always apply them consistently in game. Through this learning experience I have formed a great appreciation for those I watch that perform all of these nuances so well and at such a high level.
When it clicks
This column is called Turning Points because I wanted to do a regular column discussing those key moments where something we learn or some change in our mindset results in a tangible shift in our win rate, MMR, Hero League rank, or Team League rank. I don't just mean positive changes either, but also the negative ones that can come about for similar reasons – bad habits we learn, not knowing key techniques, or bad mindsets that set in.
The first turning point I want to discuss centers on the team dynamic that is present in Heroes of the Storm be it solo queue all the way to full five person cooperative play with comms. That inherent team aspect of Heroes that is so necessary to consistent success and that makes it so enjoyable to play and frustrating to play sometimes as well.
Heroes engaged me on so many levels from the colorfulness of the Blizzard characters, to the bright engaging colors of the game, the different maps and strategies that you have to be ready for, and most of all it being a much faster paced MOBA than its competitors. But what draws and keeps me the most is the feeling of coming together with four other people and working well, supporting each other and over-coming five other individuals trying to get to the same end game.
I played pick-up basketball for 8 years, prior to moving to where I live now, with the same core group of people. It was twice a week for 2 hours a day every Tuesday and Thursday morning starting at 5 AM. I have really missed that experience that was, for me, such a great live in the moment escape. Heroes brings a lot of that back as there was nothing like a day where our five just came together so well no one could get us off the court.
Raven Court and the basketball court
Ultimately you have to be the better performing team to win any given match of Heroes, regardless of map, whether you are playing Quick Match or Hero League, or trying to win a competitive tournament. Yes there will always be anomalies, such as very disparate team comps or just that day where one person does not play their best - I had one of those last night. As has been widely discussed throughout the Heroes community the team that starts to become toxic first and implode on itself will typically lose. None of us have statistics, but just in my own experiences anytime this has happened with a team I was on we have lost the match 8 of every 10 times.
It would be really nice if Blizzard could analyze the team chat for toxic key words and run stats on wins and losses, maybe one day. This was no different than what we experienced in our morning basketball games. If the team started to complain to one another usually we were done. Unless the talent gap between the two teams on the court at that moment was substantial and even then sometimes that did not matter.
However, in pickup basketball this happens a lot less because you are staring face to face at the person you are complaining about and ultimately you have to think about what you say because you could eventually have to answer to it. Not so in online games right? Nope you can say anything you want no matter how stupid or insulting you would like it to be. It's the one thing I dislike about the game.
Point # 1: I can't control my teamates, I can only control me
If I, and my keyboard, was every going to survive, much less get better as a player, I had to keep my focus on playing as good as I possibly can and being the best teammate I can be in any given situation. That can be tough. When I first started playing it was easy, my head was spinning so much I did not even have time to notice people telling me “you are the worst Valla ever” or letting me know I was a noob. However, eventually we all learn more about how to play the game and things start to slow down. That was when I started to notice and get bothered by all of the following:
- The player purposefully trolling/feeding.
- The LOL feeder. You know the player that keeps dying from getting ganked by lack of awareness of matchup or over-extending. And always it is followed by “LOL” in the chat.
- The player that criticizes you and others yet at the same time has the highest death total well ahead of anyone else on the team.
- The Bill Paxton, Private Hudson from Aliens, Game Over player. The one that as soon as the first mistake happens by your team, or first lost team fight, types “gg” and starts talking of disconnecting.
- The know it all.
- The wanderer. That player that seems to want to camp during objectives or at key moments to defend or push. Or who seems to want to soak with heroes like Muradin during team fights.
- The player trying to give useful criticism but doing so in a not the most constructive way.
- Then there is you. Because mostly likely we have all been guilty of some of the above. Or sometimes we are just not good at taking legitimate criticism even if it’s delivered in a constructive manner.
Prepping yourself for success
I fell into some bad habits and doing some of the above myself. The biggest one being that I let this effect my play in a match. Whether it was chatting back too much in response, or letting my frustrations cause me to become over aggressive, lose track of my role in the game, etc. It reminded me of a similar time where I had to learn the same lesson in our basketball group. Maybe it was someone not giving effort on defense, not boxing their guy out, someone going ham and taking shot after shot just because they hit their first 3 pointer, or maybe I was just not processing their play from their perspective.
Whatever the reason I would let it frustrate me causing me to over compensate on defense by taking chances, not giving the effort on a play I should have, etc. There is an important distinction between paying attention to your team vs. worrying or judging your team. We have to pay attention to our teammates – we need to know positioning, what they are doing and focusing on, are there ways we can help. What gets you and your play in trouble is letting it creep over into worrying about them or judging their play. Before heading into a game I like to walk myself through the mental reminders below:
- Be determined to always try to play your best. If the game starts to go poorly and I know it is because of sub-optimal play by others, I try to focus myself around “I am going to try and have my best game I have ever had”. If I can play good and keep good habits in a bad team situation it will only make me better in good team situations. Look we can always use the game time to improve maximizing our combos for the specific hero we are playing.
- Never get into a back and forth conversation with other players if it is not about strategy or is not constructive. It’s like chasing pennies in the street. No upside and the downside is at best lost in-game production and at worst your death.
- Play through even the worst situations or most lopsided starts. Look if we had a concede option with in game voting and a team wanted to vote out of a match and there was no penalty to future match making then I would be fine with this. But there is not. There is nothing to be gained by walking back to the base and sitting. I know potentially time, but lopsided matches are going to end relatively quickly anyway so use the time to make yourself better. Don’t be a Private Hudson.Sometimes the other team gets over-aggressive and you make them pay for it with a team wipe and the game is back on.
- You don’t have all the information. Heroes is fast-paced. You really have to have your head on a swivel at all times. Due to this fast pace, especially in the current trend of teams grouping early and roaming for ganks, it's likely a teammate you think is making a mistake or not playing optimally is doing what they thought best given the situation they were in and the information they had. I encourage you to watch some of the replays where you thought “why did that person just do that” or where you were jumped on for a decision. Watch it from the other person’s perspective see if that changes what you thought about their actions or what they thought about yours.
I try to always keep the above points in mind whether I am playing Quick Match, Hero League or on some of the 5 man teams I play with. I feel that they are a must in any solo queue environment, but don’t lose sight of them in any regular group you participate with for team league, recreational, or competitive team play. Thanks for your time today and I hope you find the above tips useful in a achieving a positive turning point in your own play
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